The Wall Behind The Picture, or Why The Truth Matters!

Would you rather own a real size picture of a 2010 Mercedes, or a real 1985 Ford? How about the picture(s) of a million dollar, ocean front house, instead of a one-bedroom apartment? Well, the new Mercedes is no doubt better than the old Ford, and the house more enjoyable and heart lightening than the one bedroom. But it’s even more of a no-brainer that the real thing is way better than the picture. Well, it’s not even about better or worse. It’s simply that it “exists”! Pictures do exist also, I won’t argue. But in life, the car will get you around; the picture will –only- get your eyes round! The apartment will give you a real roof over your head; the picture a mere flat piece of paper that you can damage with a few drops of water or your bare hands. That’s the whole difference between truth and illusion, and what a huge difference!

Illusions do exist. That’s how they get to deceive us. They do have some type of existence. A flat existence, just like the picture. You try to go beyond the surface, and you either hit the wall, or, if you’re smarter than that, destroy the picture! When we are in less than smart states, we don’t learn from our mistakes, and we keep hitting the wall one time after the other. Our heads bleed, but we think that it’s just bad luck, and we try one more time. Then one more time. Oops! Then again just one more time! Ah! And we still can’t make the connection between the wall behind the picture, and our broken head!

Come on! I know we all realize the difference between pictures and real things, easily. I wish it were all that clear!

I will stop this post here. It’s too short, and may be I didn’t say all what I wanted to say. But that’s just how illusions are, frustrating. They give you the impression they hold something deep and real behind them, and you follow the road… to a dead-end!

That’s why the truth matters. And it’s worth looking for!

Time, The Scary Gift!

It seems to me that we get a little scared when we face “time”. I mean free time. We might have many things in our life that we’re not happy about, that we’d love to change. In most cases, we know what kind of actions we need to take in order to create change. We also realize that for these actions to be taken, we do need time. Change needs time that is free from the very same things that we need to change. For example, when we need to change our job, we need time to go about finding a new one, but our old job is already taking a lot of our time. So our only chance is our time off work, which is time free of what we don’t like.

Then what happens when we get this free time, when we are living it here and now? Logic suggests that we should be excited and enthusiastic to go ahead and use it. But what happens is far from that. When we have it, the first thing we think about is: how to get rid of it! Think about it, just sitting and watching some random TV, going out with friends and spending hours talking about nothing of meaning, etc. All are things that we actually do to get rid of, instead of use our free time. We can have fun from time to time and do pointless, yet relaxing activities, but when we do have things in our life that need to be changed, and we don’t use much of our free time to do something about it, then there is something seriously wrong in our relationship with this gift that is free time.

The reason why this beautiful gift becomes scary, in my opinion, is due to lack of purpose and lack of plan, lack of destination and lack of directions to get there. If we only have a destination, but no directions to get there, we will be stuck in inaction. All ways will look alike. All roads will look like they lead nowhere we like to go. Then we will only wander and look for ways to get rid of our time, because we have nothing better to do. But if we don’t have a destination, a purpose, we’d be in way more trouble. No point in comparing routes and examining different directions, they all lead somewhere we don’t want to go, because basically we don’t want to go anywhere! And that’s usually the real problem of chronic time wasters.

Another reason why free time can be scary is guilt. When we know we have nothing worthy to do, our heart realizes that this is not how we’re meant to live. We have the time; we don’t know what to do with it, so we get rid of it. Getting rid of time means that whatever you did during that time will make no positive difference whatsoever. Sometimes it even drains your energy. How many times did you feel you had less energy at the end of your weekend than at the start? I bet you did, and not once! This means you used your time off in activities that took more than they gave you. You didn’t build; you just destroyed. When you feel drained at the end of your time-off, get the signal. Your heart and body are trying very hard to talk to you. They have a true message: you got rid of a one-time gift, which is free time you had. They are being more sensitive to the truth of life than our everyday awareness!

We should receive gifts with joy and excitement. It only happens when we know both their use and their value. When you get a very nicely rapped gift, and you develop some high expectations about it, then you open it only to find something you dislike or don’t care for, you’d be disappointed, or neutral at best. But when you get a gift that you know you love, something you really wanted, then you’ll honor it. That’s how it should work with time, free time. We should develop a clear understanding of its value and our use of it, and we’ll be excited every time we have it. You will welcome it with joy and appreciation. You will be confident of its value and what it will bring you, because you have a purpose and you had a plan for it. And at the end of your weekend, I am sure that you will have a lot more energy than you started.

When this happens, our whole world will be upgraded to full colors, after it had been black and white!

Build, Before You Spend!

That’s the golden, yet simple rule for financial freedom. It’s a principle that this great country lives by its exact opposite. We spend what we don’t have. We borrow money from others (banks) to buy stuff for ourselves. Just for a moment, think of this scenario as if the bank was your friend. You like a new shirt, or desire a yummy steak at your favorite restaurant, so you go “borrow” money from your friend to buy it. Can we see ourselves do that? I guess not, it sounds insane, even indecent and irresponsible, as long as we don’t do it out of necessity. Who will ever say that we can’t live without a brand new car, a fancy dinner every week, and new cloths every couple weeks! Well, only those who don’t have a clue what “real life” is will say so!

In the famous book “The Millionaire Next Door”, one of the noteworthy characteristics that the author found common in self-made, first generation millionaires is that they live “below their means”. Not only they don’t spend what they don’t have, they actually don’t even spend “all” that they have. And that’s how they could build real wealth that ends up liberating them from money. They might live a simpler life, and others, who heavily rely on their high incomes to qualify for big credit, live a more sparkling life, dwelling in more expensive homes and driving luxurious cars. But the first group lives a simpler, yet comfortable life that is “theirs”, while the latter lives a luminous life that doesn’t really belong to them. They are at risk of loosing it every month, even every day. If their big fat paycheck stops, their ill-founded life falls apart. This is indeed a sure prescription for stress and the inability to truly taste and enjoy what we “think” we own.

I recently heard from a friend about a pilot who committed suicide. He got laid off, and obviously couldn’t find another job with a similar income. He gave up on life once he was hit and paralyzed by his finances falling on his head. He must have relied too much on his big pay, borrowing heavily to buy a nice house and new cars, etc., the typical scenario. Had he waited and lived “within”, not even below, his real means, he wouldn’t have ended up in trouble. He could have rented a nice place to live, or bought a reasonable house, used his big pay to save money while living comfortably, and his life would look very different by now. He’d probably be having enough savings to cover all his expenses for a long time, until he figures something out. He was one of the millions of victims of the norm. I wish more of us humans were strong enough to go against the norm, when it’s not really normal, if we just use some common sense! When enough of us do that, soon we will change and restore the norm to a more normal and harmonious state.

I like this advice from Suze Orman, even though I myself am nowhere close to it at the time of writing this. She suggests that we should have enough savings to cover our expenses for 6 months. That’s the first financial foundation we should build on. If your paycheck brings you a decent sum every month, I’d even say it’s safer to start by building enough savings for one year in case you lose your job. Six months sounds good, but we all know that life is UNPREDICTABLE. Yes, in capital letters, because I want it to look you bigger in the eyes! It’s one of those obvious facts that we tend to forget.

Well, I do think that the system itself is not going the right direction. We have seen what happened in the last years in the US market, and how many people lost their homes. I don’t think it’s even fair that you make payments for your house, then lose everything once you can no longer afford to pay. Buyers make mistakes and buy things they can’t really afford long-term. Buying a house is really a long-term commitment, mortgages going for 15, 20 or 30 years. We need extra caution when committing to something this long. However there is something wrong with the system itself.

In Islam, interest is strictly forbidden. I do believe that the Islamic rules are divine and meant for the ultimate, long-term good of both individuals and societies. Interest is a passive and abusive profit. We need no proof; those who got caught in debt know it too well. It’s hard to get out, and it enslaves the borrower to his ever-increasing debt. I do think that we can use the rule of “no interest” with the lessons of modern economy, and we can come up with the best formula. We need a just economy and just profits. No one can go wrong with justice, because it’s a win-win. In the meantime, we individuals have to start by our own selves. You don’t have to believe that interest is evil, because you might not believe in the Islamic teachings as I do. But we can all believe that it’s always better to use what we have. We can easily believe that buying a house or a car that we’re not sure to afford over time is like living in the house with no roof over our heads. It will get damaged with the first storm, and we’d even loose what we already paid in the walls and the furniture, thinking that the storm will wait for us until we can get to that roof and build it!

Build the whole house first, then move in and enjoy it! Now it’s really yours.

What’s in Chicago’s Trash!?

The problem is not only Chicago, so I hope my new city will take no offense at the title. Yes Chicago is now my new, or current city. I do like you, you’re big and lively. Yes you don’t have as much nature and greenery as my previous town of Ithaca, NY, but you can’t ask everything from everyone. However, in my heart I do know and feel that we humans can do things much better than how we’re doing them now, but that’s life. We make mistakes, then struggle to learn from, and correct them. It is all possible to have a big, lively and green city. And it is indeed possible to have a big, lively city that is also good friends with our biggest home, Planet Earth. But we are a little too far from this one.

I do like you Chicago, but you know what, my previous little, limited town of Ithaca had something superior. Something you’ll have to work a little harder to achieve. I don’t know if you’re even thinking about it, and that’s the scary part. We all know it, the ill who falls into the illusion of being healthy is blindly walking toward the edge… You know the rest!

Ok you need to know how little Ithaca is superior. Let’s forget about the lakes, waterfalls, and green hills. It’s none of your fault if you don’t have all that, really. I would be silly to blame you for it. I can only bring to your attention the things that you can control, because this is where your, and everyone’s responsibility begins and ends.

Ok, I am going to tell you now. Ithaca made it easier for its residents to, well, recycle! You will say but everyone can recycle in Chicago, just do your research. I won’t argue with that. Conscious citizens will take the effort to recycle. But here is the sad part, the world can’t afford to rely on aware and conscious citizens alone any more. Unless they lead and make THE decisions. But we all know it, decisions are not always in the hands of the selfless. Well, not even half of the time. May be less. Definitely less!

And most people are too busy with their daily lives. Many of them struggle to make money, then struggle to spend it! Where will they find the time to think about the air they breath! How can they have any time to worry about the far future of Planet Earth. You know, for us humans, even 10 years from now is “far future”! We work five days a week, after work we need to have dinner, go grocery shopping, may be watch some TV and hey, we need to sleep and have some rest. Then comes the weekend, we need some relief, may be the movies, dinner out or something. Remember also that our mental energy is used up already by our mortgage, new car loan, and credit card bills. How in the world can any one expect us to worry about luxuries like the environment!

See, Chicago, I won’t be any longer, but we just need recycling to be more easily accessible. You are like our mother, you have to force us to do what’s good for us. That’s what good parents do. If they suspect their kid is doing drug, destroying their mind and body, they wouldn’t just tell them drugs are bad for you, if you want I will take you to rehab. I am always ready to help you once you decide to! Oh what an open minded parent would that be! Truth is a good parent in such situation will take their kid to rehab BY FORCE. Then the kid will be grateful later on. Yes the kid will hate them at first, think they are arrogant and controlling.

We need big cities like you Chicago to be arrogant and controlling. Force us to do the right thing, because if you don’t, we will hurt our mind and body, our future, and the future of our kids. And even you, at the end, will not be far from great harm. Believe me, your very existence is at risk!

Why don’t we do what’s good for us!?

I always knew that reading a good book is good for me. I knew it from real experience. Yet sometimes I waste a month, or more, without opening a book. A few days ago I picked a book from my library, mostly unread, and started reading it. I was delighted as I went from page to page. I was inspired. Good words have a sort of spiritual, clean energy that goes right to where our higher self resides. They speak to the best in us. Every human has the possibility of moving between lower and higher levels of being, between the best and the worst of one’s self:

“And by the soul and how He formed it, and inspired it its own rebellious evil and its piety! The one who purifies his soul succeeds, and the one who corrupts it fails”
Quran 91:7-10

Even though I knew it, there comes long periods of time where I don’t attempt to do myself good by reading a valuable book. But when I do get myself to do it, I just wonder: why in the world did I waste all this time without reading anything! Why did I waste all this time (or all this life! time being life, and not money!), not doing what’s good for me! At times we can’t help but re-confirming that we are our own worst enemies!

The best promise I can make to myself is this: I will always have a book to read. There are too many great books for one life-time anyway, and we are even wasting much of this one life??!! How insane that is!

However a good book is not worthy just because it’s good in itself. Books are ideas conserved and communicated in words. And ideas change people, then people change the world!

We’re indeed here only to change the world and make it, along with our own selves, better. And again, there are too many things in the world to change and reform for one life-time anyway, and we’re wasting this one life not even thinking of ways to reform it!

The least we can do for those who are suffering the unbelievable cruelty and injustice of some people is to care and think. Yes, think. Of what’s happening, how it happened, and how to change it. Thoughts are energy. Didn’t you hear that you should be careful what you think, because it might just come true!

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