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Thursday, September 5, 2019

Question on the Afterlife

I was recently asked this question: What are your thoughts on using the afterlife as a fix for problems occurring in the present life?

I decide to speak to this because it raises some interesting points from a unique perspective. Most spiritual questions I get come from clearly defined camps, each with their own tropes. This question doesn’t fit any of those tropes, and it requires some effort to come up with a thoughtful response, so I’m not surprised that only one trollish type threw out a dismissive answer. 

This question seemed very confusing to me at first, then I realized that it’s coming from a materialist point of view, that the whole concept of an afterlife was invented to make people more content with their lot in life, especially if it’s not a good one. There’s a ton of information on all of this on the web, so if you’re truly curious, you need to spend some serious time with Google. I’m just going to skim the surface, starting with the easy part first: Religion and politics.

Religion and politics have been joined at the hip, basically, forever, with religion being used and shaped for political purposes. You don’t have to squint too hard to see Christianity as instrument of white, European culture, actively used to justify eradication indigenous cultures, and teaching the people who survived to “turn the other cheek,” be humble, pious, be thankful for your lot, and get your reward in heaven. This led to the creation, in the nineteenth century, of a particularly heinous form of Christian fundamentalism in the U.S. deep south that put whites on top and black people in chains, in a hierarchy ordained by God, and which survives to this day:

“Whereas an earlier generation of evangelical preachers had opposed slavery in the South during the early nineteenth century, Protestant clergymen began to defend the institution, invoking a Christian hierarchy in which slaves were bound to obey their masters. For many slaveholders, this outlook not only made evangelical Christianity more palatable, but also provided a strong argument for converting slaves and establishing biracial churches.” 

That said, there’s a deeper question: Was the very concept of an afterlife inventedat all, or has it always existed? In one sense, every concept was “invented” at some point: Food, water, birth, death, alone, together, language. Every human goes from not having any of these concepts to knowing them, as they grow, and somebody must have been the very first, among the whole species, to do so. But, of course, the afterlife is an abstract concept that doesn’t exist in the real world…or does it? Philosophers and theologians have been arguing this point for thousands of years, but now, through science, we’re beginning to see that the mind is not the brain, that the brain does not create the mind, and that information and/or personality somehow can exist outside of the physical/temporal framework we call physical reality.

“Through their careful study, the DOPS researchers objectively document and analyze the empirical data collected regarding human experiences suggestive of post-mortem survival of consciousness. Rigorous evaluation of considerable empirical evidence collected over fifty years of research, suggests that consciousness may indeed survive bodily death and that mind and brain appear to be distinct and separable.”

There’s the studies supported and collected by IANDS (International Association for Near Death Studies), which also  suggests there is much more going on in NDEs (Near Death Experiences) than just illusion, delusion, hallucination or fraud. I could go on, for there is much more scientifically validated information out there, but, if you are interested, there is Google, if you’re not, then nothing I say will matter.

Nothing known to date proves the existence of an afterlife, but it does make clear that there is a lot more going on in the world than a materialist viewpoint can explain. Neither does the evidence prove 

the existence of any god or gods or any particular religion. But it does suggest a basis for some of the foundational commonalities of all religions. In the end, it probably won’t make much difference in your life, so you pays your money, takes your choice, and believe what you want. 

One closing note: There are people on Wall street using paranormal techniques to make money. They have exactly zero interest in telling or convincing anyone that what they do, works. Why? Because less interest means less competition and less competition means more profit.

Take care.

Saturday, August 31, 2019

A Question on Reincarnation

A question I was asked:

In regards to reincarnation, if something becomes something else (i.e. a different personality as a different person), then in what way is it the same? If it’s still in some manner what it used to be, how is this reincarnation (coming back as another)?

I don’t usually answer questions about reincarnation, but I am moved to address this one. Reading through the existing answers, I see ones that are enlightened, judgmental, esoteric and angry, in about equal measure. I know that those reading them will pick the ones that fit their worldview and dismiss the rest. In my years with this subject, I thought I had seen it all, but one answer contains a clever bit of arrogant judgmentalism that I haven’t seen before! Human beings are nothing if not endlessly creative!

I lean toward the actor analogy: That the “you” that you are now is a part you are playing, and that there is a greater and more fundamental “you” that is the actor playing the part of “you” in this lifetime.

Most of the questions and misconceptions in the idea of reincarnation come from human centrism, the idea the humans are the measure of all things. That each person’s personal experience of being at the center of the universe extends to all things, material and spiritual. That whatever your experience, whatever you believe, that is the one and only way to experience and believe. Flat Earthers are a perfect example of this. While it is easy to find things in the physical world that can be explained by the idea “the world is a sphere,” they choose to come up with complex and often nonsensical explanations of why the world looks round, but isn’t. The key point here is we choose to believe something, then tailor our perceptions to match that belief. This goes for culture, religion, hobbies, pretty much any endeavor that humans engage in.

This question assumes that the personality that you have now, with all its personality, memories and quirks, is the only real, authentic, “you,” and if you remove any of those elements, you would not be “you” anymore. Also, that who you are now is the most important you, and must be preserved for “you” to continue on. But, what if there was a “you” independent of all that? What if you were more than just a collection of memories and feelings? What was the “you” that existed before you were born, in the womb? Before you had memories? Ideas? Thoughts? A personality? Are you your thoughts, your memories, your personality? Or are they just something you have?

There are more versions of reincarnation than you can shake a stick at. The one that I find most consistent with the research at University of Virginia, the work of Dr. Brian Weiss and the recall of people who have Near Death Experiences, to site a few sources, is that there is a greater “you” that exists outside of time and space, as we commonly know them, that extends itself into our reality to become a soul of a child and experience life as a human in our 3-D reality. This soul forms the basis of your personality and your ethics, and sometimes exposes memories of other lifetimes and other realities. These souls come here of their own free will, with agendas that have little to do human values and religions, especially those that teach exclusion, hate and fear.

You will, of course, take from this what you will. Jesus said to let those with eyes, see, and ears, hear; you will take from this what you are ready for. Good luck and take care.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Science vs. Faith & Psi

McMenamin's Hotel Oregon
McMenamins Hotel Oregon
I just returned from this year’s UFO Fest in McMinnville OR. I went with my daughter, who flew in for the Fest. I don’t get to see her much these days, so it was good to have several days together, to talk and work to connect more as equals and adults. She left this morning, and now it’s time to confront some truths. I’ve been happy to sit on the fence and not take a stand on whether or not the events I hear described did, in fact, happen. Perhaps it’s time to take a hard look at myself and get off the fence.

This year, the main topics were the Ariel school incident, and Skinwalker Ranch. Both are pretty well documented with many witness, and physical evidence in the case of Skinwalker. My current thoughts are summed up by this quote from Dr John Mack, Harvard psychiatrist, “If this is real, what does it mean?”

At the heart of this question is always the tension between faith and science. I don’t think there really is any conflict between the two, and, as far as I can tell, the majority of scientists and theologians throughout history seem to agree with me. The only problem seems to be a relatively small number of extremely vocal extremists on both sides, who believe that their views are the only correct ones, and that any deviance from their worldview will result in the downfall of civilization or the slippery slope to eternal damnation, depending you which side they happen to be on. Extremists are, at best, misguided, and in this case especially so, because in their vigorous defense of their respective positions, they great violence to the very ideas they claim to be protecting.

This is nothing new on the religious side of the debate. Fringe beliefs have been around for ever, and even mainstream religions have been used to justify everything from slavery to genocide. Christianity has splintered into a bewildering veriaty of sects with more philosophical, and nocturnal differences than you can shake a stick at. Some even within the same physical church! But, the one thing they all are supposed to agree on, that faith is “firm belief in something for which there is no proof,” is trashed by those that insist that they must have physical proof to believe. These are the bible literalists that say the the Bible is 100% literally true, and if you see anything that contradicts their interpretation of The Word, you are wrong. They behave like Groucho Marx when he said, “Who you gonna believe, me, or your own eyes?”

The “scientific” extremist are no better. If there is one thing that is absolutely critical to the success of science, it’s the principle that everything in science is provisional, that evidence trumps belief, every time. But, once you start saying that some ideas cannot be questioned and certain evidence must be ignored, science becomes dogma based on faith, and contrary ideas, taboo. (Banned TED Talk: The Science Delusion - Rupert Sheldrake at TEDx), where the free exchange of ideas and data is slaughtered by explicit threats to a persons' reputation and livelihood.

You know that something’s up when you hear the phrase “Extraordinary claim require extraordinary evidence,” widely attributed to Carl Sagan. Science extremists love to trot this one out whenever they are faced with evidence they can’t refute or deny. It’s simply an authoritative way of saying: No matter how good your evidence, it’s just not good enough. The problem here is that there is no objective measure for “extraordinary,” any claim the skeptic doesn’t like is “extraordinary,” and no evidence is “extraordinary” enough to support it. Wonderful “Get Out of Jail Free” card, isn’t it? Science extremists have a whole bevy of tricks they use to protect their positions, and every last one of them would be loudly called out and denounced, if used by the other side. It’s a sad state of affairs when the very tools of science are twisted and used to undermine the very foundations of science and the objective inquiry it depends on.

Extremists on both sides suffer from the same assumption, unquestioned by pretty much everyone. The assumption that This Is It. That We Are It. They we humans are the pinnacle of development, of evolution, of science, that there are no new fundamental discoveries to be made, no new theological insights to be gained. The our knowledge, philosophy, and worldview is the best there ever was, or will be. Because, if they are not, then we can expect that every argument put forward by either side would likely be rendered moot by new discoveries in science, philosophy or theology, as has happened many times in the past. The problem with extremism is that it paints you into a corner, and you have no way out when the world changes and your “firm foundation” turns to dust.

I seem to have wandered off-topic here, but maybe not. Where do I sit? I’m never going accept any of the mainstream religious views, because none of them are compatible with reality, as I know it. I know, I tried. Neither do I align with the foolishness of the Richard Dawkins of the world and their strict materialist thinking. There is clearly more going on here than can be accounted for by science as we know it. The evidence for Psi and consciousness out side of the brain is steadily piling up, despite vigorous opposition by powerful parties. But the, frankly crazy, stuff at the Skinwalker ranch, do I buy that?

What I an struggling with, is that I don’t yet have a worldview that all these things fit into. That isn’t a reason to reject it all, but it doesn’t make acceptance any easier. In that sense, I suppose it’s lucky that I haven’t had any dramatic experiences that would either require me to believe or question my own sanity, I have the luxury of taking my time. However, circumstances are pushing me to take a stance. I know where I’d like to stand, but I’m not really comfortable with standing there “on faith” until I figure something out. So, I’ll just have to get over it.

As always, I welcome your questions and comments.
Take care.

Friday, May 11, 2018

I Wrote a Song

I wrote a song. Not too surprising, I’ve written many. But was one of the better ones. I know that because I was inspired by a combination of something I’d read and something I heard. What I read was a poem Voices by Diana DeLuca, about women’s struggles with abuse and our misogynistic, patriarchal, culture. I don’t remember what the song was, but immediately afterward I heard the first verse of a song, based on Diana’s poem, in my head. Over the next few weeks, I wrote the two verses, set them to music, then got the full text of the poem and wrote more verses, added a bridge and finished the whole thing up. That’s the way it seems to work for me, music I have to work hard on turns out forgettable, while the stuff that just “comes to me” is by far the best.

Ah, but that’s not the whole story. You see, something about those words really got under my skin. While I was writing it, I started feeling off, but I really know something was wrong when it seemed that I couldn’t feel any emotions at all! It was like my brain was covered with a thick, white, blanket, and everything was numbed out. It was pretty weird. I knew that my emotions were there, I just couldn’t feel them, and that had me worried. I spent some time in meditation, trying to understand what was going on, but it wasn’t until a couple of days later that it hit me: Working and performing that song had triggered unconscious memories of my own abuse and my automatic defense mechanisms had kicked in. I had detached completely and numbed out all emotions.

Friends tried to help me “cheer up,” but it didn’t make any difference. I wanted to care, I did! But feelings just wouldn’t come. I was torn between wanting them to just give up and go away, and a tiny fear that they actually would. The logical part of my mind knew that this was really messed up, but I didn’t know what was going on. Nothing undermines your sense of self like having your feelings betray you! I’m on the upside now, but I have a ways to go. The key seemed to be the realization, once that happened, the blanket began to lift.

This whole episode was a real surprise, and, maybe, a gift. The process was uncomfortable and a bit frightening, but it had given me an enormous respect for how far I’ve come over the past 50+ years! My friends are fond of telling me how much I’ve changed in just the past couple of years, but that’s nothing compared to what it was like to be nearly emotionless, as I was in my twenties! At the time, of course, I had no idea what I was doing. I had shut things down so early that I had no memory of any other way to be.

Looking back on it now, it looks like a kind of hell: A place where you can’t allow yourself to feel anything but fear, fear of being caught caring about something that could be turned against you. You can’t be passionate about anything, or anyone, and you have to watch people who might want to care for you, get frustrated and walk away, because you won’t ever respond with honest love or affection.

This is a situation, writ large, that happens to all of us, all the time, in the small. It happens to all of us every day, and we are so used to it that we don’t even notice. We hear a snatch of song that makes us happy, or sentimental, or we see a face that makes us nervous or afraid, and we accept those feelings without a second thought. Those feelings are real, they are never questioned! But what if we did? What if we stopped assuming that feelings have any kind of reality to them? What if a feeling was just a feeling, and not a fact? How many times have you had a feeling about something that turned out to be wrong? What would our world be like, if we didn’t allow every person with a scary story, tell us who to love, who to hate, who to trust, who to betray, what to do, what to think? I imagine it would be a very different world, wouldn’t you?

As always, I welcome your questions and comments.

Take care.

Friday, May 4, 2018

The Soul of the Matter

What is a Soul? The Psyche, Spirit, Awareness, Consciousness? I think all of these are the same, different words for the same experience, with each word having it’s own connotation and context. Soul and Spirit are most at home in the religious and spiritual, while Psyche, Awareness, and Consciousness are mostly used in the secular sciences. Surly it doesn’t surprise you that scientists the deal with the mind would want to have words that have as little religious and metaphysical baggage as possible? And philosophers sit somewhere in the middle, not wanting to be too objectively scientific, nor too dogmatically religious, use words from both sides.

But, what is this thing we are talking about? I was re-reading Carlos Castaneda’s first book, The Teachings of Don Juan, and there was a passage near the end that talked about Diableros who could steal your soul and keep it imprisoned. For some reason, that gave me pause. Not because I hadn’t heard stuff like that before, but because I’ve learned and experienced a lot in the past few years and that whole idea just didn’t seem right to me.

There are a lot of Christian, and Christian-derived, traditions that share the idea that the “soul” is something indefinable that everyone gets, but can be given away, lost, sold or stolen without the person even noticing. How can a soul be so important, if you can’t even tell when you’ve lost it? (Some traditions get around that by saying that when “sell you soul” bill doesn’t come due until you die.) For this, and other reasons, I’m convinced that the soul, spirit, psyche, whatever you call it, is such a fundamental and necessary part of who you are, that it cannot be lost, stolen or given away. And that separation of the soul from the body results in sleep, coma or death, depending on how deep and long the separation is.

The concept that there is something of us that continues after death has been around, probably, as long as there have been humans who could think about it. But what that “something” is have varied a lot throughout history. You can browse through Wikipedia, the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, and EgyptianMyths.net to see some of these ideas, but the takeaway here is that the Western concept of the soul, the one through which we view all others around the world and throughout history, is a relatively new invention, and it differs so dramatically from what came before that we have no words to understand them. Hence the confusion of words.

Our modern version of the soul, heaven, hell, and the devil, are pretty much an inventions of medieval Christians, and survives today most strongly in EvangelicalsYour soul is the eternal part of you that is subject to eternal torment in Hell, by the Devil and his minions, unless you are 'saved' by by absolute faith in Jesus Christ. If you followed that link, you won't find that wording there, for they tend to downplay obedience/punishment aspects of their faith when dealing with "outsiders." But it's so fundamental to them that the idea of doing away with hell is sparing a religious war.

The reason for this is fairly obvious, without a single, fixed, eternal “soul” that can be “sent to Hell,” there is no need for a “savior,” and Christianity itself serves no purpose. This will probably offend some people, and it’s true that other sects are much less strident about this, but the fact is that judgment and punishment is the underlying message of every Western religion, regardless of whatever other messages are put in top of it. The only way out of this “obedience or punishment” mindset is to drop the very idea of a judgmental god altogether. 

That was a long digression. I put that in to demonstrate how deeply religious and historical contexts shape our ideas, and how often those ideas can be heavily influenced by politics, and cultural, and religious, necessity and biases. Given all that, is it possible to step away from what we’ve always taken for granted and view our inner lives with fresh eyes? I think so.

What is a soul? In terms of experience, the soul is that thing that makes you, you. It’s that fundamental thing that you refer to when you say “I.” The thing that has the personality, the memories, and the feelings that are uniquely yours. It’s that awareness that is aware that it is aware. In terms of structure, the soul part of a multilayered thing that we currently have no name for, but encompasses consciousness and self-awareness, on one end, and our Higher Selves, or our connection to All That Is, on the other.

The soul is not consciousness or personalty, consciousness and personality are a result of the soul interacting with the physical world. Consciousness is like the surf upon a beach, it is the result of Awareness, (the ocean), coming into contact with physical reality, (the shore), creating the personality, (as anything from small ripples to crashing surf). Once created, this personality can exist without a physical body, though it tends to lose a lot of it’s ability to function in this reality, making it difficult to communicate with. Like trying to participate in a video game without having your own character, you can kibitz, whisper in people’s ears, and send messages, but the players will usually be too busy to pay you much mind, if they notice you at all.

Though I’ve just scratched the surface, I think that’s enough for now! These are just my ideas, and, in my mind, ideas are only as good as how useful they are in everyday life. I fully intend to explore these ideas and how they can make your life happier, more peaceful, and productive.

Take care.

Friday, April 27, 2018

The Finger or the Moon?

A friend of my shared this link with me to explain why she’s not ready, and my never be ready, for another relationship: Why Smart Women Attract Narcissistic Men. Good article and the author makes several good points, but there’s something very important what she didn’t mention, so here I’m putting my two cents in.

What’s missing from this article is the fundamental reason why narcissists are so successful: Too many of us never learn what love and affection really looks and feels like. Too many of our families are emotionally detached, manipulative, dysfunctional, or just plain abusive. That’s the place we’re supposed to learn this stuff, so that’s what we learn that “love” is. Culture, popular and classical, is of no help either, because, as a rule, it only focuses only on passion, and the story ends before all the real work begins. If your family doesn’t teach you honest, unconditional affection, then it’s hard to learn it later. Not impossible, but damn difficult. I speak from experience.

Because of that, we are all to ready to accept an outward sign for proof of an inward reality. As Buddhist say, we mistake the finger for the moon. It doesn’t help that we have grown up seeing endless movies and TV shows where people act convincingly like their in love, when you know, for a fact, that they are not: They’re actors! Yet we love to be deceived. As long as someone can push our emotional buttons, we are happy to believe it’s “real,” when the sad truth is that our upbringing left us vulnerable and easily manipulated. When all you’ve known in your life are cold, untrustworthy people, then a warm, trusting person feels “wrong.” You don’t know what to do around them. So you run away, either because they are too weird or boring, or your insecurities drive you.

I don’t know if I have any solutions, but I have some tips: Notice! When you are with other people, notice how couples treat each other, when they’er together and when they’re apart. When I started doing this, I was shocked at how badly people treated their partners. It didn’t matter how young or old they were or how long they were married. It wasn’t super bad, just the amount of subtle disrespect, or the way they never seemed to talk to each other, or managed to be in the same room at the same time. Think about it, does this seem normal to you?

Over time, I began to notice instances of real affection. In some cases that surprised me, for the couple hadn’t seemed all the close to me. But then I noticed little things, a touch of a hand, a solicitous comment, a small private joke, always subtle. Stuff you could easily miss, if you weren’t looking for it. You won’t find love in the grand gestures, but in the everyday. After watching, and learning, for a while, I started really thinking about what would, realistically, make me happy to have, on a day-in, day-out basis. The results were…surprising. They weren’t what I grew up with, weren’t what I initially thought they might be, will probably be different for everyone, and likely will have little to do with how things will actually be for me, when and if, I find another serious relationship.

My second tip is to take your time. I know this flies in the face of the romantic ideal, and a lot of social pressures, but there’s good reason for it. A narcissist will want to rush you into something, so making them wait a year, or more, will frustrate them into leaving or will give them time to show their true colors. Heck, just stating this intention can be enough to cause many of them to flee. This also gives you a chance to get over the initial infatuation, and be able to judge the situation more objectively. What’s really so wrong with dating for a year or two, without any commitments? I’m talking legal and financial commitments here, not that you should remain a virgin until you’re married!

Finally, be willing to walk away. All the tips and red flags in the world won’t help you if you are too emotionally invested in the narcissist’s fantasy to leave before they’ve stripped you financially and emotionally. Which is why narcissists will always be “successful,” and always have “customers.” Until we create a world where everyone has a loving, secure and safe childhood, there will always be people who are willing to risk almost anything for a fantasy of love, and people willing to supply it.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Welcome to the Fringe!

A friend of my texted me today. The message seemed angry.

We have been both reading The teachings of Don Juan, her for the first time. We both had heard a lot about it back in the 70’s, but didn’t read it at the time. I got around to it a few years ago, she decided to tackle it now and I thought I’d like to review it so we could discuss it.

After a brief test exchange, I got that it seemed that she had gotten upset about something she’d read in the book, and then had done a search on “Carlos Castaneda fraud” and, after having read some of the results, apparently concluded that she’d been taken in and was upset about that. I let the matter drop.

My first reaction to her messages was to smile, “Welcome to the Fringe!” I thought. Apparently she isn’t aware of how nasty things can get when the “skeptics” and “debunkers” come out to play. Fake news wasn’t invented in 2016 or with the internet. Hit pieces, hatchet jobs, misrepresentation, slander, yellow journalism, all have all been around for as long as there has been printing, and any controversial person is going to have nasty stuff said about them. That was just as true in the 70’s as it is now. Castaneda was an extremely controversial figure, advocating the use of hallucinogens for enlightenment, promoting a pagan spirituality, and having the hutzpah to imply that the experiences gained by these techniques might not be just not dreams or delusions. Of course the Moral Majority, the anti-drug people, the scientific and medical communities, and, especially the Christians, were all over this, wanting to discredit it in every way possible.

Nobody is immune to this, no matter what your credentials are. Here’s a case where a full professor, who is also a Nobel Laureate in Physics, was disinvited from a conference for having an interest in the paranormal. If this can happen to someone of his stature, just imagine what might happen to a lowly MA, especially one with a foreign heritage!

My point isn’t that Castaneda is right, or wrong, a fraud, a True Believer, or a fool, but you need to have a thick skin to be involved in fringe topics like the paranormal, UFOs, and alternative spirituality. Everybody in this field has been, and continues to be smeared by elements that want them to shut up and go away, so you can’t just go with what the mainstream says. You need to read their material and make your own judgments.

Everyone I know in this field has gone through this, myself included. You first discover some topic, UFOs, ghosts & haunting, the paranormal, ancient aliens, whatever, and you’re really excited. You read all you can find about it, talk about it to your friends, and then something happens. Your friends start to diss it, or you begin to realize that some of the people you follow are just publishing crap to make money, and you feel embarrassed and ashamed to have been taken in. Next, you either blow off the whole field, or you eventually get over it, and learn to be more discerning. Read and listen carefully, stop taking everything at face value. Decide for yourself what resonates, or makes sense to you. Don’t let other people’s opinions sway you, one way or the other. This is a field with lots of strong opinions, on all sides, you have to make up your own mind. That doesn’t mean you can’t change you mind, when new evidence comes around, just don’t expect to ever see a consensus on these topics anytime soon.

In my own readings, I have found big chunks of pure fantasy, spiritual truths, myths that includes lessons and truths, and some stuff that is hard to classify, but it feels like there is some truth there, however buried it may be under the encrustations of years and of successive cultures that have interpreted and re-interpreted the ideas through their own cultural lenses. Sometimes all of this is the same book. That said, I have no problem dropping a book, or an author, if I find nothing of value there.

It’s a bit of a trope, but it’s still true, none the less: Everyone has their own spiritual truth, and we have to find it ourselves. Unfortunately, far too many of us allow our family, friends, church, or culture, tell us what what our truth should be. That is so sad because it creates so much of the unhappiness, discontent and anger we see around us. When you let others define what you can read, think and believe, you live in constant fear of getting caught reading of thinking the wrong thing. Give that up and you’ll be a whole lot happier. The thing is, you’re going to think and believe what you want anyway, you can’t help it! If you just admit it, then life becomes so much easier. Sure, some people won’t agree with you, but that’s going to happen regardless, so why not be true to yourself, first?