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Doctor Mercola informs us . . .

It’s that time again. Flu season. And with it, a constant barrage of reminders to get your annual flu shot. Interestingly enough, what you’re being told about the influenza vaccine’s effectiveness and the reality are two very different stories. In January 2015, U.S. government officials admitted that, in most years, flu shots are — at best — 50 to 60 percent effective at preventing lab confirmed type A or B influenza requiring medical care.1

At the end of that same year, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) analysis2 of flu vaccine effectiveness revealed that, between 2005 and 2015, the influenza vaccine was actually less than 50 percent effective more than half of the time. I wonder if the reality might be even worse than that.

Research from 2011 shows just how easy it is to inflate efficacy rates simply by using different end points.3 At that time, they found that by using serologic measures, i.e., the increase in influenza antibodies identified in the blood, results in an overestimation of vaccine efficacy.

During the 2015/2016 flu season, FluMist, the live virus nasal spray that typically has been recommended for children in recent years, had a failure rate of 97 percent.4 Its failure was so epic, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommended FluMist be taken off the list of recommended flu vaccines for the 2016 to 2017 season, a recommendation CDC officials ended up heeding. There are many other examples of the influenza vaccine not protecting people as promised. So, what might we expect from the vaccine this year?

Take it from Doctors and health experts; when it comes to preventing the flu …

Flu shot’s don’t work.

Vitamin D does work.

Shane Ellison has a masters degree in organic chemistry and is a two-time recipient of the prestigious Howard Hughes Medical Institute Research Grant for his studies in biochemistry and physiology.

Here are Three reasons Shane will never vaccinate his kids:

Instead of using an unproven hypothesis to question parents who have opted out, pro-vaccine parents should be questioning the safety and effectiveness of vaccines. With dozens of vaccines being forced on the public, some healthy skepticism could go a long way toward raising a vibrantly healthy child.

My background as a medicinal chemist taught me to rely on proven research. I learned to be less sensitive to emotional arguments and more sensitive to facts supported by reproducibility. This is one of the main principles of the scientific method. It refers to the ability of a test or experiment to be accurately reproduced. As a parent, I have a responsibility to use my training to make decisions for my family. Especially when it comes to potentially dangerous vaccinations.

In my own research, I have uncovered facts that every parent should be aware of. Here are three primary reasons why I have not and will not vaccinate my own children and why I’ve used vaccine exemption forms for public school and more:

Herd Immunity: Three Reasons Why I Don’t Vaccinate My Children… And Why Vaccine Supporters Shouldn’t Care That I Use Vaccine Exemption Forms

Four months ago, I received a “Must Read!” article from my wife: “6 Ways electronic screen time makes kids angry, depressed and unmotivated“. Sure enough, our 8-year-old son was showing some of the symptoms described in the article:

  1. Disrupts sleep and desynchronizes the body clock.
  2. Desensitizes the brain’s reward system.
  3. Produces “light-at-night.”
  4. Induces stress reactions.
  5. Overloads the sensory system, fractures attention, and depletes mental reserves.
  6. Reduces physical activity levels and exposure to “green time.”

Reset Your Child’s Brain

That lead to reading the author’s book, “Reset Your Child’s Brain: A Four-Week Plan to End Meltdowns, Raise Grades, and Boost Social Skills by Reversing the Effects of Electronic Screen-Time by Victoria L. Dunckley, MD

We didn’t go through all “TEN STEPS TO PREPARE FOR A FAST” that Victoria recommends:

  1. Define problem areas and target goals
  2. Get your spouse and other caregivers on board
  3. Set a date and create a schedule
  4. Inform relevant adults in your child’s life
  5. Obtain toys, games, and activities to replace screen-time
  6. Schedule breaks or treats for yourself
  7. If possible, enlist a playmate’s parents to join you
  8. Inform your child and involve the entire family
  9. Perform a thorough “screen sweep”
  10. Set your intentionMy wife and I talked for an hour on Friday night mapping out activities, games, and alternatives and how to break the news to the kids. Then, on Monday, we went cold-turkey on the ipads for both boys.

My wife and I talked for an hour on Friday night, mapping out activities, games, and alternatives, and how to break the news to the kids. Then, on Monday, we went cold-turkey on the ipads for both boys.

The Results?

After two weeks, the symptoms were gone! Now, at four months, the absence of these two “little” ipads in their lives (and ours) has been working out, splendidly.

The ipads were replaced with more outdoor time, interactions between them and with us, looking out the window on the way to school, lots of storytelling, and one thing we’ve still got to work on: watching Japanese dance videos on YouTube (via the TV).

Storytelling Design

The bromide that “Children are natural storytellers” is true, but it’s deeper than that. Children live in the story version of their lives, going in and out of what we adults would call the “real” version.

Here’s Lucas living in his story. Notice that his dad is standing six-feet away, recording him, but he takes no notice. Then, when his stuffed animal drops, he’s jarred into the “Real” life of eating his cereal.

Have you ever tried to get a yes or no answer from a child? They answer every question with a story because they’re living in one. By telling you a story, they’re not evading; they’re giving you a more complete answer.

Rory’s Story Cubes

A month after the ipads “disappeared”, I found a game that fit Victoria’s advice to replace screen-time with other  activities: Rory’s Story Cubes.

They come in packs of nine cubes. The 6-sides of each cube has a picture on it of either a thing or an action (a noun or verb in adult-speak). You roll the cubes and make a story out of the ones that roll face-up.

As I was reading the box, and wondering if the game would be too much for our 4-year-old, Lucas rolled the cubes and cut me off saying, “Once upon a time …”

It was more than adorable; it was wondrous to watch his brain firing on all cylinders, reaching into the vast experiences of his four years of life experience, and telling us a story. “Can you believe this?!”, I asked my wife.

It’s not only possible; it’s their preferred means of expression. Children are designed to communicate in story. Before they have words for the things around them, before they put words together in sentences, they’re tracking the story of what’s happening to them, and around them. A few weeks after they’re born they look at you while you’re changing their diaper and you can see them taking it all in. There are no words, but they’re recording the beginnings of their own story.

The Gillespie Cubes

When playing, we give each player six cubes to roll for a new story. We have 27 cubes in all (Rory’s 9-cube starter and 9-cube action sets, 3-cube pre-historia, 3-cube sports, and 3-cube medic sets). If I was purchasing for the first time, again, I’d get this bundle:

As long as you have the self-contained 9-cube starter set there’s no wrong way to add to the set.

If you’re expecting this article to end with us going through every step of the book and living happily-ever-after, that didn’t happen. Although Victoria’s book outlines steps to reintegrate screen-time back into your child’s life in a non-destructive way, we haven’t even thought about bringing the ipads back to battery life. We’re on pause, for now, and not looking for the “play” button.

There are a few things that would make me reconsider: if the Kahn Academy greatly improves their app, or a similar life-changing technology appears on the scene. If so, we’ll make the kids earn every minute of screen-time like an allowance. Until then, we’ll stick with the best killer apps, of all: playing outdoors, talking with people, reading, and telling stories.

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) 

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

“Everything should be as simple as it can be, but not simpler.”

— Albert Einstein

I’ve found that life can be optimized with respect to a minimum of seven areas. Delete any one of them from the equations of your awareness and your life will degrade, sooner or later. Since these areas are irreducible I call them the Seven Matters of Life. They are: Personal, Health, Spiritual, Business, Family, Law, & Government.

The Seven Matters exert an inevitable, if not invisible, influence on our lives. As with natural laws describing gravity, time, the speed of light, etc. they persist whether we ignore them or not. We “escape” them only through acknowledgement and mastery.

My writing is an informational vortex swirling around the Seven Matters. Ideally, it serves as a generational boost to reduce the time needed to put your own life on optimal track.

A Portrait of the Seven Matters

To portray the seven matters I’ll use a pattern-type at the core of natural design: Fractals. Before fractals were discovered, Hollywood was unable to reproduce mountain landscapes without using artist renderings or real pictures of mountains. Now, they use triangles, a computer, and a dash of randomness to create breathtaking landscapes.

The point of using a fractal to portray the seven matters of life is this:

Fractals prove that stupefying complexity can emerge from utter simplicity. The reverse is not true.

Also, I want to make a point, graphically, about the nature of optimizing one’s life:

Even when a complex solution is needed it will inevitably be constructed with simple (not simplistic) components.

The Metatron Cube

One of my favorite fractals is the metatron cube, sometimes referred to as “the flower of life”. It’s formed with 13 spheres set in relation to each other, like this:

Wire Metatron Cube
Within the metatron cube are many other shapes. For example, it contains all five platonic solids.

metatron platonic

In this revolving view the cubic relationships of the same fractal are emphasized.

Metatron in Motion

Fractals can represent infinity by putting the same fractal within itself. Here’s what a metatron cube looks like with each sphere filled with its own metatron cube:

Metatron Infinity

Working Portrait

Please don’t mistake the colorful portrait, below, as “New Age” philosophy with its nauseating relativism. To the contrary, it’s a working portrait of the seven matters  at the core of each person. Though we’re all unique, and at differing levels of development, our design is specific and persistent.

Self Portrait 1
Notice these aspects of the portrait:

  1. The seven inner-spheres of the core correspond closely to the seven matters of life.
  2. The “matter” at the center is Spirit; a reference to the spirit inside you and to God.
  3. Each sphere is a fractal identical to the others, and to the whole.
  4. The outer spheres represent personal interactions with the external world. They are the natural outward reach stemming from the inner core.
  5. To the extent the inner-core is balanced, so is the person, and so are interactions with the external world.

Everyone has these “matters” in their life, in one formation or another. My choice of their positions is, therefore, a kind of self-portrait. Change the position of the “matters”, especially the one in the core, and the resulting life of the person will be quite different.

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. 

The church at Colossae was formed during Paul’s ministry in Ephesus. A Colossian named Epaphras traveled to Ephesus (125 miles NW of Colossae) and heard Paul preach the gospel. In returning home Epaphras shared the message with his hometown and the church at Colossae was born. “Epaphras had earlier journeyed to Paul to help him in whatever way he could, representing the three churches of the Lycus valley (Laodicea, Hierapolis, Colossae)”.1

Epaphras is with Paul (Currently jailed in Ephesus) and has given Paul news of problems in the church in Colossae. Paul writes his Colossians epistle to address these problems.

I favor Pauline authorship of Colossians and Philemon while Paul was jailed in Ephesus ~54 A.D. I don’t think he wrote these epistles in Rome (or Caesarea) for three reasons:

  1. Onesimus, a slave who escaped from his owner Philemon in Colossae, is unlikely to have been able to make two (Or three) trips to Rome from his home in Colossae.
  2. “…it seems unlikely that, having seen Rome as a staging-post on the way to Spain (Rom. 15:22–29), Paul would be hoping to visit Philemon soon after his impending release.”2
  3. The epistle contains advice more likely to be needed by a very young church than a church that had been grappling with such issues for eight or nine years.3

If Paul wrote Colossians while in Ephesus both the church, and Paul, were ~nine years younger than widely presumed: Paul is in his early 50’s and the church is barely a year old. That Paul describes himself as an “old man” in Philemon is still consistent with the hard life he’d lived until then.

The letters to the Colossians and to Philemon (And possibly Ephesians) were carried to their recipients by Tychicus and Onesimus with the latter being returned by Paul to his owner, Philemon. Philemon’s house is being used as a church in Colossae and Paul is hoping to persuade him to look favorably on his former slave, Onesimus, who became a Christian during his time with Paul.

Did Paul Write Colossians?

I find the arguments that someone other than Paul wrote the letter, unconvincing. In making their case, the non-Pauline authorship camp makes at least two faulty assumptions:

Colossians Fragment (P46)
Colossians Fragment (P46)
  1. That a brilliant writer such as Paul could not, or would not, adapt his writing style and vocabulary with respect to the intention, problems and recipients of the letter. To the contrary: Anyone capable of writing Colossians has proven themselves capable of adjusting language and style to the widest audience possible. In fact, each of these Epistles continues to communicate quite effectively with the entire world since they were written. Putting aside, for now, the fact that his writing was divinely inspired, I’m not aware of any writer having achieved a greater feat (Socrates, Plato, Shakespeare, etc.).
  2. That literary genius and spectacular writing abilities can somehow be perfectly mimicked or obtained by extensive study or “Spending lots of time” with the author. I would think a comparison of the epistles of Timothy to those of Paul’s would end such an argument. For those still unconvinced, rest assured that, no matter how long you might have been able to hang out with Shakespeare you still wouldn’t be able to write one of his plays.

Earthquakes in Laodicea and Colossae:

“Sometimes one also hears the argument that Paul could not have written to Colossae from Rome as late as A.D. 62 because the city of Colossae was destroyed by an earthquake in that year. This is confusing the earthquake which struck Laodicea in A.D. 60–61 with the earthquake which hit Colossae in A.D. 64. It is unfortunate that while Laodicea has undergone a good deal of archaeological work in recent years, Colossae still remains one of the NT sites which has never been excavated. Work would need to be done there before we could begin to assess the effects of the earthquake on that small town.”4

Laodicea and Colossae are only 10 miles apart. An earthquake capable of doing damage to one would be felt in both cities and probably do the same amount of damage. If Paul had written Colossians in 62 A.D. it would be remarkable for him to refrain from mentioning a Laodicean earthquake that happened one year prior. The second 64 A.D. quake in  Colossae does not inform the the dating of the epistle, at all.

Lost Epistle to Laodicea

In Colossians 4, Paul asks the Colossians and Laodiceans to read each other’s letters. It’s highly probably that an epistle written to the Laodiceans has been lost.

Colossians Outline5

Doctrine: Christ’s Preeminence Declared

  1. Greeting (1:1–2)
  2. Thanksgiving (1:3–8)
  3. Prayer (1:9–14)
  4. Praise to Christ (1:15–20)
    a) Christ is Lord of creation ( 1: 15–17)
    b) Christ is Lord of redemption ( 1: 18–20)
  5. Reconciliation of the Colossians to God ( 1: 21–23)
  6. The Apostle Paul’s Labor for the Gospel ( 1: 24–2: 3)
    a) Paul’s suffering and stewardship of the mystery ( 1: 24–28)
    b) Paul’s labor for the Colossians ( 1: 29–2: 3)

Danger: Christ’s Preeminence Defended

  1. The Dangerous Teaching at Colossae ( 2: 4–23)
    a) Warning about a deceptive teaching ( 2: 4–8)
    b) Help for the danger: resources in Christ ( 2: 9–15)
    c) Additional warnings about the teaching ( 2: 16–23)

Duty: Christ’s Preeminence Demonstrated

  1. The Proper Focus: Christ and the Life Above ( 3: 1–4)
  2. Instructions on Living the Christian Life ( 3: 5–4: 6)
    a) Dealing with the sins of the past ( 3: 5–11)
    b) Putting on the virtues of Christ ( 3: 12–17)
    c) Living in the Christian household ( 3: 18–4: 1)
    d) Persistence in prayer ( 4: 2–4)
    e) Good behavior toward those outside the community ( 4: 5–6)
  3. Personal Greetings and Instructions ( 4: 7–17)
    a) Remarks about the messengers carrying the letter ( 4: 7–9)
    b) Greetings from Paul’s associates ( 4: 10–14)
    c) Greetings to the Christians in Laodicea ( 4: 15–17)
  4. Letter Closing ( 4: 18)

  1. Melick, R. R. (1991). Philippians, Colossians, Philemon (Vol. 32, p. 165). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers. 
  2. Wright, N. T. (1986). Colossians and Philemon: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 12, p. 38). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press. 
  3. Wright, N. T. (1986). Colossians and Philemon: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 12, p. 40). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press. 
  4. Witherington, B., III. (2007). The letters to Philemon, the Colossians, and the Ephesians : a socio-rhetorical commentary on the captivity Epistles (p. 19). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. 
  5. ESV Study Bible 

Words are how the truth comes to us. They’re also how it can be taken away. Seen only as symbols and grammar, truth and lies are made from the same raw material. Your only hope is discernment. Your life depends on it.

Tolkien and Lewis regarded the fairy tale as a perfectly suited literary vehicle for expressing eternal truth. Lewis credits Tolkien and a mutual friend with helping him see that his love of myth and fairy tale blinded him to, yet prepared him for, the Gospels. He reluctantly came to believe the Gospels were eyewitness accounts of a “true myth”.1

“I wrote this story for you, but when I began it I had not realized that girls grow quicker than books. As a result you are already too old for fairy tales, and by the time it is printed and bound you will be older still. But some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.”2

Mythology or History?

Another term used as a pejorative is mythology.

All mythology is presumed myth as the victors decide what is official history. The history of the defeated is, by definition, written by outlaws. A generation later the history of the defeated is mythology or conspiracy if it’s remembered, at all.

It’s helpful to think of mythology as collections of potential truths inconvenient to the succession of political power. Likewise, “History” is as likely to be the glorification of bureaucrats and technocrats as an accurate re-telling of the facts.

A series of time-related truths, thoroughly vetted and discerned, is not mythology or conspiracy; it’s history.

Trivium & Quadrivium

The subjects of history and philosophy were considered to be so demanding, yet so important, that they weren’t even presented to the student until after they’d studied the subjects of the trivium (Grammar, Logic, Rhetoric) and, ideally, those of the quadrivium (Arithmetic, geometry, music, astronomy).3

“These seven heads were supposed to include universal knowledge. He who was master of these was thought to have no need of a preceptor to explain any books or to solve any questions which lay within the compass of human reason, the knowledge of the trivium having furnished him with the key to all language, and that of the quadrivium having opened to him the secret laws of nature.”4

“… When a few were instructed in the trivium, and very few studied the quadrivium, to be master of both was sufficient to complete the character of a philosopher … The candidate, having reached this point, is now supposed to have accomplish the task upon which he had entered – he has reached the last step, and is now ready to receive the full fruition of human learning.”5

“Some day you’ll be old enough”

The ability to grasp eternal truths and history and bring them to bear on decisions is a high achievement of a classical education. Only philosophy, by attempting to comprehend meaning, imposes greater demands for greater rewards.

Some day you’ll be old enough” to start reading fairy tales again to glean eternal truths. Someday you’ll be educated enough to distinguish real history from stories convenient to political power.

Words are how the truth comes to us. They’re also how it can be taken away. Seen only as symbols and grammar, truth and lies are made from the same raw material. Your only hope is discernment. Your life depends on it.


  1. A 1931 letter to childhood friend Arthur Greeves, Lewis credits Tolkien (and mutual friend Hugo Dyson). Paragraph reworded and reordered from an article written by Bruce Edwards (https://erlc.com/article/c-s-lewis-051101). 
  2. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis 
  3. Cathedral Schools of the early Middle Ages (527) on which the curriculum of Medieval universities were based (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cathedral_school) 
  4. Hist. of Philos. Vol ii. P. 337 
  5. The symbolism of Freemasonry: Illustrating and Explaining its Science and Philosophy, it’s Legends, Myths, and Symbols. By Albert Gallatin Mackey, M.D., 1869. 

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.

As promised by investor Lt. Col. Thomas Baker, the forensic reconstruction of Galt’s Gulch Chile has been completed and was hand-delivered to the FBI and the IRS on June 8th, 2015. Informed by the reconstruction, investor David McLeod filed criminal charges against Kenneth Johnson and Pamela Del Real in Chile (Docket number RUC 4710-2015) on May 20th. More US civil suits against Johnson are likely to follow.

On a phone call with Cathy Cuthbert, she described the forensic recontruction as a wellspring of previously unknown facts and details about what actually transpired around GGC. Timelines, Contracts, Accounting, Wire Transfers, Corporate reports, Recorded conversations between Johnson and investors, Videos, Credit reports, etc. showing Johnson to be at the heart of the problems surrounding GGC he has blamed on others. In other words, despite Johnson’s claims of working for the investors as a developer the reconstruction shows that the “service” Johnson has been providing them is similar to that which the bull provides the cow.

Readers of this GGC series will find it no surprise that Johnson used investor funds to spin a complex web of deceit involving multiple entities, off-shore trusts, multiple bank accounts, share swaps with Mario Del Real and others, inflated prices, ridiculous late fees, absurdly negotiated prices, etc. all while using corporate bank accounts like a personal checking account.

It’s tempting to leave Jeff Berwick out of discussions about GGC now that he’s so publicly apologized. Unfortunately, his involvement in cutting Cobin and German out, starting a different entity into which to take title (IGGSA) and trying to get the New Zealand trust and offshore structures in place is quite evident in the reconstruction documents. There’s little doubt Ken Johnson was the instigator of the most serious problems with GGC, and continues to make all things worse with his presence and current behavior. However, to say Berwick wasn’t right there at the beginning is to not tell the story, correctly, at all. As mentioned in Part 3 my hope is that Berwick will externalize his contrite heart into some modest assistance to ongoing recovery efforts or investors in extreme need. With the introduction of these new charges, with more to follow, the publicity surrounding the aftermath of GGC is not going away, anytime soon.

Note: The criminal charges filed by David McLeod, and some documents of the forensic reconstruction I was able to coax from the recovery team, have been added to the free E-book, “The Creature from Galt’s Gulch”. I will continue to add such elements to the book as I receive them and within the boundaries of preserving the privacy of the investors.

Justice Provided by the People Involved

As described by Cathy Cuthbert and Thomas Baker, the breadth and depth of the forensic reconstruction they’ve put together is quite impressive. It’s not only a meticulous investigation and gathering of documents but they’ve formatted the whole thing into a package that makes it accessible to outside parties.

I’m not sure what may have transpired between Tom and Ken but the USMC motto of “No better friend, no worse enemy” might echo in Johnson’s mind for some time to come. That is, if Johnson is able to comprehend what has just happened to him. The agencies he’s just been reported to will hound him for the next decade. Half of that decade will be spent defending himself against the criminal charges that were filed against him in Chile on May 20th, by David McLeod. And, there’s more to come. A rather obvious tip to Johnson would be: The next time Tom makes an offer of either “Friend” or “Enemy” . . . go with the former choice. Who knows? Maybe the recovery team would still let Johnson wiggle out of his fraud if he’d just hand over the land the investors paid for.

The FBI white collar crime fraud division will find that most of the investigative, forensic accounting, and reconstructive work has been done and hand-delivered to them by the recovery team. With so much work already complete perhaps the agency will bump the case to the top of their case-load so they may stand in front of their logo at a news conference and receive some good publicity.

The Del Real Factor

Johnson is solely responsible for inviting a local Chilean, Mario Del Real, into GGC affairs. And yet, investors have been made to suffer Johnson’s endless complaining about problems he’s had with Mario and his daughter, Pamela. That’s because Johnson performed a bizarre GGC stock swap with Mario hoping to make big money on the value of water in an Andes Water company called Rio Colorado. By the time the smoke had cleared Mario owned most of IGGSA and his daughter was the general manager of the company! In other words, Johnson was no longer the dominant share holder of GGC and had lost all control over the entity that holds the land. What great “Development” work, Ken!

(To understand more about this failed deal see Chapter 7, “The Rio Colorado/GGC Share Swap”, in the GGC E-book.)

If you’ve read my “Stolen Car Metaphor” at the end of Part 7 you know my take that Johnson’s epic fail with the Del Real share swap is merely the lamentations of a thief who bungled and lost the proceeds of a previous theft. The fact that Johnson’s audience for these lamentations are the victims of the first theft is exactly the kind of behavior I find consistent with Dr. Robert Hare’s psychopathy checklist.

Any deal Johnson made with stolen shares of stock can, and should be, overturned. Therefore, whether the Del Reals colluded with Johnson, or are merely his victims, is a matter for a judge to decide (Yes, there is no longer any way to resolve GGC disputes without involving state agencies, unfortunately). Pamela Del Real’s resume (She’s now the general manager for IGGSA) shows substantial accounting expertise. Such expertise will make it impossible for her to plead ignorance if there was any foul-play on the Del Reals part.

Johnson’s Latest Ploy, Revealed

Johnson has now revealed his latest ploy and what’s behind his re-occupation of the GGC hacienda and grounds. And, surprise, surprise, it’s a variation on his usual … lies mixed with just enough truth to confuse and divide his listeners against themselves while holding out a carrot and stick for those who either cooperate or resist.

More specifically, Johnson is trying to confuse and divide investors against lead investor Josh Kirley hoping they’ll put pressure on Josh to relent in his legal actions which have locked up Johnson’s sale and pillage of IGGSA assets. He also wants the investors to help him get rid of his “Del Real” problem. The carrot Johnson offers is the same old title to land he’s been promising investors, and not delivering, for the past two years. The stick is his continued presence and purported counter-attacks on investors who “continue to attack him”. For those not familiar with Johnson-speak, the word “attack” describes the actions of anyone who points out to Johnson another of his own broken promises.

If only the investors will help him convince Kirley to relent, and help him get rid of the Del Reals, then Johnson can deliver, at long last, the coveted Titles to actual land the investors have been pestering him about, all this time.

E-mail Between Host and Parasite

A recent e-mail exchange between Josh Kirley (The host) and Ken Johnson (The parasite) is an excellent illustration of what actually went wrong with GGC. It’s also an excellent example of what happens when “The creature” is confronted with truth.

My thanks to Josh Kirley for making this e-mail exchange available:

On Thu, May 28, 2015 at 12:27 PM, Josh Kirley <joshkirley@gmail.com> wrote:

“Ken,

For two years, you keep sending out the same emails. Always full of juicy drama, promising the release of more information in the future. This behavior is unprofessional. It inspires no confidence. Why can’t you just do your job?Try building something. Try living up to your responsibilities. Produce something. Be accountable. If you are GGC’s Minister of Propaganda, who is the Project Manager? Your accusations are baseless and defy all logic.

Tell me if you can refute the accuracy of the following facts. I swear to their order and authenticity.

1) You are wholly responsible for bringing the del Reals into this nightmare.

2) You pleaded with me to give 1 to 2.5 million dollars to Mario del Real for his Rio Colorado Project. You personally vouched for Mario, insisting the Rio Colorado deal was a “No Brainer” and a “Homerun”

3) I told you that I had my suspicions about del Real and would get back to you after performing some due diligence.

4) Once I told you that I was not willing to put money into a second Chilean investment, you totally reversed course.

5) You refused to provide me with del Real’s Ruta number, or even his full name, intentionally stonewalling my attempts to research his background.

6) You told an entire room full of defrauded investors at the second festival that your deal with del Real was a “totally separate” matter between you and him.

7) You told all of us that your alliance with del Real was “none of our business” and would have no impact on our contracts.

8) When I offered to pay, out of my own pocket, to have del Real looked into for you, you refused my help, saying that you feared if I looked into del Real, he might “get spooked” and walk away from your deal.

9) Weeks later, you came back to me, begging for a million dollars. You said that you were double crossed by del Real and you needed me to buy back the shares that you gave to him.

10) When I would not bail you out, you predictably changed your characterization of my relationship to the project from savior to saboteur.

I’m sorry if I cannot respond to each of your lying emails. But, I have to give priority to my day job. I suggest you do the same. Maybe start by paying employees, repaying loans, and living up to the contracts you signed.

Josh Kirley”

The Parasite Responds

“Josh,

As you know, you are lying about most all that you discuss. There are communications between you, Monica Wehrhahn, Ken Carpenter, Alison Sherman, the Del Reals and more. Do you think that those just disappear because you are now pitching your false storyline to yet another news outlet? This has always seemed to be a publicity stunt for you, just as GGC always have been for Jeff Berwick.”

Johnson then goes on a bizarre rant about Jeff Berwick and BitcoinATM, Wire Transfers, Cafayate, Argentina (If you can believe it) and ends with:

“We are working on completing what Mr. Aguirre was unable to complete, or was unwilling to complete. We are working to fix the $1m+ damages that those labeling themselves “rescuers” of GGC have inflicted upon the farm, buildings and property. We don’t spend our time pitching a false story line for our own publicity, as Mr. Berwick and yourself seem to focus on quite a lot.

Ken”

Notice that Johnson does not dispute, nor even address, any of Kirley’s questions or statements. This is the way e-mail “Exchanges” and “Dialogues” go with Johnson. For readers who may have wondered . . . “Why don’t they just ask Johnson if [Insert simple question here] the above exchange with Josh Kirley is your example. Josh speaks the pure truth and asks sincere questions and, in response, Johnson doesn’t respond, at all.

The last paragraph is classic Johnson-speak. For readers who don’t understand the dialect his e-mails usually end with a payoff like this if you know how to read Johnson-speak. That is, you take all accusations as a literal description of what Johnson, himself, has done or is doing. In his last paragraph, therefore, we learn that Johnson has caused more than a million dollars of damage and is pitching false story lines for his own publicity.

Johnson’s Assaults

I’ve spoken with two people who were physically assaulted by Ken Johnson. The first was a young man Johnson tried to push around (Mentally and physically) during Johnson’s employment with The Dollar Vigilante. This young man would not tolerate Johnson’s nonsense and was the first person to speak up to Berwick about his suspicions about Johnson poisonous behavior. If Berwick had listened it’s anyone’s guess how Galt’s Gulch Chile might have played out without the involvement of Ken Johnson.

The second assault was that of a 70-year-old Salesman that worked for GGC who didn’t fare so well in the “Encounter”. Sandy “Clarence” Sandfort was grabbed by the lapels and thrown over a couch by Johnson when he learned that Sandy was about the leave Chile after all of Johnson’s promises had remained unfulfilled. Sandy was severely bruised and Johnson had almost managed to break a few of Sandy’s ribs. He was so shaken up by Johnson’s assault that Berwick had to fly in the next day and negotiate an NDA and payoff to keep Sandy quiet about the assault. Johnson later broke the terms of that NDA by talking about the assault with a third-party. Hence, Sandy’s retelling of the assault to me.

and Taunting . . .

Tatiana Moroz, who worked for Ken Johnson and wrote the GGC theme song, shares her experiences with GGC and with sociopaths in the liberty movement. Most of what involves GGC is in the first 25 minutes of the video, but, the ladies (With Julia Tourianski, BraveTheWorld.com, and Gigi Bowman, gigibowman.com) go on to tell other fascinating stories around the theme.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KqQW5a4dJMk

Contrast the story Tatiana tells in the above video with the excitement she started out with and you’ll get a feeling for the roller coaster ride that was GGC. Tatiana perfectly captures the cognitive dissonance felt by most who’ve followed the promise, and then the reality, of GGC in the hands of Ken Johnson.

Favorite excerpts:

“This nonsense [Sociopaths in the Liberty Movement] is disgusting and ridiculous … and what’s gonna happen, here, is that people are going to leave and they’re not going to want anything to do with it (True Liberty) and all we’re going to be left with is the dirtbags who think this kind of behavior is ok. … And I’m sick and tired of the people that are trying to call attention to the sociopathic behavior within our own movement getting trashed.”

Tatiana’s right, of course. Natural law doesn’t evaporate around people who wish to retain and use their liberties. If anything, we must be more mindful of universal human truths because we are the people exploring the boundaries of liberty. A tolerance for lies, manipulation, sexual assault, and broken contracts is not “What’s up!” in Liberty. Anyone claiming that such tolerance is “Cool” is not a libertarian. They’re just another asshole in disguise.

John Cobin Interview

I had the pleasure of interviewing John Cobin about GGC for 1.5 hours, last week. The interview was mostly for my E-book about GGC. However, of interest, here, is the remarkable consistency of Dr. Cobin’s story with everything he’s said from the very beginning. Cobin is abundantly forthcoming about every meeting, document, e-mail and conversation he’s had with respect to GGC. My reaction to the interview was to tell him that it was a pleasure to speak with someone involved in GGC that looks better and better with each discovered and documented fact about the project.

Cobin said the impression he got from Jeff Berwick and Ken Johnson was that, they alone, might be able to supply the funding for GGC. He had no idea that they would, almost immediately, take his extensive research and information about Chile and GGC and cut him out of the deal. Although he concurs with the possible psychopathy of Johnson he puts Berwick in the same category in terms of the way they defrauded him. And yet, I had the impression that, even now, he would be forgiving of Berwick if approached in some meaningful way to make restitution.

Cobin said Johnson came after him, very agressively, in a libel suit in Chile. Guess what happened when the court date arrived? Johnson was a no-show! I won’t compare a libel suit with a podcast debate, but, I’m becoming quite familiar with Johnson’s cowardice in the face of someone determined to tell the truth. So far, Johnson’s been a no-show on two podcasts about GGC that he, himself, dared me to participate in.

For those interested in Chile I highly recommend the interview James and Johnathan conducted with Dr. Cobin on Monday over at Borderless. Cobin proves himself to be THE reliable source for all of Chile and much of the rest of the “Expat” world, as well. Cobin’s book, “Life in Chile” greatly increased the effectiveness of my 21-day country-vetting trip to Chile in 2012. I look forward to reading his latest book, “Living in Chile” when I can come up for air over the summer.

GGC Theatre

Johnson has been roaming around the property making absurd videos in an attempt to document the damage done by the recovery team. Perhaps the investors share my hope that Johnson continue making these videos as they are helpful in documenting what Johnson, himself, has done.

One of the things Johnson harps on in the videos are the “Damages” done by the recovery team causing a poor yield from the wells. In fact, such poor yields were caused by Johnson’s complete ignorance and inept handling of the well work around the property. Despite the pleadings of the local workers Johnson put Manuel Hermosillo in charge of the wells and the work was terribly bungled. And yet, somehow, the investors end up blamed, yet again, for Johnson’s incompetence. Such GGC Theatre might be a useful prop to help Johnson influence the Chilean locals who have no idea what’s going on with GGC. To those who’ve read the first thing about GGC, however, they are just that much more documentation of Johnson’s failings.

Message to local Chileans:

Johnson’s accusations of others are a reliable confession of his own failings. There is truth in many of the disasters he documents but your messenger is the culprit, not the victim. Johnson’s “Investment” into GGC remains at zero while 76-investors and buyers have given $10.45 million dollars for the purchase of everything you see associated with GGC. 72 of the investors have been begging Johnson to leave for over a year.

What happens next?

First, most of the predictions made in Part 6 seem to be coming true. That includes Johnson hinting that he wants to sell water rights, again. Happily, he’s unable to do so with the current injunctions in place.

Johnson has some time while the ocean water recedes in preparation for a tsunami of new legal problems.

Some think Johnson will stick it out to the end because his claim to be “Working for” the investors is his only defense against the legal actions that have been filed against him. But, Johnson also claims he controls or owns everything (Vacillating between claims of control or ownership) depending on his audience and the phases of GGC. How could someone who owns everything be an employee? How could a trustee (Controls everything) claim to be a trustee of beneficiaries who have been begging him to leave for the past year?

Perhaps Chile, and the local populace of Curacavi, will no longer tolerate Johnson as the criminal charges pile on. If he’s made to flee then we may see more pictures of his backpacks of stolen money while he’s on the run. I think he still has a Paraguayan passport from the passport scandal he was conducting at TDV. Still, all these charges filed with state agencies will haunt him wherever he goes. As of today, Johnson has put a digital data noose around his own neck that will follow him around the globe.