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Liberty

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Few of the precious liberties so loudly decried as “Stolen!” are taken without consent. Most often, the responsible party’s name can be read aloud from the signature line of a contract. Such contracts spell out in explicit detail the terms in which the signatory’s liberties were voluntarily surrendered.

The three largest debt-contracts are the mortgage, car loan, and student loan.

Renting, driving a used car, and getting a degree online, are superior alternatives to the traditional debt-contract solutions. By deploying them, and paying cash for everything else, you’ll enjoy more liberty than the masters who sell debt-contracts as products to formalize the slavery of those who sign them.

Three Upgrades and Emancipation, Too

What’s better? To not be a slave, or to live better than the masters who seek to enslave you?

1 —Better Housing

The best second home is a hotel room anywhere you want to be. The best first home is a rental. Renters:

  • May live anywhere they want.
  • Can move at a moments notice.
  • Are not responsible for maintenance.
  • Don’t have to insure or replace what they don’t own.
  • Don’t pay property taxes.

There’s more, but that’s enough, for now.

2 — Better Cars

A new car loses 9% of its market value when you drive it off the lot. A year later, it’s lost 19%. By year three, the car has lost 42% of its “new” value.

If you have the cash, keep that 42% in your pocket or buy a better version of a 3-year-old car that someone else bought new. If you don’t have the cash, then save up to buy a four-year-old car for 49% of its original purchase price, or a five-year-old car for 60% off!

Better still, if you’re renting (see #1) move close to work where you don’t need a car for transportation.

3 — Better Education

If a college degree is good, then getting one twice as fast at 1/10th the cost is excellent. Or, get two online degrees in the usual four years for 20% of the cost of one. Or, get your bachelors and masters degree in four years for 90% off of each!

Best education of all: homeschool, GED out of high-school, get a degree (or two) online, figure out your purpose(s) in life and become an apprentice of some real-world masters. You’ll be engaged with life, in your teens, in ways your peers won’t be until their 40’s, if ever. You’ll even have a few degrees to show the weenies who think education is a membership rather than a transformation.

Delayed Gratification?

If you want to work a few decades in slavery, then the debt-free alternatives in this article would delay your gratification, forever.

If, however, you’d prefer to live fully engaged in your highest purposes the solutions in this article are light-speed travel in comparison with the norm.

Pay Cash or Don’t Buy

The solutions to the three largest debt-contracts come from a five-word rule-of-thumb principle: Pay cash, or don’t buy. By following this rule-of-thumb, all debt contracts are avoided, including the three largest described in the first solution.

Debt-Contracts are Products

Debt-contracts are not the cause of slavery. They’re products created to address the shortcomings of ignorance and a lack of determination to remain debt-free.

The Slave’s Problems are The Master’s Solutions (And Products)

Those who buy debt-contracts purchase their own slavery. The slave’s problems are the master’s solutions. They’re sold to the debtor to shortcut the personal development required to remain at liberty.

Liberty is purchased at the expense of the acquisition of knowledge of the debt-free alternatives to all such mechanisms of slavery.

Do you not know that, if you present yourselves to anyone as an obedient slave, you are a slave of the one whom you obey? — Romans 6:16

In a world of information overload, whoever appears to be the most reasonable can influence or control the overloaded.

There’s no historical precedent for the amount of information the average person has at their fingertips, today. Anyone with a phone can bring libraries of information to bear on each and every decision.

But information is not knowledge. And knowledge is not wisdom. Without wisdom, it’s hard to tell what information applies to which decision.

This challenge, to the average person, is an opportunity for:

  1. Those who would seek to influence.
  2. Those who would seek to control.

Influence vs. Control

Whether influence is good or bad can only be determined by context and discernment. For now, I’ll confine “influence” to that with no destructive intent.

Control, on the other hand, is the desire to obtain consent for the purpose of domination. I’ll explain why consent is necessary, later in this article.

How can you tell whether someone is seeking benevolent influence or destructive control?

Those Seeking Influence …

… behave like vendors in a marketplace. They present the pros and cons of an idea or product and leave you to decide for yourself.

Those Seeking Control …

… bully, rather than inform or persuade. For example, any one of Schopenhauer’s 38 stratagems might be used to give the appearance of being right; with little or no interest in actually being right:

  1. The Extension (Dana’s Law)
  2. The Homonymy
  3. Generalize Your Opponent’s Specific Statements
  4. Conceal Your Game
  5. False Propositions
  6. Postulate What Has to Be Proved
  7. Yield Admissions Through Questions
  8. Make Your Opponent Angry
  9. Questions in Detouring Order
  10. Take Advantage of the Nay-Sayer
  11. Generalize Admissions of Specific Cases
  12. Choose Metaphors Favourable to Your Proposition
  13. Agree to Reject the Counter-Proposition
  14. Claim Victory Despite Defeat
  15. Use Seemingly Absurd Propositions
  16. Arguments Ad Hominem
  17. Defense Through Subtle Distinction
  18. Interrupt, Break, Divert the Dispute
  19. Generalize the Matter, Then Argue Against it
  20. Draw Conclusions Yourself
  21. Meet Him With a Counter-Argument as Bad as His
  22. Petitio principii
  23. Make Him Exaggerate His Statement
  24. State a False Syllogism
  25. Find One Instance to the Contrary
  26. Turn the Tables
  27. Anger Indicates a Weak Point
  28. Persuade the Audience, Not the Opponent
  29. Diversion
  30. Appeal to Authority Rather Than Reason
  31. This Is Beyond Me
  32. Put His Thesis into Some Odious Category
  33. It Applies in Theory, but Not in Practice
  34. Don’t Let Him Off the Hook
  35. Will Is More Effective Than Insight
  36. Bewilder Your opponent by Mere Bombast
  37. A Faulty Proof Refutes His Whole Position
  38. Become Personal, Insulting, Rude (argumentum ad personam)

Personal Favorites

  1. Declaring as “over”, debates that have hardly begun.
  2. Declaring as “debunked”, valid concerns yet to be addressed.
  3. Declaring as “discredited”, persons of integrity.
  4. Declaring as “concluded”, discussions that have hardly begun.
  5. Threats in lieu of persuasion.
  6. Imposing artificial deadlines for a decision.
  7. Declaring that “everybody does it” while providing no specific examples.

All of the above are attempts to deceive, rather than inform or persuade.

The Debate is Over!

Whenever I hear someone say, “The debate is over”, I know an end has been pronounced by someone desperate to avoid a beginning. I also know that the one making the pronouncement has made an investment, either monetary or emotional, that debate would put in jeopardy.

Global/Climate (Cooling | Warming | Change)

The first time I heard the phrase “Global Cooling” was in a sentence declaring the debate about it to be over. The phrase was then changed to “Global Warming” in the  same sentence declaring that debate to be over, as well.

Finally, the phrase was changed to something for which no debate is necessary: “Climate Change”. Indeed, climate is 100% guaranteed to change, forever!

The debate is over on a lot of things: ocean waves, morning dew, childish innocence. If the debate about something is declared to be over before it’s even begun, the one making the declaration has something to hide.

The Information Advantage

Due to the amount of information available, those who seek control must compete in the “marketplace” of ideas. They must not only to appear reasonable, but the most reasonable among competing alternatives. This “most reasonable” appearance must persist for as long as it takes to obtain a lasting form of control. The best of these is a binding contract, either signed or opted into.

Consent is Required for Lasting Control

Without consent, control is temporary. It lasts only as long as you remain fooled.

With consent, however, control lasts for the length of the contract.

The Jurisdiction of Reasonableness

Mere opinions, and the bullying tactics used to get them accepted, don’t matter unless there’s a valuable jurisdiction to be gained, and a judge to decide who gains them.

Those who don’t seek control rarely think about things like jurisdictions and judges. Those who do seek control, however, think about little else. They spend most of their time campaigning for appointment, by you, to be a judge in one of the most important jurisdictions of all: your mind.

Your mind is not only a jurisdiction, but the deciding jurisdiction of all others.

Agreement Types

Contractual opt-ins are becoming more and more subtle. For example, the mere breaking of a plastic seal on the box for a TV or appliance, is the opt-in for many EULAs (End-User License Agreements).

Still, an actual signature “on the dotted line” of a contract is the best legal mechanism of control.

The Debt-Contract Example

Only a handful of contracts, spread across the 7 Matters of Life, are needed to control most aspects of life. Three debt-contracts illustrate the point:

  1. Student loans — 10 Years.
  2. Car Loan — 5 Years.
  3. Mortgage — 30 Years.

One of these three contracts enslaves a large percentage of the world. To avoid that fate, consider two questions, before signing one of them:

  1. Are you fully aware of the educational, transportation, or housing alternatives that would fill these needs without going into debt?
  2. Do you not know that, if you present yourselves to anyone as an obedient slave, you are a slave of the one whom you obey? (Romans 6:16)

Some Legal Terms

Contracts are as good, or bad, as the words they contain.

Most liberties are not “lost” or “stolen”. They are surrendered, voluntarily, through legal contracts. It’s worth understanding some legal terms around such contracts.

To bear witness v. — To solemnly assert something, offering firsthand authentication of the fact; often concerning grave or important matters.

Truth (quality) n. — Conformity to reality or actuality; often with the implication of dependability.

Message — truth n. — A message that conforms to reality or actuality; whether historical (in space and time) or supernatural.

The Usual Campaign Sequence

The campaign to become an appointed judge in the jurisdiction of your mind follows a usual sequence. Think of it as a sales pitch, because that’s what it is.

  1. I am the most reasonable and provide the best options.
  2. You are less reasonable with limited options.
  3. “Those who love the truth hear my voice”1, and sign my contract.

Conclusion

Your mind is the deciding jurisdiction of all others, and you are its primary judge. The cost of retaining this position is choosing the highest source of truth, exploring all options available, and solving problems with a commitment to remain debt-free.

Pay whatever cost necessary to remain the primary judge of the jurisdiction of your mind. If you forfeit that position, all that isn’t immediately lost, is exposed to loss.

In a world of information overload, whoever appears to be the most reasonable can influence or control the overloaded.


  1. John 18:37 (ESV) 

It’s a shame to see people, who believe (or might believe) in the supernatural, engage in pointless arguments. Even more pointless is talking about it, at all, with those whose beliefs are confined to the limits of the five senses.

For the skeptic, new inventions must bring the invisible within range of the five senses. Only then are they  “free to believe” in anything invisible. Prior to the microscope, the skeptic would have reported you to the looney bin for your “outrageous” belief in the microscopic. After the microscope, the skeptic thinks it was your sanity that was restored by the invention, not theirs!

Separating Skeptics from Cynics

This is the sort of “progress” the skeptic is limited to unless they take a “leap of faith”. Fortunately, for the skeptic, that leap is possible. If presented with sufficient evidence, skeptics can be jarred into a reluctant admission that invisible things exist. The cynic, on the other hand, will remain unfazed by any evidence put in front of them.

Miracles, Defined

A miracle is a natural event with a supernatural cause.1

In other words, miracles look, sound, feel, smell, taste … normal. Their appearance is natural, their cause is invisible. So, where does that leave us with separating skeptics and cynics?

It leaves us where C.S. Lewis arrived a long time ago:

C.S. Lewis on Cynics

the question whether miracles occur can never be answered simply by experience. Every event which might claim to be a miracle is, in the last resort, something presented to our senses, something seen, heard, touched, smelled, or tasted. And our senses are not infallible. If anything extraordinary seems to have happened, we can always say that we have been the victims of an illusion. If we hold a philosophy which excludes the supernatural, this is what we always shall say. What we learn from experience depends on the kind of philosophy we bring to experience. It is therefore useless to appeal to experience before we have settled, as well as we can, the philosophical question.2

The skeptics “philosophy” is, “I’ll believe it when I see it”. The cynic’s “settled philosophy” is the supernatural does not exist, regardless of what is seen.

Skeptics are worth your time; cynics are not.

Prisoners of Time

Both skeptics, and cynics, are limited by the detection devices of their day. To them, everything discovered is obvious, and that which is yet to be discovered, is fantasy. Bring evidence in front of their senses and you’re being “reasonable”. Otherwise, the matter is closed to all but the “unreasonable”.

The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.3

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

The price of such “reasonableness” is imprisonment within the limits of their era. They are, for the same reasons, prisoners of science.

Prisoners of Science

Much of what’s left for mankind to discover is beyond the range of the five senses. Without access to an electron microscope, for example, you won’t be able to “see” much of anything in such areas of discovery. So, what do you do?

You’ll need a mediator between the known and the newly discovered; between what’s true or false, and the newly discovered to be true or false. What do you call someone who functions as a mediator between visible and invisible things?

They’re called priests. But the skeptic will use a different word for the same role: scientist.

Those who won’t contemplate the supernatural need no priest to interpret scripture. They do, however, need a mediator between themselves and nature.

As the frontiers of human knowledge push beyond the ability of the five senses to perceive, skeptics and cynics need their “priests” to be told what’s real, and what’s not real, more than ever.

The Secular Priesthood

And so, scientists have been promoted into a secular priesthood. They are the “reasonable”, and therefore trusted, mediators between what exists and what doesn’t; between what is true and false; and what is, therefore, deemed reasonable and unreasonable.

Who cares what scientists do as long as the remote control (invisible infrared beam) changes the channel of the TV?!

If that were as far as it went, there’d be reason only to celebrate. When mankind is working hard, and using the fruits of their labor to serve mankind, then everything is just dandy!

Unfortunately, Reality is not as simple, nor as benevolent, as all that.

And their ‘church’

Scientists, like priests, are not in charge. They serve their parishes, and report to their bishops, cardinals, and pope. The scientists know them as customers, labs, foundation administrators and benefactors. Can we depend on the good-spirited benevolence of this organization?

Unfortunately, we can barely trust the formal clergy, who’ve taken public vows to be Holy and good, pledging  loyalty to only their Creator.

Whether we like it or not, scientists are becoming more widely-accepted as mediators between the seen and unseen realms, than priests. And though science has no purview on philosophical or theological matters, scientists and priests are two kinds of priesthoods, pitted against one another.

Priests Travel Faster

The frontiers of human discovery have pushed out of pandora’s visible box and into invisible realms. Because of this, scientists may feel like they’ve finally arrived at the big game.

But, wherever a scientist may go, his arrival will always be preceded by either a priest or a poet. These travel faster than light; at the speed of thought. They do that by combining story with imagination. And while scientists may work on practical discoveries beyond the visible (finally!), priests and poets have been contemplating “the beyond” since the dawn of humanity.

Conflict? What Conflict?

Personally, I see no conflict, whatsoever, between science and faith. Science explores and quantifies the world as the Creator has turned it over for exploration. I thank God for every discovery and invention! So far, every source I’ve investigated, claiming a conflict between science and faith, has been one side, or the other, arguing past one another. Those who’ve thought through the roles of science and faith are left with nothing but the progress of each to celebrate!

Headline News of Devils, Demons, Witches, Robots, ETs, Exorcists, AI & Terror Threats

… And that’s just in one day! Here’s a snapshot of the drudge report headlines on the night of March 2, 2017, ~8 pm.

DrudgeHeadline 3-2-17

7 Questions for Mommy & Daddy

I have an 8-year-old son who reads well, now. I know the following questions could easily be put to a parent whose child is looking over their shoulder and reading the news headlines, above:

  1. What’s an exorcist?
  2. Do witches really cast spells?
  3. Is the devil real?
  4. What’s the difference between Satan and the Devil?
  5. Why did they murder someone for a demon?
  6. Do people come from God or are they grown in a lab?
  7. Are there really ETs or was that just a movie?

What are the answers to those questions, mommy and daddy?

If you’re a skeptic or cynic about the supernatural, that’s fine. Coming from your child, then, what’s your answer to this question:

If the supernatural does not exist, why is it all over the news?

Hollywood, Game Developers, or You?

A worldview without a handle on Realities beyond the limits of the five senses, is so incomplete it leaves one  unable to even discuss the news. I would prefer to lead such conversations with my children, not merely keep up, or react to the news.

When introducing a book called “The Unseen Realm”, and its more easily read version “Supernatural”, to friends, I say that, if we (parents) don’t teach our children about the supernatural then 20-something game programmers, and Hollywood screenwriters, will gladly fill in the gaps.

I would prefer to teach my children what I believe to be the truth about the supernatural aspects of the world. I don’t want it to come from the imagination of a screenwriter or game developer. And, I don’t want it to come from the imagination of a paperback writer who’s decided that vampires or demons are “Hot” subjects, right now.

My 8-year-old has me gasping for breadth (pun intended) with his questions. It’s astounding how discerning, and naturally oriented towards the supernatural, children are.  If you have kids, you already know this. If you don’t, just watch one for 5 minutes. Your world may be limited by what you can see. But, their world isn’t.

More than Child’s Play

Discussing the supernatural is more than child’s play.

“In the contemporary world where there is a strong current of postmodern relativism…many people are far more interested in their own feelings, or what “works for them”, than in the question of what is actually true. But there is a price to be paid for rejecting the truth.”4

End of Part 1
Attributions

Main Article Photo by Felipe Posada, The Invisible Realm, Toy Boat
Creative Commons “Attribution-NonCommercial”


  1. David Pawson 
  2. C. S. Lewis, Miracles, A Preliminary Study, Pg. 1 
  3. George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman (1903) “Maxims for Revolutionists” 
  4. John Lennox (from, Against the Flow: The Inspiration of Daniel in an Age of Relativism) 

Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.1

A recent conversation with a friend (who wants to start a Martial Arts studio) inspired me to revisit the topic of business vetting. The questions in this article were inspired by our conversation. What better place for a “victorious warrior to win first and then go to war…” than in vetting the business of a martial arts studio?!

The High-Paying Activities of Business Vetting & Negotiation

Negotiating is one of the highest paying activities if the return is measured by the time spent negotiating. Higher still is the activity of business vetting. The stakes are, by definition, higher than any deal the business will ever do. After all, no money can be made (or lost) in a business that doesn’t exist.

What’s at stake when vetting a business, however, is far more than money. People invest a large portion of their lives into a business to make it successful. If the time & money invested doesn’t lead to a return, or leaves them in debt, then it would have been far better to have not started the business, at all.

I’m big fan of acquiring the skill of business vetting.

Shark Tank

One of my wife’s favorite shows is “Shark Tank”. We often get drawn into vetting business ideas when watching that show. I wrote How to Vet a Business Idea in 10 Minutes to express my thoughts on the subject and make a reference  that might help others.

Business Vetting is Space-Time Travel

Do you think I’m exaggerating by saying business vetting is a form of space-time travel? If so, I beg to differ. If you don’t take it that seriously then you’re in danger of losing large chucks of time and money. The stakes of either a “Go” or “No-Go” decision are immense. The mission, if you choose to accept it, involves:

  1. Deep consideration of the experiences of others.
  2. Knowledge of location and service.
  3. Intimate knowledge of self.

Keeping all these factors, and more, in mind, around a business that doesn’t yet exist, is serious mind-work. Li Ch`uan sums it up, as follows:

Given a knowledge of three things—the affairs of men, the seasons of heaven and the natural advantages of earth—, victory will invariably crown your battles.1

Martial Arts Studio – Questions, Factors, Mentors & Ideas

Subject expertise is only a starting point in creating and running a business around that expertise. I have no expertise in the Martial Arts or the studios in which they’re taught. Someone with expertise could make a better list. But, they wouldn’t make a better list without placing a high value on business vetting and letting go of their fears of exploring the unknowns.

Pedigree

Dojo’s seriously value their pedigree. Who started the art? What inspired them? What problem were they trying to solve? What is their philosophy? Who were their first students? Then the same questions start over, again, with the first students and the next.

Certifications & Organizations

  • Organizations to become member of?
  • Do members typically make a profit?
  • Mentor sign-off/Certification?
  • Entity Choice?

Tools: Studio equipment, posters, mats, props, safety, uniform suggestions, patch design, belt systems, belt requirements, rate of progress?, web site formats/info, accounting programs, taxe, entity choice?

Location

  • What factors do successful studios consider before choosing a location?
  • What factors would successful studios have considered if they could relocate?

Students

  • What is the expected # of students per population size of the city?
  • What is the needed # of students needed to pay for average expenses?
  • What is the average age range of students that make a long-term commitment to the art?

Mentor Modeling of …

When vetting a business, the ideal is to find a real-life mentor who’s “been there before”. If you find one, do whatever it takes to spend time with them. Take your potential business out for a virtual walk by asking them about theirs. Every word out of their mouths is pure gold. The mission is to Simulate Virtual Failure (To avoid actual failure).

  • Fees?
  • Schedules?
  • Number of Instructors needed per students served by studio?
  • Do you pay advanced students to handle instructor overflow?
    • How Much?
  • Seasonal Considerations?
  • Private Lessons
    • Offered?
    • Price?
    • Schedule?
  • What’s your day/week/month/year like?
  • What do you wish you had done (that I could do, now)?
  • What are you about to try (that I could also try)?
  • Profit expectations per location?
  • What obstacles were crucial to overcome to breakthrough to success or smooth operations?
  • What are common obstacles that have taken down other MA operations (That I could start planning to overcome, now)?

The Ideal Time to Fail, and to Succeed

The ideal time for a business to fail is before it starts. That is, before time and money (or fortunes) have been invested that may never be recouped. Ironically, as captured in the Sun Tzu quote at the beginning of this article, the ideal time for a business to succeed is also before it has started.

The “enemy”, for business vetting purposes, is any factor, external or internal, that would cause the business to fail, or become unsustainable. Would you prefer to subdue your enemies after they surprise you or before they even know there’s a war?

For to win one hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the acme of skill. To subdue the enemy without fighting is the acme of skill.1

There’s so much to running a business that owners must subdue most “enemies” without fighting. Otherwise, they’ll be fighting all day. A Martial Arts studio, especially, ought to save the fighting for the mats.

Try to Talk Yourself Out of It

Entrepreneurs are naturally optimistic. To counterbalance this natural demeanor, try talking yourself out of the business you’re vetting, instead of into it.

If you can talk yourself out of a business idea, then you should. Doing that, gracefully and thoroughly, is what How to Vet a Business Idea in 10 Minutes is meant to accomplish. As my friend, David, used to say:

If you want to be a writer, then don’t. If you have to be a writer, then good luck to you.

Successful Vetting ‘Failures’

I have no idea if a Martial Arts studio is a good business or not. In this section, I’m not speculating, either way. I’m merely offering an example of what a successful vetting “failure” might look like.

What if my friend gets to the end (or middle) of vetting her business and realizes that running her own studio is not going to work? Maybe it won’t pay for itself, won’t make enough of a profit, would require 70-hours-a-week, or that she’s got the right idea for the wrong location, etc. Would that mean she’s, somehow, failed?

Not, at all! She could then redirect maximum effort and resources back into her passion for the Martial Arts. She’d only be able to do that with resources that weren’t lost (on a business that wouldn’t have succeeded, anyway). One of the worst possible outcomes of a failed business is to leave the owner, not only drained of money and energy, but drained of passion for the service, or product, that made them want to start a business in the first place!

If a Martial Arts studio is a “No-Go” for her location then perhaps her “Go” would be to switch gears to offering private lessons, only. Perhaps those private lessons could be made available only to exclusive clients who would pay more for her time. Maybe there’s a resort in her area that would love to have a Martial Arts teacher on tap to teach high-paying classes to guests. If a studio-sized operation won’t break-even, or make a profit, then she’ll be making more profit on her first private lesson than she would have made by running an entire studio!

Passion vs. Business Forms of Expression

I believe all non-destructive passions are good. And yet, where the application of our passions may fit into a business is not always obvious, or conventional. One of the best payoffs of good business vetting is the preservation of our passions so they may be optimally applied, later. The conventional application of well-known passions or talents, may have little or nothing to do with what makes money. It may also have little or nothing to do with their optimal deployment. We should indulge our passions, anyway. Develop them, and enjoy them, while vetting business ideas that may lead to their optimal deployment.

100 to 1

Be willing to get to the end of a hundred business ideas that never start because they can’t succeed. Only then will you have the full confidence and resources to fully engage in a business, around your passion, that will.

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat.”1

Yep, that Sun Tzu dude knew what he was talking about!


  1. “The Art of War.”, Sun Tzu 

Grandma GG died on the twelfth day of Christmas, 2017.

In Catholic tradition, the following day is the Epiphany, the feast of the three kings, commemorating the manifestation of Christ to the Magi. So, the original “12 Days” are not a children’s memory and forfeit game turned into a Christmas carol.

And yet, when a friend reminded me of the day, the first memory I had was of Timothy and Lucas singing that song in the shower of our ski lodge hotel, over the holiday. If there’s anything more beautiful than the sound of children singing it’s the sound of my children singing.

When we drove home, Timothy had the gifts of each day of the song memorized. Then, like my father did so many times, I changed things around on them. To show the boys they’re not stuck with the official version of things, I made up new gifts for the first four days and sang a new carol.

By the time we were done, our version had 12 strummers strumming, three french breads, two lady bugs, and a fish swimming in a glass jar.

Charlie’s Option ‘C’

It was a small change to a lovely song. But, small changes like that, initiated by my father, were at the core of why he and mom lived such an extraordinary life. The conventional was just one possible starting point for my father; a brilliant engineer certain that no one had the whole game figured out. As he would often say, that made running with the herd a most dangerous proposition.

As my cousin Keith put it, if there were options A and B for everyone else, my father had an option C to consider. Tell him that there’s two sides to every coin and he’d probably smile and point out that you missed the third side. You forget about the edge. That’s technically a third side.

I can just hear him saying, “Remember, Terry, nobody’s got the whole game figured out. The instant someone tells you they do, ‘Run!’.”

And yet, for all his insights, when visiting with them in Tokyo my father said the reason they were able to travel everywhere and do such fun things was because of my mom. He just went to work every day, as usual. Mom took care of the blizzard of details it took the relocate, setup another house, figure out the local markets, and pay the bills.

The Shenanigans Continue …

The Shenanigans of the Gillespie’s, the McNally’s, and now the Arbelaez’, continue with the next generation. We sing the beautiful songs given us with the audacity to change the lyrics. The melody eventually goes, too, and the composers are forgotten. New life sings its own version of ancient songs. And nothing but the Grace of God is so assured that it should be immune from re-examination or re-canted with the joy of a personal imprint.

In Everything I Do

I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. My sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy… in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture…1

And so it was that my brother and I were able to study music and architecture. Everything I do is on the shoulders of my parents, and on my knees, for the glory of our Father in heaven. The sacrifices they made, and the small changes to the norm my dad would always make, compounded into an enveloping blanket of possibilities my brother and I had the luxury of taking for granted.

An Artful Life

Possibilities are the breeding ground of creativity. The fruit of creativity is an artful life and, hopefully, the appreciation of the liberties that make it possible.

My parents were always there to help. Only because I was so sure of that, did I rarely need it. It was a premise in our relationship and bestowed a freedom to compose an extraordinary life. May the compositions of Isabel and I be a worthy extension of their legacy.

The Highest Privilege

When friends used to ask about my childhood I didn’t know what to say. What’s the opposite of a shitty childhood? Whatever that is, that was us.

Such discussions now involve notions of privilege and what that might be. From my parents, I know the answer: the highest earthly privilege, of all, is to be born into a household with a loving father and mother.

I can’t say it enough, and can’t stop thinking it: everything I do only makes sense when viewed as an extension of them. While others may try to discard their heritage, or apologize for it, I will spend the rest of my life being thankful for, and exploring the depths of, my own.

Geraldine Marie Gillespie

An excellent wife who can find?
She is far more precious than jewels.
The heart of her husband trusts in her,
and he will have no lack of gain.
She does him good, and not harm,
all the days of her life.2

My father found this in my mother, Geraldine Marie Gillespie. And because their lives reflected its importance, I eventually found the same in Isabel. So, Isabel was the perfect one to give my mother her most favorite title of all: Grandma GG.

It was a name quickly conjured to avoid confusion with Martha, the other grandmother living in our house at the time. And, though the role of grandmother is rarely exceeded in stature or importance, it was a role my mother never expected to play. But, as I was to learn in the hours after her death, there was even more than that bundled up into Grandma GG’s favorite title.

A Catatonic Epiphany

For the last three years of her life, I’d prayed to know the purpose of my mother’s increased suffering, being confined to a bed for the past 10 years, and even losing her words.

Then, as befitting the 12th day of Christmas, I was lead on the track of a catatonic epiphany to a small group meeting at our church. Perhaps only around other believers could something as heart-warming, yet terrifying, be revealed: that my mother’s highest purposes in life were identical to her work, which was, in turn, identical to her highest calling. All three of these cherished insights lined up into one for Grandma GG. Her purposes, work, and calling were, all three, the same. They were inextricably bound up, and poured into, her three great loves: my father, my  brother, and me.

The rareness of all three of these lining up —something that perhaps only a wife and mother of her time were afforded — is partly why I missed them.

A Mother’s Grief

Seen from that vantage point, it became more understandable that she had the strokes that put her in the bed shortly after my father, and then brother, died. Two-thirds of her life purposes had just left the planet. Her husband and firstborn son, were gone.

For those who haven’t walked that path, there’s no way to comprehend the loss. What I know of it are from the sounds of her weeping over my brother; cries I’d often wished could become unheard as they resonated through every dimension in a way that only a mother’s grief could.

Mom held on, in part, to save me from what she felt that day. She couldn’t bear for the same to happen to me.

A Secret Project

Maybe every child has a feeling their parents are working on a secret project that’s never revealed or talked about. You know they’re up to something; you just don’t know what it is. Then, one day, you realize that the secret project they’ve been working on, all this time, is you.

Every grocery bag, pair of sneakers, uniform, piano lesson, field trip, monthly check for Catholic school … and every drop-off and pick-up and late-night vigil waiting for you to come home, is one more stitch in the patchwork of a quilt they’re making, but don’t expect to use, for their own warmth. They’re sowing the soil, and tending to trees for decades, in hopes that it will bear the most delicious fruit the world has ever seen. And yet they’re perfectly content to die having never taken a bite.

The Unbearable Absence of Reservation

We pour ourselves out for our children, not because they’ve earned it, but because our love for them comes with an almost unbearable absence of reservation. It’s the only fitting metaphor we have of God’s love for us.

What Christ did for all, we seek to do for our children, within the realms of our limited authority: To guide them away from error and onto the path of their most complete fruition. And when they fall short, to plead forgiveness for their youthful trespasses and cancel any records of debt that might stand against them with legal demands.

Charlie’s 10% Solution

My dad said their marriage worked because he put 10% of everything he had into it. My mom wholeheartedly agreed with him on that, adding that the other 90% came from her.

A New Plague

The late 70’s were a tough time for my parent’s marriage. A new legal option of No-fault divorce was creeping across the country like a plague, leaving broken families in its wake. The machinery of separation was put into motion with a 9-syllable incantation: “ir·rec·on·cil·a·ble dif·fer·ences” were not corporate mergers gone awry, but a legal pretense for parents to live in separate houses.

Neutrality & Fairness

I remember my mom saying they couldn’t handle being Switzerland with all the couples they’d known who’d become separate and warring nations; the kids pulled around new artificial zones that, unlike the Vietnam news stories on TV, were anything but demilitarized.

So, there were arguments, and dishes thrown, and frustrations we felt, but didn’t understand. That’s how my brother and I knew that, just because we were born into it, didn’t make our parent’s marriage a guarantee.

We also learned that people playing fair with each other was a recipe for disaster; that it took a lot more than mere fairness to be happy. Only when they became resigned to giving more than received did a peace, that surpasses all understanding, come to our house.

Wedding Song

As sung in the wedding folk song, popular at the time:

Woman draws her life from man and gives it back again.

But, the circle of the exchange in those lyrics spins faster than the inputs of the wedded couple. It’s that invisible extra energy the songwriter is asking about in the question, “Do you believe in something, that you’ve never seen before?”.

Grief is the Precious, Cut Short

I’ve learned from the deaths of my immediate family that the greatest cause for grief is when something precious is cut short of its expected completeness. And though I grieve for my mother, and still for my father and brother, I’m unable to view their lives as having been cut short; each for their own reasons.

Dad’s Bucket List(s)

In a conversation with my dad, a year before he died, he told me that when he was 10-years-old he made a list of things he’d dreamed of doing. By his mid-40’s he’d gotten to the end of that list, and made another. By the time of our conversation, he said he’d checked everything off that second list, as well.

The memory of that exchange was particularly comforting when he died, unexpectedly, a year later. How could his life be viewed as having been cut short if, by his own handwritten lists, he’d completed everything he’d set out to do?

Uncle Tim

When my dad’s brother came to visit, last year, I told him that story. He said he felt the same way and that his number was 75. Seven months later, nine days after Grandma GG, my Uncle Tim met his number.

Mom’s Unexpected Life

As for my mother, she never expected to get to do most of the things she, and my father, did. She raised two boys, traveled the world, got her high school diploma (about the same time we did), worked for a while to see what that was like, learned ikebana painting with the Japanese, and played golf with my father to her hearts content in their dream home, designed by their son, on the 5th hole of a private golf course in South Carolina. All of this, with her husband who’d retired at the age of 53.

It wasn’t until after my father died that I realized that Grandma GG was another artist in the family. Her opinions on logos, and colors, and ideas for business names, were always refreshing. And the grandchildren on her lap were the vitamins she took for her last eight years.

The fullness of Grandma GG’s life is the license we have to limit our grief to that of a life, not cut short, but fully lived.

Death ≠ Life Incomplete

A life is not devoid of purpose, nor incomplete, due merely to the fact that it has ended. If that were so, there is no hope for any of us, nor has there ever been.

I know this is not so, if only because of the memories I draw from them. My father may have helped me make more decisions, after his death, than before it. And though I believe it to be a mere fractal of a larger truth, there’s an undeniable life continued, here and now, in our memories, alone.

They Don’t Feel Gone

Staring at the bed of all the photos of my family it doesn’t make sense that they’re all gone. They don’t feel gone. After another series a fleeting moments, Isabel and my photos will be added to the pile. Then, it will be Timothy and Lucas staring at our pictures with this same odd feeling.

Memory is Proof of Life

Among the dead are those whose memories and past deeds are still having more of an impact on my life, today, than anyone currently living, ever will. So, the separation of who is here, and who is gone, becomes a more ambiguous proposition with each passing year.

After all, if memory of the once living is of no importance, then why punish a murderer? The victim’s gone and justice won’t bring them back. But, murderers are punished because the living will not put their memories away. The bell of the victims life will not be un-rung. And neither will the absence of justice be forgotten, or un-factored in to the righteous behavior of the survivors.

I believe the soul is sanctified by the Holy Spirit, and continues a new life in the unseen realm, as the body falls away. Still, unbelievers can take comfort in the memories of loved ones who’ve died, and the life contained in their memory of them.

Outer Limits

Many are grappling with end-of-life care issues, these days. The beginning of our story, and how four generations came to live under one roof, is in Why I Live with my In-Laws and Living With My In-Laws (One Year Later).

In the first few years, not a day went by without a citation of the fourth commandment, in one direction or another. We eventually got the hang of it in seeing the final years of Grandma GG’s life through. Her care was part of our purpose, while she was in the final stages of completing hers. We were like mirrors pointed at each other, each unaware of the reflections compounding into infinity.

Through the Eyes of Visitors

But, our children, and others, saw those reflections.

Every once in a while we’d get an outside perspective on our lives, through the eyes of visitors. It was like having a puppy and a friend stops by, two months later, and breaks the news to you that what you’re calling a puppy has become a dog.

As friends and family passed on condolences, one of the first things they’d say is how wonderful it was that Grandma GG spent her final years with her family.

They’re right, it was wonderful. But, it was just as wonderful to spend the long beginning of my life, with her.

End of the Rainbow

In retrospect, the struggles I had in caring for my mom were like a man complaining about a rock in his shoe while walking to the end of a rainbow. The treasure, waiting to be collected, is more than one house can hold. Part of that treasure is the proof that Grandma GG’s highest calling was met, so that even 1/3rd of its fulfillment was more than enough to reap for the care she needed.

Another part is that our boys woke up, everyday of their four and eight-year lives, with a grandparent living in the same house.

“God’s law is an unspeakably good and precious thing, and to live within it is to live the life that is eternal. To be sure, (God’s) law is not the source of rightness, but it is forever the course of rightness.3

The Potency of Holiness

Our bodies know the differences between darkness and light better than our minds. While surprised that a candle has lit up the whole gymnasium, our bodies have already started walking towards it.

Light is more than the absence of darkness. And holiness is more than the absence of sin. If sin is the drum of water we drink from, then holiness is the teaspoon of bleach that makes the whole drum potable.

Her Inheritance

My moms inheritance is in answering her highest calling. It was poured out into her three men, into her new family, and also for those who saw her race, finished well.

And like the story of the thief on the cross, who had no hope before that fateful day, may the retelling of her story inspire other families to stick together and light their own candles with the fire within. And may a spoonful of that be credited to the account of Grandma GG’s inheritance in the Kingdom of God.

In Our Muscle Memory

Grandma GG is still in our muscle memory and in the walls of the house. While writing these words, I’ve kept the room monitor on in my office in case Grandma GG needs something. Isabel and I still hear the bell she used to ring, and the pitch of her voice, calling for something. We’re still quiet on the phone so as not to wake her, and we keep feeling the need to break away from dinners with friends, because mom’s been alone for too long.

The Smirk on Lucas’ Face

Grandma GG did not abide orders or directives. There was a certain way she’d purse her lips and stare when orders were detected. That’s when you knew there wasn’t a thing in the world that could move her. You’d just settled the matter; nothing would move her until she was good and ready.

One day, while giving an order to our two-year-old, I looked over to see something that brought chills of deja’vu. Lucas had the same eyes, and curled up smirk, I’ve seen on my mothers face for fifty years. I knew immediately the battle lines were drawn, and he had the upper hand. My mother’s will-not-abide smirk had been transmuted right onto Lucas’ defiant face.

I can only imagine the deep-rooted pig-headedness originating from ancient celtic roots that is now a weapon in his arsenal. And, boy, it’s a good one. Grandma GG would love knowing that she had left her Lucas Michael, so well-armed. As foreboding a look as it is, I love seeing her smirk on Lucas’ face. Even though I know what I’m in for.

Timothy’s Willy Wonka House

“When you love someone you go to the ends of the earth for them.”
— Aunt Bernie

Timothy doesn’t have Grandma GG’s defiant smirk. What he inherited from Grandma GG is waking up for the first eight years of his life with grandparents living in the same house. He has the cookies and candy in her drawer, her birthday gifts, the coca-cola Santa Claus kisses, and grandparents’s day at school.

When watching the original Willy Wonka, Timothy saw nothing odd in all the grandparents in the bed. To him, it was a matter-of-fact depiction of the way all families live. Families take care of one another, come what may, and no one is left behind.

Conclusion

Prior to my mom’s passing, Isabel had never experienced the death of an immediate family member. Now, as a reluctant veteran, perhaps she’d agree that death, compared to life, is a simple thing.

Death doesn’t give meaning to life; it just imposes a deadline on the project to perfect the soul our bodies are bound to, for a while. The body gives out, and the soul is released, to forever be what it became under the care of our earthly stewardship.

The greatest gift of life is the chance to shape, and try to perfect, the state of our immortal souls.

May we prepare for death like a bel canto singer navigates through the passagio of the upper-middle voice; switching over to a new set of involuntary muscles so the voice may gracefully ascend into its highest range.

But, She’s Ours!

Two weeks after she died, Lucas asked, “When are they going to send Grandma GG back?”

“What do you mean, Lucas?”, Isabel asked.

“When are they going to be done working on her body … (counting on his fingers) … “1-day, 2-days, 3-days, 4-days, 5-days?”

“She’s not coming back, Lucas. We have to go see her.”

“But, she’s ours!”, he said.

Then, last week, Lucas asked the same question. When Isabel told him Grandma GG was gone he yelled, “But, she’s ours! Why can’t they fix her body and send her back?!” before crying for five minutes; an eternity for a four-your-old.

Yes, honey. She’s ours.

And we will never forget her, nor the last time we saw her, this morning as she prepared for her journey and waved goodbye and slipped the surly bonds of earth to touch the face of God.4

Songbirds, P.S.

Alright, mom. These words hardly begin to summarize your life. But, you’d be happy with a few highlights in your son’s voice. It must have been awesome to get out of that bed and stretch out into a walk!

Remember when Dad borrowed Wendell’s RV and we camped and drove across the whole country? Dad wore out those Fleetwood Mac tapes and almost killed us on the mesa verde mountain curves.

My least favorite song is the one I can’t get out of my head. It reminds me of you and dad. You guys are together, now, like you imagined for all those years watching the golf channel. Every time that bell rings it feels like you’re still here. I’m glad, we’re glad, that, “For you, there’ll be no more crying.”

For you, the sun will be shining.
And I feel that you’re with us
And It’s alright, I know it’s right.

My songbirds are singing, like they know the score.
And I love you, I love you, I love you, like never before.

I love you, mom, dad, and Tim, like never before.

So long, Grandma GG.


  1. Paraphrasing a quote from John Adams. 
  2. Proverbs 31, ESV. 
  3. Dallas Willard, “The Divine Conspiracy” 
  4. Adaptation of Reagan on the Challenger tragedy, 1/26/86. 

If you can read this article you can sell your house without using a realtor. I’m doing it now and its taken 2-4 hours a week to keep the sale on track. Selling without using a realtor will save you 4-7% on the sale price. The median priced home in the US in 2008 is $212,400. A 4-7% commission on the sale is $8500- $15,000! That’s a lot of money. How long would it take you to save $15K after you pay your mortgage, food, clothing, children’s school, insurance, car payments, income taxes, state taxes and pizza on Fridays? This is the story of what I did to sell my own house; how it happened, what worked, and what didn’t. I’ll tell you what I would do differently the next time, problems that had to be solved and tips I would offer other sellers who want to sell their house without using a realtor.

Worse Time to Sell, Ever!

There has never been a worse time to sell a house than now (10/8/2008). Truth be told: I had the ability to avoid selling at the wrong time, but, got caught for reasons beyond the scope of this article. I’m not complaining: At least I was able to sell, to find the buyer myself and for what I know to be the highest price possible. The excess inventory of houses on the market is huge, prices are down 30% and the average house is on the market for 11.2 months before being sold or taken off the market. What made the process harder for me was the constantly falling prices throughout the sale. If I can sell a house in this market, without a realtor, from three thousand miles away without even showing up for the closing then every seller has good reason to be optimistic.

Help-U-Sell Wouldn’t Return My Calls

The first thing I did was look for a company I saw on 60 minutes called Redfin. I liked their philosophy on breaking out realtor services into parts and giving the seller the option of choosing which services they wanted. Since I was selling from a distance I thought paying for the help would be a wise tradeoff. There were no Redfin offices in Boca Raton, Florida. So, I looked for a local Help-U-Sell since they break out their services, too. My wife used them to sell her house in California and had a good experience. She believes it saved her a lot by using them instead of a old-school realtor. They added her to the MLS, advised her on price, did several open houses which eventually produced a buyer. My first call to Help-U-Sell was not returned. My second phone call to Help-U-Sell was not returned. My friend David called a third time and they didn’t return his call, either. This is what lit my fuse and got me thinking about selling it myself. If they won’t return my calls maybe they won’t return calls from potential buyers, either? And after my wifes experience I didn’t want to have to pay the whole 6% commission to an old-school realtor.

Brief Summary of My Sale

I live in California and will be closing on the sale of my house in Florida, this week. I hired a friend to prepare the house for the sale, set the price, found the buyer, arranged for a Title Company to handle the escrow and the paperwork and will not be present at the closing. The title company is sending all the documents to me in California to perform what they call a ‘mailaway’ closing. I’m not bragging. It’s a description of what happened. My friend David spent two weeks at the property preparing the house, painting, putting up the sign, hanging a lockbox on the door, gathering info on the local market and fixing up the kitchen and bathroom. Excluding David’s work, its taken 2-4 hours per week to find the buyer and keep the sale on track.

The Steps

These are the steps you’ll be going through to sell your house:

  1. Preparing the House
  2. Setting the Price
  3. Finding a Buyer
  4. Negotiating the Details
  5. Doing the Paperwork
  6. Solving Problems
  7. Closing

If you’re like me you may think you need a realtor to help with every step. What I’m going to explain in this article is that realtors help you mostly with Step 3.: Finding a Buyer. I was worried about all the paperwork. All those contracts, disclosures and escrow forms. Don’t realtors handle all that? No, they don’t. The Title company does. Your realtor just calls one and turns it over to them. You can call one, just as easily. They make the paperwork a breeze. You have to manage all the other steps, anyway, whether you use a realtor or not. With a little extra effort you can find your own buyer (Step 3), too. If you do, you’ll be paid handsomely by saving yourself a large commission. To put it another way: Finding a buyer is the most expensive part of the process to outsource.

Warning: This Article Could Be a Book

Some books have one thing to say and take a book to say it. This article has a books worth of things to say and will take an article to say it. Update: I did have to make this article into a book. It grew to ~20,000 words and is now a mini-book. I’ll post a few more thousands words, here, and you can download the book, for free … Click here to subscribe A web search reveals that people have written books about this subject. I haven’t read them, so, can’t vouch for them. Searching Google turns up many articles about this topic. I found these articles to be encouraging, but, not conclusive. They don’t seem to be written by actual sellers who went through the whole process of selling their own house. The next time you search for articles you’ll find this one. Problem solved. The goals for this article are:

  1. To document and guide you through every aspect of one sale: My own.
  2. To be complete enough that you could make a decision to use, or not use a realtor for your own sale.

I’ll be as brief as the subject allows. When you’re selling your own house it won’t seem too long. Hopefully, it will be saving you time, effort and some money, too.

Terminology

A broker holds the licence for a Real Estate office. They are the only legal party eligible to receive the entire commission. It is harder to become a broker than an agent in that there are more tests involved and more legal requirements to keep the license active. An agent works for a broker and receives a percentage of the commission for conducting the sale. A realtor could be either an agent or a broker. This article will use the term Realtor, in most cases. It does’nt matter whether you’re working with an agent or a broker. They’re both realtors and, therefore, working for a commission.

Real Estate Commissions – The Last Dinosaur

The internet has destroyed or brought into the new millennium every commission known to man. Every commission, that is, except for what realtors take for connecting sellers with buyers.

Realtors Make More than Architects?

My brother was an architect. Architects earn one of the hardest BS degrees taking five years of college, not four. When they graduate they spend 5 years preparing for the boards. During that dues paying period they make half as much as a good waitress. When they finally get their board certification they still have to work another five years for another architect because its so difficult to establish a practice. Yet another another 5-year dues-paying phase. Architects design, draw, code, change, every aspect of material and space and attend to every imaginable detail to bring a building into existence. Their exposure to liability is insane to the point that many can’t afford the insurance. If an architect does manage to have his own practice the costs to run the practice dwarf those of a brokers office. What’s the architects commission on a building after this lifetime of preparation, exposure to liability and detailed work on the building, itself? Six percent. That’s right, the same commission a broker gets. How would you compare what an architect does for a building to what a realtor does for it? How would you compare the cost of education and training of an architect to that of a broker? Case closed. I’m not criticizing Realtors, agents or brokers. I’m criticizing the size of their commission. It’s disproportionately large for what they do compared to an architects work on the same building. How much work does it take you to earn the money your about to turn over to the realtor for finding a buyer?

The Biggest Deal of Your Life

Selling your house is the largest deal most people will ever do. Optimizing the 6-7% commission on that transaction should be a priority. I say ‘optimize’ instead of save because, if you do pay a commission, you should get the best service you can and pay only for the services you get. Many people would say they want to use a realtor because it’s the biggest deal of their life. After all, if you pay 7% to an agent that’s still leaves 93%. If you feel this way I still think you should try selling yourself for the first 30-days.

What About the Other Transaction Costs?

Can you save on them, too? Yes. But, why talk about them before you’ve gone after your biggest cost? The other transaction costs pale in comparison.

DIY, Not!

Just because I want to save the 6% commission to a Realtor doesn’t mean I want to conduct the whole sale, myself. No, thank you! These two things are not the same thing. Enlisting the talents of other people is a smart thing to do. And its a brilliant thing to do when selling your own house. I received (And paid for) an extensive amount of help on each step of the process. Several things motivated me to attempt the sale without using a Realtor:

  • My opportunity cost is currently low.
  • I’ve read a lot on the subject and am familiar with the process.
  • I’m an experienced buyer, but not seller.
  • I wanted to see if saving the 6% commission was possible.
  • I have another house for sale and could save 6% on that one, too.
  • If successful I could write this article and help others save a chunk of money in bad economic times.

And, like I said above, Help-U-Sell wouldn’t return my calls. Too bad for them.

Real Estate Expert, Not!

The subject of Real Estate is vast. One could devote a lifetime to all the various aspects to become an expert. Even then, a true expert would have to specialize because there are so many fields of knowledge involved. So, what?! I didn’t have to be an expert to sell my house, expertly. And, neither do you. A mere play on words? Not in my case. I’m selling a house, not running a business or a career. I suspect my perspective is more useful to other sellers because I’m not an expert. You don’t need to be an expert to have each step of your sale be expertly done.

Don’t Become an Agent

Becoming an agent to sell your own house is like “Burning down a house to make toast”. Total overkill. Not needed. In fact, being an agent is probably a liability, see below. Don’t become an agent just to sell your house.

Liability, Not an Asset

In 2002 I studied to become a real estate broker. I enjoy the subject, read all the prep material and thought about taking the tests. But, working as a broker or agent did not fit my personality so there was little point in getting the license. One of the things I learned is there’s a downside to being an broker: They’re held to a higher legal standard of performance. In practice, this means you’re exposed to more legal liabilities because its easier to accuse you of negligence if you have a license proving competence. So, why not just be competent without a license? I’m more interested in having knowledge and understanding than in having a license saying I do. Dishonesty at any stage of selling a house is more likely to blow the deal than anything. But, the law can often be an ass. Let it be an ass to someone else. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not claiming to know as much as a broker or an agent. They have their focus and I have mine. Theirs is to run a business and earn commissions. Mine is to sell my house for the optimal price and keep as much of the proceeds of the sale as possible. Those two areas of focus are not the same.

John T. Reed – Thumbs Up

Much more helpful than reading the material for the brokers license was reading John T. Reed’s books on the subject of Real Estate. I read all 20 of them and they’re the best survey of the field of Real Estate I’ve ever found. Each of his books describe a different aspect of Real Estate mostly for the benefit of investors, specifically. However, taken in total, the reader is given a practical overview of the subject like no other. What’s great about John’s writing is his readability when writing about a complex subject. He will tell you in two pages what would take another author an entire chapter if they had the knowledge to say it. In my opinion that makes John an expert’s expert. Although I highly recommend all of John’s Real Estate books I don’t think reading them is a prerequisite to sell your house without using a realtor. However, there is no doubt that you’ll do a better job of it if you do. You’ll have to decide that based on your goals and time available. It should go without saying that the cost of buying all of his books is nothing compared to the deal you’re trying to optimize. (Note: This article is a report from the battlefield of my sale. Don’t blame John for mistakes I made and write about in this article. At some point, we all have to stop reading and start doing. I read until I was blue in the face and still made mistakes. That’s just the way it goes when you’re in the ring and have to get the job done. Rest assured I made less mistakes, and lost less money, by learning from others experience and writings.)

How Do You Handle a Hungry Realtor?

By understanding what they do, what they charge, how they talk and what motivates them. You may even end up hiring one. If you do I hope you’ll be able to put their role in perspective and limit their service to the help you need to conduct the sale.

Realtors Want Speed, Not Price

Brokers use price when deciding what state, region, city, neighborhood or type of property to specialize in selling. After that its all about speed. Any broker in their right mind values speed over price. Brokers make more money if they sell more houses in less time. Even if they’re only selling one house it’s a better use of their time to sell it quickly. No problem, so far. Why tell you the obvious you may be wondering. Because the higher the price the slower the sale. In fact, if you know the fair market value (FMV) for your house and take 5% off that price John T. Reed refers to it as the ‘Quick Sale Price’. Its called that because you can sell it within a week if the market is efficient. Click here to subscribe

Doesn’t Higher Price Means More for Them?

Sure, their commission, based on percentage, goes up with the price. But, the amount the commission goes up as the price rises is small compared to the commission on the whole deal. Sure they’re supposed to represent your interests and a lot of that is getting the highest price possible. But advising you on the highest price you can get will almost always add time to the length of the sale. That may be ok with you, but, it is not in the realtors best interest. Even worse, setting too high a price is the most common reason for a deal not going through, at all. And setting the price, even for the ‘experts’ is not an exact science. Why take any risk at all, the realtor may conclude. I’m not making a blanket accusation of realtors, here. I’m merely pointing out there’s a natural tension between getting the highest price you can and the time it takes to sell. And you should know that the realtor cares a lot more about speed than you do about price. There’s little to no incentive for the buyer or sellers broker to hold out for a higher price. A realtor will probably tell you if what you’re asking for is too low for the area. But, its more likely a broker will need to talk a seller down in price. Some of that may be to correctly adjust a sellers unrealistic expectations, fine. However, be on the lookout for the suggestion being offered merely to increase the speed of the sale. If it is, make sure that’s what you want to accomplish. Unfortunately, its always to the brokers advantage to lower the price . . . to increase the speed.

6-7% and The Seller Pays It All

Realtors say they only charge 3%. But, there are two realtors: The buyers and the sellers. They each charge 3%. That makes realtor fees 6%. Most of the time the seller pays it all. The marketplace has decided the seller has more to gain from the sale than the buyer. I don’t like that, but, it makes sense when you realize the seller has one house to sell and the buyer has many houses to choose from. Why would a buyer pay broker fees if they can buy the same or similar house and negotiate those fees away? This has become standard behavior so sellers know they have to pay all the broker fees and most of the other closing costs, as well. The exceptions to this are when the buyer doesn’t have competing choices for the house or has decided they must have a particular house. Any situation that would inspire these feelings in the buyer have the potential for the seller to get the buyer to share in the broker fees.

Do I Have to Pay the Buyers Broker?

Not, at all. But, don’t blow a good deal over it. Even if you don’t use a realtor you may get a call from a realtor who has ‘found’ you a buyer. As with all people interested in your house I recommend you show it to them.

Don’t Let Them Screen You

Don’t let the buyers realtor screen your position on paying their commission before they show their buyer the house. If they don’t like what you say they may not show their buyer your house even if your house is perfect for their buyer. This would be a violation of their ethical code as a realtor. But, I don’t recommend you risk losing a buyer for your house by relying on their broker adhering to their own ethical code. On the initial phone call just tell them the truth: You’re willing to consider any offer, agreeable to all parties, that will make the sale go through.

Your Options

If their buyer is interested in making an offer you have the following options for paying the commission to the buyers broker:

  • Recommend the buyer pay since the buyer benefited from their service.
  • Agree to pay them a commission, but, you only pay X% to buying brokers.
  • Tell them you’ll pay if the buyer increases the sales price (Same as buyer pays).
  • Don’t pay them and leave the choice to the buyer (Probably resulting in splitting it).

It’s possible the buyer signed a contract with their broker. That’s got nothing to do with you. Don’t interfere with a contract the buyer may have signed with his broker. In other words, you have options, but not obligations, if a realtor shows up and wants money from you for a buyer.

Offers to Help With the Sale

When they find out you’re not using a realtor they may offer to help you conduct the sale in exchange for a commission. You should already be prepared to handle the sale, yourself. Tell them no thank you. They have enough to do helping their buyer find a house, a loan and guiding them through the sale. You’ve already got a Title company handling everything and don’t require assistance.

Be Prepared For Intimidation Tactics

You may get all sorts of intimidating advice from Realtors, at this point. All of it is aimed at trying to get you to use a realtor instead of finding a buyer yourself:

  • They may threaten to ‘take away’ their buyer (Which violates their professional obligation to act for the benefit of their buyer).
  • They may imply you’re a fool and know nothing about real estate and should let the experts handle it.
  • They may claim you’ll never sell the house if its not on the MLS, which they can generously put you on (For 3%).
  • They may throw escrow terms around in the hopes that you’ll be intimidated.
  • They may try to confuse you on the steps of the process.

Hopefully, you’ve read my entire article by then and don’t fall for any of it.

Divide and Conquer

This is how ‘experts’ do it: They talk fast and confidently, using terms you havn’t heard, about a subject that’s new to you. Your wife, or you, get nervous and says, “Maybe we should stick with the professionals”. The remainder of the conversation is you pitting your instinct up against their ‘expertise’ on a subject you haven’t yet studied. Even if you ‘win’ the argument they change the subject and say another misleading 50 words to start over again. Since you’re going with instinct and it appears the agent is going with ‘facts’ you get in an argument with your wife because she wants to go with the ‘experts’ because the deal involves so much money. I truly hope this article helps you with that situation. I will give you one example, and how I would handle it, below. However, I can’t address everything that may come up. If you do decide to talk with a realtor I recommend studying up on all the potential things that might come up before the meeting. Especially if your meeting as a couple. Why not print out a copy of this article for your wife? Heck, at the very least you can show the realtor this article and say, “Why can’t I do what this guy did?”. Maybe it will change the subject into a service you might want to purchase from the realtor. Something costing less than their entire 3%, I would hope.

One Example and How I Would Handle It

Here’s one example of the kind of misleading advice brokers give out. Its from an article on the web written by a Realtor named Elizabeth Weintraub on about.com. The title of the article is Who Pays the Real Estate Commission? How Does an Agent Get Paid? Elizabeth writes: “It can be argued and, quite rightfully so, that the buyer always pays the commission. Why? Because it’s typically part of the sales price. If the seller did not sign an agreement to pay a commission, the sales price might have been lowered. And therein lies the appeal of buying homes through unrepresented sellers because, given the same logic, those prices should reflect a net sales price without a commission. But those sellers haven’t quite figured this out yet which causes potential buyers of those listings to be consistently disappointed.” Ms. Weintraub’s advice is wrong, misleading, insulting to sellers and meant to intimidate potential buyers and sellers of FSBO (For Sale By Owner) properties. Let me explain why: (Note: This concludes the excerpt from Chapter One of the e-book,  “How To Sell Your House Without Using A Realtor”. It grew to ~20,000 words and is now a mini-book. You can download it, for free, from McGillespie Free Resource Library.) Click here to subscribe

On Idolizing the Bible

Commentary on “How the Bible Became an Idol” by Paul Rosenberg

I’ll refer to the author as Rosenberg to distinguish him from the apostle Paul.

“Again I am raising a difficult subject, but again, it’s something that needs to be said. And my title is true. The Bible – the holy book of more or less all Christians – has become an idol. And yes, I do mean idol as in “false god.”

A book, no matter how good, remains a book and should be treated as a book. A deity is something far different.

Not every Christian uses the Bible as an idol of course, but many millions do – probably a majority in North America – including nearly all of the TV preachers.

The Bible is 66 books with ~40 authors written over ~1500 years put between one cover and referred to as “a book”. None of the books are deities nor are they above, or outside of, Reality.

A Christian may hold the Bible to be the most important “book” in the world but it’s not a substitute for God unless He’s absent from their lives (which is probably the crux of the matter, here).

What is an Idol?

An idol is something you hold above reality.

The Bible uses the word “idol” to refer to that which a man holds above, or in place of, God. Since only that which created Reality could be above (outside, beyond) it, Rosenberg’s use of the word is roughly the same.

A true God – a creator of the universe, for example – should be held above reality, since he created reality. If, however, we hold something else above reality, we make it an idol. A created thing should be considered a part of reality, not held above it.

So, when I say the Bible has become an idol, I mean people hold it above reality, putting it into the position of a god.”

The Bible refers to the gods being worshipped in the OT and NT (represented in stone, wood, or gold idols) as real and created by God.1 These created gods, as well as the Bible, “should be considered to be part of reality, not held above it”.

Not a Book-Based Religion?

As long as the relationships between people and their Creator are replaced (avoided) with rituals we’ll be stuck with the word, “religion”.

“Christianity very clearly did not start as book-based. When Jesus “preached the good news,” he quoted just a small number of scriptures and usually as a necessity, answering people who questioned him. And several of those were of the “you’ve heard it said… but I say” variety. He read a few lines from Isaiah in his hometown synagogue once, but we see very little more than that.

Even the very literate Paul uses Greek poets in his sermons almost as much as Old Testament passages. (He uses some scriptures in his writings.)”

The New Testament refers to the Old Testament 2,572 times including allusions, echoes, citations, and quotations.2 Here’s the total breakout as well as that for Jesus and Paul.

nt_ot

Jesus’ use of the OT is consistent with, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” (Mt 5:17) One astounding aspect of that fulfillment was His abiding by the laws while supplanting them with grace.4 His scripture was the Septuagint (A Greek translation of the Hebrew canon made in 250 BC.).

While Jesus fulfilled the laws, Paul documented much of that fulfillment in canonical extension, later to become known as the New Testament. Paul’s use of the Septuagint is consistent with writing eight to thirteen of the 27 books of the NT.

Stating the Obvious, Extrapolating the Unnecessary5

Those writing, copying, and assembling books of the New Testament did not, themselves, have access to completed copies. To therefore conclude, somehow, that books not yet written were unimportant to those writing them is to extrapolate the unnecessary after stating the obvious.

In that sense, neither is Judaism a book-based religion. The Old Testament was written and assembled into canon over a period of ~1000 years. It was then translated into Greek to make it accessible to Jews who had been in exile so long they’d lost touch with their own language. Does a project requiring 33 generations to complete imply apathy?

The first Christians valued Christ over everything. Their first independent actions were to spread the word about Him and what He’d just done. They weren’t apathetic about writing things down. A remarkable aspect of the NT is how little time had passed from the actual events to the time the 27 books were written and then assembled into canon. They were documenting what they’d witnessed while simultaneously risking their lives to spread a faith that would become the largest in the world.

I do agree with Rosenberg that the apostles and first Christians weren’t risking their lives for a book (or books) but for what they’d just seen. Also, even without completed copies of what has become the New Testament the early Christians were, no doubt, more effective and consistent than most modern Christians.

Facing the Bible

Those of us who’ve read the book know the laws in the Old Testament that no one follows anymore. We know how the apostles disagreed. But – and this is where idolatry comes in – millions of us pretend that we saw nothing and move on. Or if we’re trying to be very religious, we come up with creative interpretations to resolve the flaws.

Conjuring up “creative interpretations to resolve the flaws” is worse than a waste of time. It degrades integrity and faith. It also avoids some of the best opportunities for spiritual growth.

Do the “Bible is the word of God people” think the Author needs their help in deflecting attention away from weak parts of an otherwise stellar attempt to reach mankind?

The Laws that No One Follows Anymore

I’m no expert on Judaism. Still, I doubt that anyone, other than Jesus and a few prophets and priests, managed to abide by all 613 commandments of the law.

There are orthodox Jews who still believe they must abide by most of the laws. They claim to be excused from the sacrificial laws (159 of the 613) because the temple was destroyed in 70 A.D. But, how were they released from the remaining 454? If they don’t recognize Jesus as their messiah how (and when) did these laws become inactive?

The Apostles Disagreed

The most famous disagreement among the apostles arose when Paul publicly admonished Peter for observing Judaic laws after Jesus had fulfilled them. Bob Deffinbaugh’s exposition of the disagreement, and Peter’s capitulation, is excellent.

Using the Bible to Prove Everything

And let me be clear on this: Trying to prove everything by the Bible is a deviation from actual growth. If you’ve done this for any length of time, you’ve hindered yourself.

Rosenberg may be referring to the often lazy habit of quoting Biblical text as self-proving. To a non-believer this is recursive reasoning. It’s much more effective to quote applicable verses and explain why you think they’re true in the context of the discussion.

A larger point to understand is that the Bible doesn’t contain all knowledge. Such would be like a map with a scale of 1-to-1: accurate but useless. There are no microwaves, jet planes, toasters, CAD design programs, or even hidden codes in every 70th (or whatever) letter predicting the third Reich. Neither does Ezekiel contain the design plans for an alien spacecraft. The sooner a Christian is disabused of the notion that everything is in the Bible, the better.

The Bible is what God deemed sufficient for the realms it covers. It was not intended to be exhaustive. Exhaustive knowledge is a utopian myth. Humans have to work for knowledge just as they have to work to get food from the ground.

Doing, Or Not Doing?

Readers of the book really should know these things. The core of the New Testament – the recorded words of Jesus – require people to do the things he taught. The “Bible as word of God” people, on the other hand, spend endless hours arguing about who Jesus was, comparing scriptures, finding hidden meanings, proving their interpretations right, and proving the interpretations of others wrong. And so they bypass doing.

Though admonished by one commenter to “stick to subjects he knows about”, Rosenberg could just as well be paraphrasing Paul in 1 Timothy 1:3–7:

“As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith. The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion, desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions.”6

The Sad Part

“The central requirement for any follower of Jesus is to love. Everything else comes second. Jesus not only taught this again and again; he exhibited it in his life. Christians, however, consistently push it aside in favor of other things. (I could tell you stories, but you probably have your own.)”

Indeed, “For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Ga 5:14)

“The really sad part of this is that the Bible idolaters – or at least a great number of them – do have experience with the divine impulse, of contact or at least innate yearning for a transcendent ultimate. But they never develop these things, because they’re busy idolizing a mere book, following the traditions and commandments of men.

Jesus condemned the Pharisees for treating the OT in exactly this way. How much worse for a Christian to do the same with the completed Bible?

What’s Rosenberg Getting At?

Rosenberg sees the Bible as a valuable resource. He greatly appreciates the impact that Judeo-Christian ethics have had on western civilization. He believes there’s a creator of the universe distinct from the created. He has a “divine impulse” and “innate yearning for a transcendent ultimate”. So, why would someone so philosophically, though not theologically, aligned with Christianity be frustrated enough to write about Christians using the Bible as an idol?

At the risk of being presumptuous I’ll put into my own words what I think are some of Rosenberg’s points. If doing so would make fellow Christians consider them then it will have been worth the effort:

  • Because of the enormous, yet squandered, human potential of a third of humanity. If a small fraction of that number patterned their thoughts, will, abilities, beliefs, and expectations on the full range of Jesus’ teachings the world would be so dramatically transformed it might be mistaken for heaven.
  • Because millions of Christians who claim Jesus as their role-model either don’t take him seriously enough, or are afraid to discover, let alone implement, the full breadth of His teachings.
  • Because the Book of Acts describes the behaviors and experiences of Christians before there was a Book of Acts. And yet, the first Christians were more Christ-like, with limited access to fragments of text, than modern Christians are with a completed New Testament.

The Christian Difference

Voltaire is credited with saying, “Show me your redeemed life, and I’ll believe in your Redeemer”. And then there’s the rhetorical question that, “If you were jailed for being a Christian would there be enough evidence to convict you?”.

There’s nothing different about people living inconsistently with their own stated beliefs. You can find them in every house and on every street-corner in the world. Christians are supposed to stand out in such a way as there’s no doubt that something is different about them. Why else would anyone care to learn more about their beliefs?

Can we blame non-believers for concluding that a redemption without fruit is no redemption, at all?

The Christian difference occurs in believers who call Jesus a role model and have the courage to act consistency with the goal of becoming more like Him.

That means diving into his teachings and exposing yourself to the full-spectrum of what you find. No picking and choosing what you, or those around you, might be comfortable with. No strip-mining the supernatural out of the events. No arrogant presumptions that God needs your protection of His Bible because someone sent you a list of “flaws” on Facebook.

Set a goal of nothing short of putting on the mind of Christ. “Aim at Heaven and you will get Earth ‘thrown in’: aim at Earth and you will get neither.”7

Faith without Works

Faith without works is trust without transformation. It’s an attempt to be oriented towards the Creator without “power according to his glorious might”. (Col 1:11) In daily life, it’s hope without joy.

Transformation of Character and Supernatural Power

Dallas Willard, speaking on “Being Church” said:

“When the kingdom of God is present, power flows. And what characterize the people of Christ throughout the ages is transformation of character and supernatural power. Those two things always follow. When Jesus brought the kingdom he brought manifestation.”

That’s what the early Christians had and what many of today’s Christians don’t have. That’s what’s at the core of Judeo-Christian ethics that have transformed the world.

The early Christians weren’t risking their lives for unfinished scrolls on parchment or papyrus. And they weren’t risking their lives because Jesus was a smart guy who’d just laid some awesome philosophy on them. They risked their lives to remain true to what they’d just witnessed: Jesus performing miracles all over the place, raising people from the dead and then rising, himself, from being dead. And if that wasn’t enough, walking around and eating meals with them while detailing how He’d just fulfilled their scriptures. It was the resurrected Jesus that told them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”8

In that sense, I agree with Rosenberg, that Christianity is not a book-based religion. It’s a relationship with God centered around His presence in our actual lives. Without transformation of character and supernatural power there will be no great works. But, with them?

The world is yours!9


  1. “My contention is that, if our theology really derives from the biblical text, we must reconsider our selective supernaturalism and recover a biblical theology of the unseen world. This is not to suggest that the best interpretation of a passage is always the most supernatural one. But the biblical writers and those to whom they wrote were predisposed to supernaturalism. To ignore that outlook or marginalize it will produce Bible interpretation that reflects our mind-set more than that of the biblical writers.” Heiser, M. S. (2015). The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible (First Edition, p. 18). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press. 
  2. Jackson, J. G. (Ed.). (2015). New Testament Use of the Old Testament. Bellingham, WA: Faithlife. 
  3. There are four relationships that are used: Citation, Quotation, Allusion, and Echo. These terms are understood as:
    Citation: An explicit reference to scripture with a citation formula (e.g. “It is written,” or “the Lord says,” or “the prophet says”).
    Quotation: A direct reference to scripture, largely matching the verbatim wording of the source but without a quotation formula
    Allusion: An indirect but intentional reference to scripture, likely intended to invoke memory of the scripture.
    Echo: A verbal parallel evokes or recalls a scripture (or series of scriptures) to the reader, but likely without authorial intention to reproduce exact words.
  4. “For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.” The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ro 6:14). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society. 
  5. “Yes – as I have said many times in classes: Scholars have a habit of embracing the obvious (redaction) and then extrapolating to the unnecessary (XYZ “universally accepted” critical theory that actually has significant weaknesses – as though there were no other options).” http://drmsh.com/does-higher-criticism-attempt-to-destroy-the-bible/ 
  6. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (1 Ti 1:3–7). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society. 
  7. C.S. Lewis, The Joyful Christian 
  8. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 28:18–20). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society. 
  9. “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ge 1:28). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.” 

Psychopaths are all the rage, lately. About 1% of the population meet the clinical criteria for psychopathy.1 That percentage rises to 3-4% in senior executives.2 Many articles and books list their attributes and behaviors. Still, advice on what to do about them is sparse.

I have an idea: use the new tool enabling psychiatrists to standardize their diagnosis and communicate accurately about such “patients”. That is, use the PCL-R (Psychopathy Checklist-Revised) to detect the potential psychopaths in your life. Then eject them before they have a chance to do the damage they seem born to do. You don’t have to be an expert to protect yourself.

If that seems harsh then avail yourself of the innumerable books and articles about these human predators. They rarely create anything but chaos. They’re usually parasites that rely on the productivity of others to supply for their every need. And yet, human hosts abound. Hosts, who don’t realize they’re facilitating their own demise until it’s too late.

I wrote a book about a suspected psychopath to thicken the non-fiction part of his résumé. He hasn’t been brought to justice, yet, but perhaps my book will put a digital noose around his neck, in the meantime. In Chapter 13 of “The Creature from Galt’s Gulch” I used eyewitness accounts to compare the suspect with Dr. Robert Hare’s PCL-R checklist for psychopathy.

Beginning of Book Excerpt

Johnson and the Psychopathy Checklist

Here’s a list of eyewitness accounts of Johnson and their correspondence to the attributes and behaviors on Dr. Robert Hare’s PCL-R checklist for psychopathy.

Preserving the term, “Psychopathy”

Words are often used with little respect for their original meaning. They’re used in propaganda and strung together in phrases that become memes. Memes are captured in social media, sitcoms, and movies. Within a few short years the word bears little resemblance to its original meaning. The first casualty is that the word in question may never recover it’s original, and most powerful, meaning. Even greater damage is done by obscuring the definition of a perfectly good word and thereby shrinking the vocabulary of humanity. It then takes that much more effort to  communicate effectively.

We’re all familiar with the trivial use of the word “Fascist” hurled at anyone, and anything, the accuser may not like or that presents a maddening obstacle to their whims. Only when fascism describes the merger of corporate with state powers does meaning reappear. Another word that must be recovered to understand Galt’s Gulch Chile is “Psychopath”.

If your understanding of the word “Psychopath” is anyone acting in a way you don’t understand or agree with, then maybe the word “Psychotic” or “Psychosis” is a better fit. At the heart of the GGC story there sits a man exhibiting behaviors I believe (As a layman) to be consistent with the medical use of the term “Psychopath”. I refer to him as the “Creature” or Kenneth Dale Johnson. I have been careful to refrain from throwing the word “Psychopath” around in the irresponsible manner in which the word has become a cultural meme since 2010. That was when the Showtime series, “Dexter”, portrayed one as an ersatz hero. The word “Psychopath” is a medical term used to describe someone who lacks all empathy with their fellow man, someone who has no conscience, someone who can lie about millions of dollars of stolen money as if he were handing you an ice cream cone. It gets worse, but, let’s just leave it at that, for now.

As a layman, with no psychiatric medical training, I’ll stick with the PCL-R standard the professionals use to diagnose psychopathy. Dr. Robert Hare’s revised checklist for psychopathy is something I recommend all people become familiar with as a tool to assist in spotting, and then avoiding, the psychopaths that cross their path.
If there should be some kind of future “therapy” to shift the behavior of psychopaths towards that which, at least, acknowledges empathy with their fellow man (And not their pets or animals as is characteristic of the psychopath) then I welcome it. As of today, there is no such therapy that I’m aware of. The best course of action is to understand the behavior, recognize when they are being exhibited by someone, gauge the extent to which the person under consideration may be a psychopath, and avoid them in equal measure.

I believe that, unless Johnson ends up in jail, he’ll move on to live somewhere else in the world. May what’s been written here about the damage he’s done to so many people be added to his resume.

As of June, 2015 Johnson is making the mistake of recording himself on dozens of video updates he calls “Farm updates”. As with the rare movie, “I, Psychopath” where Sam Vaknin allows a filmmaker to create a documentary about him, this is a rare opportunity to study the behavior of a likely psychopath, in real time, and on video.

“Each of the 20 items in the PCL-R is scored on a three-point scale, with a rating of 0 if it does not apply at all, 1 if there is a partial match or mixed information, and 2 if there is a reasonably good match to the offender. This is said to be ideally done through a face-to-face interview together with supporting information on lifetime behavior (e.g. from case files), but is also done based only on file information. It can take up to three hours to collect and review the information. Out of a maximum score of 40, the cut-off for the label of psychopathy is 30 in the United States and 25 in the United Kingdom. A cut-off score of 25 is also sometimes used for research purposes. High PCL-R scores are positively associated with measures of impulsivity and aggression, Machiavellianism, persistent criminal behavior, and negatively associated with measures of empathy and affiliation.”
— Wikipedia entry for “Psychopathy Checklist”

GGC Logo
GGC Logo

PCL-R1

pcl-r2

PCL-R3

With five categories unknown Kenneth Dale Johnson already rates a score of 29, in the collective recollection of those who’ve tangled with him. If correct, that makes him a psychopath in the UK and 1 point shy in the US. What do you think are the chances of him scoring a 0 in the unknown categories?

End of Book Excerpt

 

If you’re interested in the full story of Galt’s Gulch Chile the 186-page book is free for those who have access to the resource library.

Dealing with Psychopaths

You have two options:

  1. Detect and Avoid.
  2. Disentangle, Starve, and Extract.

Detect and Avoid

The unhired employee is the easiest to fire. The unentangled friend has no pretense to interfere. The unmarried crazy-maker is the easiest to divorce. Memorize the attributes of the PCL-R checklist so you can vet strangers that want to become more than strangers. Be on guard for anything over a score of 10 or for any attributes you find disturbing. Call former business associates and friends (If there are any). Did your candidate get along well with others? Did they show genuine empathy for other people? Would they do business with them again? Are they still friends? Just those four questions are probably enough.

I have a friend with an uncanny ability to detect the unseen factors about people and situations.  She refers to it as her “Spidey Sense”. In the seven years I’ve known her she’s never been wrong. Now, when she tells me something is up I adjust my thoughts and actions to be in line with her intuitions. My friend has rare abilities. However, perhaps you can assemble a group of friends to achieve a similar result? Why not invite your candidate out for coffee for an informal vetting session?

Learning to recognize an aggressive move when somebody makes one and learning how to handle oneself in any of life’s many battles has turned out to be the most empowering experience for the manipulation victims with whom I’ve worked. It’s how they eventually freed themselves from their manipulator’s dominance and control and gained a much needed boost to their own sense of self-esteem. Recognizing the inherent aggression in manipulative behavior and becoming more aware of the slick, surreptitious ways that manipulative people prefer to aggress against us is extremely important. Not recognizing and accurately labeling their subtly aggressive moves causes most people to misinterpret the behavior of manipulators and, therefore, fail to respond to them in an appropriate fashion.3

Heavily Scrutinize Claims of Pain, Hurt Feelings, or Victimhood from Prospective Friends, Partners, etc.

Are they sharing a real experience or merely evoking feelings of sympathy to put you off-guard?

The tactics manipulators use can make it seem like they’re hurting, caring, defending, … almost anything but fighting. These tactics are hard to recognize as merely clever ploys. They always make just enough sense to make a person doubt their gut hunch that they’re being taken advantage of or abused. Besides, the tactics not only make it hard for you to consciously and objectively tell that a manipulator is fighting, but they also simultaneously keep you unconsciously on the defensive. These features make them highly effective psychological weapons to which anyone can be vulnerable. It’s hard to think clearly when someone has you emotionally on the run.4

Disentangle, Starve, and Extract

If you fail to detect or avoid a psychopath it will be much harder to get rid of them once they’ve embedded themselves into your life or business. It will be like trying to capture a spider while preserving the web. There will be people, assets, and money to preserve during the extraction. You can’t possibly care less about these things than your psycho already does. A psycho will think and feel nothing in “burning” through all of them just to see your reaction. Your best bet is to proceed slowly and document their every move so that contradictions and lies can be made visible to all. Get them talking and record everything (which is what psychos, themselves, are famous for doing). The biggest lies of their twisted premises must be debunked to the satisfaction of those who don’t yet see the spider for who they are. Those who don’t yet see through the psychos deceptions are unwittingly feeding the spider that will eventually bite them. In the meantime, the spider will continue to feed on the energy of those who still believe their lies. The idea is to cut off this source of the spider’s food so it eventually starves amidst a desert of unbelieving attention.

The ideal outcome is to have the spider eject themselves from the web. They will do so in huffs and indignant cries of counter-accusations. The psycho will go down with the ship repeating the same tired stories of how they have always been the victim and don’t care how many people don’t believe them. If you’ve done your homework such cries and accusations will now be seen and recognized by all to be ridiculous.

Of course, psycho extractions are rarely smooth and are difficult even when they can be done, at all. Perhaps Kent Kiehl’s, “The Psychopath Whisperer” can help. You may also enjoy Ann Barnhardt’s presentation on Diabolical Narcissism.

Their Words are Dead until You Make them Alive

Repeating the accusations of a psychopath makes dead words come alive. You are the source of that life. The more you repeat their words the more life the words have to impact the living. Stop repeating them, or even listening to them, and a psychopaths words remain dead in their own mouths. I’ve had personal experience with this.

A former boss of mine used to plant lies among his small group of five or so consultants. The point of his lies were to gain information from how each consultant reacted to them. I knew what he was doing but was never able to persuade the others to ignore his lies, altogether. When a co-worker would feel cornered into admitting to some trivial error the boss held it up as proof of the entire group being “liars”. That story reminds me of a simple and effective method for …

Extracting the Truth from a Psychopath

It’s easier than you think. Psychos are all blabber-mouths and can’t keep their own mouths shut. Your job is to listen and record. Then, translate their accusations as what they are: projected admissions of what the psycho, themselves, have done or are doing. It really is that simple. Psychos don’t so much create their own lies as much as they describe what they’ve actually done, and what their own motivations were. Then, a few names are swapped around, and fresh accusations can be launched. If cornered, your psycho will, of course, extend the web. But that be plausibly and quickly done with the inside knowledge of having been the original culprit.

Think of it this way: They’re not performing the mental feat of keeping track of multiple lies and the rippling consequences of multiple conflicting stories. They’re merely reciting from memory what they, themselves, have done.

Example

Psycho: “You’re a lying buffoon who has doctored up your resume with false experience while taking credit for the work that Joe and Marcia have done! You’re also using company money to pay for non-business events and expenses!”

You: Excellent. Now I know that my psycho has:

  1. Lied.
  2. Doctored up his resume
  3. Taken credit for Joe and Marcia’s work
  4. Used company money for travel, food, and events.

This is as close to a direct admission of deeds and guilt as your ever likely to get from your local psychopath. Enjoy it. Now you know exactly what they’ve been up to and how they mucked things up.

Herd Immunity from Psychos?

There is little hope or evidence that such creatures will self-correct and change their destructive ways. As with most problems facing humanity the hope lies in what changes the victims can make to avoid or neutralize the attack.
In the long-term, humanity must confront and overcome the following deficiencies if “Herd Immunity” is to be attained:

  • A pervasive lack of awareness of their existence.
  • Inability to diagnose and, therefore, to defend against, avoid, or thwart.
  • No understanding of how they fit-in, demographically, with humanity.
  • Apologetic denial that notorious figures of history were obvious and diagnosable psychopaths but my “friend” (Partner, Business Associate, City Councilman, etc.) is different.
  • No spiritual discernment of the possibility that some people are just plain evil and that’s all there is to it.
  • A knee-jerk tendency to dismiss outrageous behavior happening right in front of them.
  • A tendency to take responsibility for outrageous behavior so as not to upset the guilty offender with the truth, or upset the sensibilities of the group.
  • A long willingness to “Strike-a-Deal” to cap the bleeding despite an established string of lies.

Anyone wanting to avoid being victimized by covert-aggression must redefine the terms of engagement with a would-be manipulator. To do this effectively, one must: 1. be free of any harmful misconceptions about human nature and behavior, 2. know how to correctly assess the character of others, 3. heighten self-awareness, paying special attention to aspects of one’s own character that increase vulnerability to manipulation, 4. correctly recognize and label the tactics of manipulation and respond to them ap- propriately, 5. avoid fighting losing battles, and 6. know how to maintain a position of power and strength in interpersonal relationships.5

But, what about the short-term? What might you be able to do right now about the potential psychopaths in your life?

Adopt-A-Path

Ex-CIA agent Robert David Steele advised bloggers to adopt their own zip-code and illuminate whatever hanky-panky is going on.

“If you bloggers self-organize and attach yourselves like leeches to specific issues, corporations, organizations, challenges, whatever, you will be the intelligence minutemen of this century. The power is in your hands.”

Perhaps the same could done for Psychopaths or Diabolical Narcissists?

For those inclined I recommend being quite sure of the informal diagnosis of your adopted specimen. Preserve your integrity by using words and terms accurately. You won’t need to use hyperbole as there’s no need to exaggerate behavior that’s already quite outrageous. I’ve also learned from experience the many benefits of the writer having no ties, whatsoever, to the subject or their crimes. Human cooperation confuses the living daylight out of these creatures. They can’t understand something that’s not within them to ever do. I suppose that leaves them without much light, at all.

May it leave them with no victims, either.


  1. Hare, R. D 1994, ‘Predators: The Disturbing World of the Psychopaths among Us’,Psychology Today, vol. 27, no. 1, pp. 54–61 
  2. Baibak, P; Hare, R. D Snakes in Suits: When Psychopaths Go to Work (2007) 
  3. In Sheep’s Clothing, Understanding and Dealing with Manipulative People, George K. Simon, Ph.D., page 8. 
  4. Ibid., 9. 
  5. Ibid., 93. 

If you want your words to last as long as parchment use plain ASCII text with Markdown. When found, your writing can be republished at the click of a button. It’s digital; make lots of copies.

Markdown is . . .1

… a way to format plain text to show the formatting choices of the writer.

The syntax is natural and the formatted text is readable (Unlike HTML from which Markdown was derived as a form of shorthand). And, since most publishing software can read Markdown, directly, the writer can write once, skip the hassles of formatting, and pass the text directly on to the publisher.

Half of the Markdown syntax is just how a writer would format text, naturally. For example, you type an asterisk or a number in front of bullet points or a list of items, or hit enter to separate paragraphs. Heading levels are marked by the number of “#” signs placed before the heading. Even footnotes, tables and web links are straightforward and the text remains readable after formatting.

Storage

Plain digital text bypasses the problems of paper storage. It also bypasses the format wars of proprietary software. Your writing is created, stored, and published from the same text file. If we can read Egyptian hieroglyphs, today, perhaps people will be able to read ASCII text files, 5000 years from now.

Ideally, you make a (Digital) book available and distribute it to hundreds or thousands of people. Upload it to a website where it will be indexed, and possibly stored, by a third party. Less ambitious writers could put their text on as many mediums as they can find. Put them in a safe, wrapped in a paper printout. Tell your family about them and put it in your will. If your lucky, your progeny will see it and use the search engine of the day to find a copy, somewhere. Otherwise, perhaps one of your digital copies is readable. In terms of survivability, the paper copy is likely the weakest contender after 100 years or so.

How Long Will it Last?

Markdown_table
Markdown_table

 

Search

The presumption, even today, is that if you have the title, or the author’s name, you have a fair chance of finding the book. As more books are published in digital-only formats the odds of being able to find any book will increase.

Write Once, Publish Anywhere

Markdown makes it possible to write once and publish anywhere. Every platform I’ve needed to publish to can receive markdown text. But, it’s even better than that: Most of my writing is outlined, written, edited, and exported directly to the publishing platform and archived in markdown from within one program: Scrivener. The text can then be updated or repurposed from the same place it’s archived! It’s hard to describe the relief of simplicity this workflow provides. It makes for a frictionless writing environment that shifts the focus of the work back onto content. You just keep writing and let the publishing platforms handle the formatting details.

Markdown Benefits

  • Liberates the writer from formatting concerns both during, and after, writing.
  • Liberates the writer from proprietary software jail.
  • Gives the writer the widest number of choices in publishing platforms.
  • Enables the writer to use the same text file to feed multiple software and publishing platforms.
  • Updates and editions are made to one file: The original text file.
  • Enables the text to be read now and for the foreseeable human future.
  • Puts the writing in simple text format which will outlast all software programs currently in use.
  • Text processing programs are everywhere as are publishing software and platforms that can read Markdown, directly. Pick one and start writing.

WYSIWYG Live Preview, Yes!

Ironically, writing in simple text was a big step for me. I worked as a typesetter before, and during, college and have always loved the look of well-formatted text and book design. My professional consulting is replete with word processors, project management software, presentations, adobe frame maker proposals, etc. To make it worse, I’ve relied heavily on HTML and InDesign for the past eight years. Must I do without the inspiration of formatted text to get all the benefits of writing in markdown?

Not at all! Marked reads your text file (Even a Scrivener file!) and displays a fully formatted version of your document in real time. As you type, Marked updates the displayed document. When you’re finished you can export the document from your original text editor or right from Marked, in all the standard formats.

Workflows

Website Articles

  1. Scrivener to WordPress.
  2. Markdownify plug-in within wordpress editor box.
  3. Images stored on dropbox or website image directory.
  4. Marked shows WYSIWYG of Scrivener file, including images, while the article is being written.

Guest posts

  1. Scrivener exported to publisher’s format preference.
    A. Cut/paste of Markdown txt?
    B. Html or pdf export from Marked
    C. Other?

Client Documents

  1. Scrivener to pdf export.
  2. Indesign for special formats only.

Books

  1. Scrivener to first draft.
  2. Edit drafts in Scrivener.
  3. Send to Editor(s).
  4. Make edits in Scrivener.
  5. Final copy to Indesign.
  6. Format for Kindle, PDF, etc.
  7. Succeeding versions in Indesign.

Project Planning & Tasks

  1. Omnifocus (Text only)
  2. Drafts (MD and Text)
  3. Scrivener (MD and Text)
  4. Excel

E-mails

MailMate

Notes

  1. Evernote
  2. Nvalt
  3. Drafts (iphone/pad) to Evernote to Scrivener

Misc. Tools

  • Byword
  • Brett Terpstra’s Markdown services
  • MultiMarkdown Composer

P.S., Nine Months Later

Shortly after starting to use Markdown I began using dictation software to talk words onto the screen. Dictation has now taken such a big place in my daily writing that my typing speed has declined. One thing I haven’t yet done is to train the dictation software to implement markdown syntax. For example, perhaps I could train the software so that saying, “Bold that”, puts double asterisks around the last word?

I no longer need Adobe Indesign or Word for daily writing. I much prefer to use Marked 2 for WYSIWYG of the draft folder of Scrivener. It’s not as good as Indesign but enough to be inspired by the clean text and formatting of what I’m working on.

When writing articles I sometimes use temporary droplink addresses of image files so Marked can show me how the picture will look with the text during the writing process. I also use droplink addresses to compose e-mails to friends (Also in markdown) if they’re to include photos. If I need the images to be viewable in the long-term I use “Transmit” to quickly upload the images to my website image directory and use that address in the markdown syntax.

When composing agendas and client documents I write them all in scrivener using markdown. I then use Marked to convert markdown to the pdf files that are sent directly to the client. Client work is started, and completed, in Scrivener where it remains in its final form. The pdf’s sent to the client are beautiful and archived in Scrivener.

Best Markdown Resources


  1. Invented by John Gruber and Fletcher Penny. 
  2. https://www.whalingmuseum.org/explore/library/from-the-vault/cuffe-manuscripts 
  3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gutenberg_Bible 
  4. David Diringer noted that “the first mention of Egyptian documents written on leather goes back to the Fourth Dynasty (c. 2550–2450 BC), but the earliest of such documents extant are: a fragmentary roll of leather of the Sixth Dynasty (c. 24th century BC) 
  5. Jiahu symbols, carved on tortoise shells in Jiahu, c. 6600 BC 
The Rulers
The Rulers

We have met the enemy, and they are invisible.

Almost everything against us, and for us, has an invisible origin. Master this unseen realm, and what obstacles remain of the visible world are child’s play to contend with, in comparison.

A shift in focus to the invisible root causes of oppression enables an enormous reclamation of human resources. This is the Way to advance, directly, in what is a spiritual wrestling match masquerading as conventional warfare.

from Within

The seven deadly sins of greed, pride, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath, and sloth reside within. It’s only their effects that become visible. All of these sins can manifest physical obstacles onto our path until we get them under some kind of control.

from Without

The book of Ephesians has the clearest and highest view of the invisible rulers that originate from without.

“Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”1

The placement of the final four elements to be in opposition to “flesh and blood” makes them all inhuman. A word study reveals them all to be of supernatural origin, as well.

Ephesians Table
Ephesians Table

“6:12 This list of spiritual rulers, authorities, and cosmic powers (see 3:10) gives a sobering glimpse into the devil’s allies, the spiritual forces of evil who are exceedingly powerful in their exercise of cosmic powers over this present darkness. And yet Scripture makes clear that the enemy host is no match for the Lord, who has “disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him” (Col. 2:15; see also Eph. 1:19–21). 6:13 Therefore. Because the Christian’s enemies are superhuman spiritual forces, he cannot rely upon mere human resources but must take up the whole armor of God.2

Given their destructive potential, understanding rulers and authorities to refer to an invisible realm has a profound impact on the optimal deployment of human resources in what Paul refers to as a spiritual wrestling match.

A Divine Council of Evil?

With the detail in this and other passages I wonder if it’s possible to make an Org Chart of what might be called the Divine Council of Evil. Scholars are divided on the question:

“Some scholars have believed that it is possible to reconstruct at least in part some of the hierarchy represented by these various supernatural forces and powers, on the basis of the neoplatonic system of nine such powers arranged in three orders of three each. NT terminology and usage does not, however, lend itself to such a classification, and it is difficult, if not impossible, to determine what are the significant differences between these supernatural powers and forces.”3

But that hasn’t stopped people from trying:

Botticini Painting
Botticini Painting

The Origin of the Invisible

If Ephesians tells us what we’re up against and what to do about it, Colossians tells us who created what we’re up against:

“For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.”4

Paul uses three powerful rhetorical devices in this verse:

  1. He sets up a pattern of contrasting opposites: One is visible and the other is invisible.
  2. The nature of the opposites show the completeness of the creation being described. Nothing is excluded from a creation that includes all that is visible and all that is invisible.
  3. Instead of completing the AB pattern of the first two opposites Paul lists four things of the same type, for emphasis. All four are invisible “sacrificing the balance of the hymn in order to add a further reference to Christ’s superiority over all beings in heaven as well as on earth.”5

The pattern is A-B, B-A for the first two comparisons. Instead of extending that pattern it’s followed by A, A, A, A:

Colossians Table
Colossians Table

From the Inside Out

Against these invisible rulers of sin, weaknesses, and the “Divine Council of Evil”, where does one begin to “wrestle” free? As all the great masters have concluded: from the inside out.

Sins manifest into physical obstacles. For example, when sloth combines with natural entropy and results in clutter, “Who” is the oppressor making things hard to find? Similar examples would illustrate the same pattern with the other deadly sins.

One Stone, Many Birds

The “schemes of the devil” use sins and weakness as their primary means of control. Any “stones” you may throw in the direction of their elimination could hit many “birds” of prey.

  1. Taking action on your own sins and weaknesses is under the jurisdiction of your own will. There is no permission required and you can start immediately, if you like.
  2. By doing so you begin to remove both yourself and the primary sources of leverage used by external rulers and authorities (both visible and invisible) to control you.
  3. By doing so you start to “clear the decks”, removing clutter and complexity from the “battlefield”.

A Nod to the Visible

There are visible counterparts to the invisible thrones, dominions, rulers, and authorities. We do have kings, governments, tyrants, and pricks on earth, just as there are in heaven. Sometimes, a rock is just a rock.

But, appearances can be deceiving. Visible obstacles may be put on your path through invisible means. David Pawson defines a miracle as “a natural event with a supernatural cause”. Looking in the mirror I find it hard to argue the point.

Most of the Biblical references to “rulers” are to the unseen realm. In 55 uses of ἀρχή or Archē only two might refer to something visible:

  • Luke 12:11
    “When they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not worry about how or what you are to speak in your defense, or what you are to say.”
  • Titus 3:1
    “Remind them to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed.”

In 53 out of 55 cases the reader must jar themselves out of the natural tendency to mistake the word for its earthly equivalent. Just as legal terms in Black’s law dictionary have only a small overlap in meaning to their common use, so does this Biblical word rarely resemble the vernacular.

Reclaiming Human Resources

There is much visible work to do. To ignore this fact is to carelessly devalue precious human labor (The most noble form of money). However, by shifting the focus of that work to the invisible root causes of oppression, we may reclaim the enormous human resources currently wasted on merely resisting the damage of effects!

We have the means to throw the originating rulers off our backs. We have a helper to inspire us to bridle, and then repudiate, the sins within. Every time we do so we gain immediate ground. Soon, it becomes obvious that evil is weak, and always has been. Its appearance of strength was only relative to our lack of clarity and unwillingness to remain squared-off, no matter the cost, to what intuition always informed us were the Real perpetrators.

Even our direct work (at last) is only part of a long-running cleanup operation of an ancient victory. For the Lord has “disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him”.

We are beneficiaries to the inheritance of that victory. The cost is no more, and no less, than its recognition.


  1. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). (Eph 6:11–12). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society. 
  2. ESV Study Bible comments on Ephesians 6:12-13 
  3. Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition., Vol. 1, p. 147). New York: United Bible Societies. 
  4. Colossians 1:16, ESV 
  5. “The fact that all four terms thus refer only to the invisible, heavenly realm and the repeated emphasis on Christ’s supremacy and triumph over the “principalities and powers” in 2:10 and 15 do therefore strengthen the likelihood that the two lines were inserted by the author(s) of the letter, sacrificing the balance of the hymn in order to add a further reference to Christ’s superiority over all beings in heaven as well as on earth” … Dunn, J. D. G. (1996). The Epistles to the Colossians and to Philemon: a commentary on the Greek text (pp. 92–93). Grand Rapids, MI; Carlisle: William B. Eerdmans Publishing; Paternoster Press. 

My mother had two strokes leaving her unable to walk. She hates not being able to walk. A few years later her eyes glazed over with cataracts and she couldn’t see. Since she lives with us, and we see her everyday, we didn’t notice it as it happened slowly over so many months. Her eyes were a tough case but the doctors were able to fix her eyesight with an operation.

Off all her losses, by far the worst was when she lost the ability to talk. We had to use a board with letters enabling her to point to letters to slowly make a word. To say that she hated it would be glib. She was furious! Her fury turned to desperation and then to depression.

Thankfully, over the next four months, her speech was largely restored through swallowing exercises. Along with the gift of that restoration to her was a restored confidence and insight given to me about words.

As a lyricist I felt I’d reached the limits of what words can hold or convey. I’d received the Irish “gift of gab” to the extent that, when my mother and I went to Ireland and had the opportunity to kiss the Blarney stone, I declined in disgust saying, “No thanks, mom. I talk too much already. You guys make me kiss that thing and see what kind of blabbermouth you’ll get then!”

To be fair to the legend, kissing the stone purports to confer “Eloquence and persuasiveness”; much loftier and more useful gifts than mere gab. Still, I didn’t kiss that thing and don’t regret it.

Kissing the Blarney Stone in 1897

While searching for a picture to portray the point of this article I found the poster for the film, “A Life without Words”. The trailer is fascinating with the film telling the story of a brother and sister in Nicaragua who are deaf and can neither speak, write, nor read until a sign language teacher comes along and teach them their first “words”.

Their father says (At 0:30 seconds on the film trailer) that, “Because they are disabled the authorities can’t touch them. They’re incomplete. The law can’t touch them.”

No Law? No Transgression!

True enough. When you have no words you can’t legally consent to contracts (That you can’t read!). As you look at the kids (Young adults, really) you can tell they’re intelligent and can think clearly even though they “have no words”. And yet, think of it from the state’s point of view: If the kids were to “sign” a contract they could always claim they had no idea what they were signing. If problems arose, later, how could one argue the point? “For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law there is no transgression.”1

Self-Defense from Psychopaths

The father’s words remind me of another story where a known criminal psychopath was able to manipulate all those around him except for those who didn’t speak his language. The criminal spoke English and was perpetrating his schemes in a Spanish speaking country. The English speakers around him were manipulated, one by one. The Spanish speakers were immune. The psychopath could not “get inside their heads” with his words. His power was neutralized. Now that’s an idea someone could write a book about!

(I didn’t emphasize this phenomenon in the book I wrote about the story. However, if you’re interested in knowing more about the exploits and damage one psychopath can do, read “The Creature from Galt’s Gulch” (Free).)

That these two groups of people “with no words” were protected from their adversaries shows the power of words from the opposite side of the usual vantage point. Without words, you can’t be mislead or fooled by them.

The truth (And law) comes to us in words and can be taken away using words. Most of our liberties are not taken but rather given away by our own consent. We consent through various contracts and sign away precious liberties. I tackle these dangers in my book, “The Outlier’s Handbook”. In short, the wise must sometimes find ways to retain the advantages of the fool.

Better than Words?

Word Alternatives

These contenders are wonderful tools that may greatly assist your communication. They’ll probably decrease the number of words you’ll need to communicate. But, they won’t eliminate the need for words, entirely.

If you hand someone a picture without saying anything they’ll just look at you with questions in their eyes. You have to write or say something to put pictures in context. The inverse is not true: If you say something to someone you don’t have to follow it with a picture of what you talked about. Pictures and the rest are great, but optional.

Here to Stay, Forever

As long as mankind is walking the planet, words are here to stay. They’re the hardest ingredient to delete with any hope of communicating fully. “Use your words.”, the teachers at my children’s school say when the kids get frustrated. Those teachers know what they’re talking about!

Blindness is a dreadful affliction as would be the loss of any of the senses or faculties. However, take away someone’s words and you rob them of the dearest part of their humanity.

Postscript: My mother lives with us, now. We talk, everyday.

Mom and I on the cliffs of Donegal, Ireland


  1. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). (Ro 4:15). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society. 

Your Optimal Life Equation (YOLE) is an algebraic formula to describe, contemplate, and re-calibrate the optimality of one’s life.  The relationships of the major elements are shown as well as the potential  impacts a change may have. The equation is introduced, here, and referred to throughout the “The Outliers Handbook“.

When I got the idea to describe an Optimal life with an algebraic formula the flaws in the approach were obvious: The units don’t match and assigning one number to something that, by its very nature, is multi-dimensional is absurd. Such absurdities are built-in to something else passed on as knowledge, every day . . . the IQ. Who in the world thinks something as multi-faceted as intelligence can be fully captured and described by an integer? It can’t. And yet, the IQ is still, somehow, useful. So is YOLE.

Cross-discipline metaphors are useful for the same reason any metaphor can be: Patterns in nature are like other patterns in nature. Sometimes, the same fractal pattern in one natural structure is duplicated exactly in another. Fractals prove that stupefying complexity can emerge from utter simplicity. The reverse is not true.

Those who have no problem “dividing” a mountain by a triangle  or seeing the golden ratio in a conch shell or human face may find YOLE useful. It doesn’t reach fractal-like perfection (Yet) but Your Optimal Life Equation may show how some of the major elements of life may be changed to lead to a more optimally functioning one.

Your Optimal Equation

Where all people have S,W,V,G,H,T,El,j,c and at least one Pg. Not every person has Pr, Pb or EB.

 

YOE-Variables
Key

Talking Through the Equation

The sum total of your Strengths and Weaknesses is all you have to maintain everything you Value, your Goals, the People in your life (H), and the Things you own. The results of that division is multiplied by  the purposeful roles you play in the lives of others, the purpose of your business activities, and whatever you most desire or worship (Your God). The resulting numerator is what you bring into (Is divided by) your larger environment: The physical or virtual stage of  your life and business. The major elements of your Environment are physical location, legal jurisdiction and community. Your business may have a separate environment with its own physical location, legal jurisdiction and community.

Small Changes Can Have a Huge Impact

The legal jurisdiction of one’s physical body and business could be the sole determining factor of whether one is at liberty to accomplish anything, at all. Likewise, the wrong community could leave one alone and bereft of the amplifications (And enjoyment) that a strong and thriving community can provide.

Whether or not one has an immediate family, an optional component of Pr , will have a huge impact on the nature of the most purposeful roles in one’s life.

What You Control . . .

You determine the inputs and amounts of most variables. You may have little to no control over some of them, in the short-term. You can have some degree of control over most of them, eventually. It’s  daunting to realize how most of the important aspects of life are the direct result of personal choice. The sheer amount of decisions one could make to optimize life is probably why people rarely take full control over all the elements they could potentially control. Of course, depending on resources available  (Strengths) an attempt to control everything might lead to a failure to control anything.

. . . and What You Don’t

Your unique disposition of strengths and weaknesses is part of your natural disposition at birth. You have huge latitude in honing and deploying strengths. You also have many options for minimizing the impacts of natural weaknesses. However, it’s still mostly a matter of playing smarter with the hand you’ve been dealt.

Likewise, you don’t choose to live on “The grid” of planet earth. You choose where to locate the various elements of your life on that grid.

You don’t choose the members of your local (And virtual) communities. You choose the location and subjects around which those communities are organized, and possibly united.

On Values

Values present a cost to maintain and uphold. Hold to as few of the best values in life while tending to values.  Discard bad values and replace merely good values with great ones. Great values are consistent with Purpose(s) and decrease net costs to Strengths.

On Goals

Goals are costly to achieve. Achieving goals is usually a good thing. A great thing, however, is achieving great goals. Great goals align with the purposes of your life. Discrimination between good and great goals requires awareness of purpose(s).

On People (H)

People can be among the greatest sources of abundance on earth. They can also be the most taxing. The task here is to have the right balance of people in your life. Those congruent with your purposes will bring abundance to your life (And you to theirs) even if they’re taxing. For one thing, people tend to motivate growth. Growth makes us stronger and leaves us with more strengths to optimize life. Therefore, the tax of people in our lives may be a large cost in the short-term and change the fundamental balance of the equation in the long-term. People are a “Capital” investment in the grandest sense of the world.

On Things

Things, or possessions, require some combination of storage, maintenance, insurance, licensing, money, time, registration, bill processing (Registration renewal, licensing updates, etc.) and on and on. The least number of Things you need to accomplish purpose(s) the better.

On Purpose(s)

Ants, snails, and bugs may have one purpose. People have multiple purposes. The popular myth that people have just one purpose is harmful and tends to thwart the discovery of what one’s purposes may be. There’s a purpose for every role, family member, business activity, ongoing responsibility and activity in your life. The YOLE encapsulates them all into the roles you play in the lives of others, business purposes, and God (Pr,b,g).

On Environment(s)

Personal and Business environments might be separate. Therefore, the equation allows for both E and EB. Each have their own components of physical location, legal jurisdiction and community.

Location has a dramatic affect on the prevailing Law, Jurisdiction, and Community with which you’re interacting with in time. However, physical location is not a static, one-time-only, choice. With cyberspace, jet travel, dual-citizenship, and multi-state and national entities a person’s Environment is no longer determined solely by physical Location. Of course, if your E and EB are tied to one physical location then it makes the equation easier to “Calculate”. The cost of that simplicity will probably increase as technocratic mechanisms of control and taxation become more refined and perfected. Also, as such mechanisms are refined and perfected E, EB, and their subcomponents will tend to merge into one. The more completely merged, the more each component will be the same for more people. Physical locations will always vary but characteristics of legal jurisdiction and community may become so similar that distinctions are of little importance. In some ways this can be seen as one drives across the US stopping into the “Same” fast-food franchises in every state.

Environments are multi-locational and sometimes virtual. Where is the PT (Perpetual Traveler) located if his business is in one country, money in another, investments in another and body in another? His body can only be in one location at a time, of course. But will he be there long enough to be viewed as a resident (Legal jurisdiction)? Even so, his business may be in a different jurisdiction. Complex combinations can grow out of varied components of E and EB.

Reality has ~10 Dimensions, Not Four

Theoretical physicists now presume Reality presents in 10 dimensions. That’s six more than most people assume comprise the Reality in which their life is taking place. To distinguish the standard four from the 10 I’ll use the convention of uppercase Reality (10) and lowercase reality (4). I might turn YOLE into a graphic to account for Reality. For now, think of E as not limited to the dimensions of X,Y,Z and Time/Space but extending into dimensions that may or may not be discernible to the five senses.

People with a keener sense of dimensions, beyond the four, may possess either a physical, intellectual or theological strength. Some choices of Pg enable such awareness and some preclude it. Since anything that obscures the full  dimensions of Reality is a handicap one can better optimize life with a Pg that enables full awareness.

What God?

Desire provides powerful insight into purpose. People align their lives with what they most desire in the moment. What people most desire can be described as their god of the moment.

There are as many gods (Idols) as there are nouns in the dictionary: Money, alcohol, sex, prestige, control over others, Buddha, Allah, nature, Lucifer or the Holy Trinity of the God of the Bible, etc. Gods are swapped in and out over time. Whatever one desires most during a given period is the god of that period. Sex in the morning, money in the afternoon, control over others at night . . . gods tend to become the sole purpose of one’s life for the time period they are most desired. During that period everything about the person tends to be oriented around obtaining or reveling in (Worshipping) whatever it is. Such desires effect physical, mental and spiritual changes in the person experiencing them. In a sense, we become what we most desire.

Business (Job) vs. Calling

If what you do for a living is also the highest purpose of your life, i.e., your business or job is also your calling,  then Pb will be a higher “Number” or of greater magnitude, to be more accurate.. The components of your business environment (EB) will still have a large impact on the equation but the first main numerator of the equation will tend to offset any negatives that may be components of EB.

Some Output Examples

O = (((S + W) / (V + G + H + T)) * Pr,b,g) / (El,j,c * EBl,j,c)

  • Strength(s) and Purpose(s) are the positive inputs used to optimize life. Their number, amount, deployment and alignment determine the positive “Numbers” of the equation, after which, everything gets divided.
  • By minimizing the impact of your weaknesses the impact of your strengths is greater.
  • Choose only the highest quality Values to uphold or maintain because any value presents a cost to your strengths to maintain. Replace merely good values with great values.
  • Choose only the highest quality goals to accomplish because any goal presents an achievement cost to your strengths. Replace merely good goals with great goals. Great goals still tax your strengths but are also components of Purpose and, therefore, counterbalance the equation.
  • Surround yourself with high quality people. All roles and relationships tax your strengths but the right people are components of Purpose and counterbalance the equation.
  • The less Things you own (Store, maintain, insure, move, sell, buy) the better. Anything that owns you must go. Such things make an optimal life impossible unless the purpose of your life is Thing(s).
  • If you have no Purpose(s) the chance of optimizing life falls to zero.
  • If you get stronger (Or deploy existing strengths more efficiently) you can support more Values, Goals, People and Things in your life. However, the least number of these you have, ideally keeping only those that will be factored with  purpose(s), the more optimal your life.
  • If the impact of your weaknesses are lessened you can support more Values, Goals, People and Things in your life because the tax (Direct subtraction) to your strengths is lessened.

This is a short list of example outputs from YOLE. It is, by no means, exhaustive.

On and On It Goes

There’s no end to the complexities of even one human life. The YOLE can be referred to in the middle of a storm (When nothing seems clear because everything is happening fast) or tranquil waters (When everything is fine and you want to focus on what small changes might have the best impact). Whatever the context it can show how some of major elements of life may be changed to enable one’s life to function more optimally. In “The Outliers Handbook” I refer to the equation in the context of the subjects and areas of life being addressed.