Venus, Mars and the Butterfly Effect

It’s amazing how fast the days go by. It’s been quite some time since I last sat down to write, and there are a few topics that come to mind. The first is the array of planets visible in the morning sky on the eastern horizon, which I had the fortune of seeing this morning. Frankie (our dog) woke up about an hour before dawn, and I had already been lying awake in bed, so when he asked to go out, I put the leash on him and walked down to Biscayne Bay to see Venus in the morning sky.

Venus made its transit of the Sun sometime back in January I think it was, and thus it switched it’s role from the evening star to the morning star. I had brought my telescope with me to Telluride so I could look at the Mars transit that occurred on about March 6th, but alas, Telluride is in a box canyon that opens to the west. On the east side is Ajax Mountain, and Venus, at least from our perspective, does not clear the mountain ridge before the sun comes up. I was not able to see it while we were in Colorado.

But this morning I did get to see Venus, still pretty close to Mars. It was so bright like a diamond. Mars was down and to the right a little bit, and then Saturn was closer to the horizon. It’s so pretty when we can see several planets in one view. Pluto was also there, but not visible to the naked eye. Jupiter, in Pisces, was still below the horizon, and I was cold and wanted to go get back in bed, and did not wait to see it rise. But Jupiter will start gaining prominence as the year progresses, until it reaches opposition, I think in September this year.

Have you already started to feel the shift in energy after the conjunctions of Mars and Venus and Pluto? Remember COVID, which suddenly left our headlines to be replaced by constant news about the war in Ukraine? Finally we are through with this pandemic it seems. Funny that the only exception to this is China, where they struggled so hard for years to prevent the pandemic from landing there. But all they succeeded in doing was to delay the inevitable. For the rest of the world, we now have some immune protection and the pandemic will go the way of all pandemics, all the way back to the plague of 1655, which tend to last about two years.

For all the ineffective and pointless reactions we had to the pandemic, we succeeded in shortening it’s duration by about exactly zero. Sometimes I think we would all have been much better off had they never identified COVID as a novel virus and had just written it off as an unusually harsh flu season. If that sounds cold hearted, it’s really not. People who get sick and die from the flu are just as deserving of compassion as those who got sick and died from COVID. The recognition that our responses were ineffective does not reflect a failure of compassion. When you compare the response in Florida, which is led by a regrettably pro-Trump governor, to that of California, you can really see how ineffective all the responses were. Florida eliminated mask mandates and lock downs state wide, while California leaned into every available restriction on liberty, and California fared no better than Florida. Futility of the fight against nature.

Another concept I wanted to touch on is the butterfly effect. I was talking to Stephanie the other day about the war in Ukraine and about how the USA did exactly the same thing in Iraq. Also, in the 1980s it was Russia that invaded Afghanistan and fought for twenty years while the USA supplied stinger missles and other weapons to the “freedom fighters,” but then these same people that we supported in their opposition to the Russian invasion became our enemies, and so we invaded their country, and faced people we had trained and armed. But now they were not freedom fighters anymore, they were terrorists. Same guys. Same pile of rocks.

Of course all war is barbaric, and if you follow the dollars, who is making money off the war, it’s always the same oil and gas companies, arms suppliers and corrupt security firms like Haliburton and Blackwater who make the billions of dollars. Another war drives the price of oil above $100 per barrel, and suddenly talk of the Keystone Pipeline and shale oil are back on the table.

So Stephanie told me to write a post about it, and I commented that while I do really appreciate that there are a few people who read this blog, I suggested that my audience was not wide enough to have a material effect. I said I can blog about it but it won’t change anything.

And then she made a point that really stuck with me. She said… but remember the butterfly effect. I loved the book “Chaos” which describes in detail how sensitivity to initial conditions can give a small input great power over time. There is a point to writing some of these things down, because even affecting the consciousness of one other person in a positive way can be like the effect of a butterfly flapping its wings and changing the weather.

I hope we can all “change our weather” by awakening our consciousness. Every email I send out has the signature “The expansion of the consciousness will be able to save the Earth”. As my beloved God Mother teaches in a hymn that she received… “we must pass through the suffering and aggression that humanity is suffering without the least bit of need.” All this suffering is actually not necessary. We have everything we need in the material world to take care of everyone alive on this planet and to take care of the planet too. But instead we have wars and all this suffering and aggression. It is only a small shift in the consciousness that is necessary and we can all wake up from this bad dream. Flap your wings butterflies. Let’s change the world.


Peace and Russian Oil–You can’t have it both ways

It’s amazing to me as I see the news report of the crazy pointless war in Ukraine to see that we are imposing tough sanctions on Russia, but not cutting off the oil purchases. Have we not learned our lessons that we cannot buy oil from evil dictators and then expect them to behave peacefully? We always seem to want it both ways when it comes to oil. Think about Saudi Arabia, where women are basically prohibited from going outside without a male escort and their faces covered. This is another brutal dictatorship, one that cut a journalist for the Wall Street Journal apart with a bone saw inside their embassy, but that’s cool with the USA as long as they keep the oil flowing.

And the same with China. Here we buy cheap electronics from a communist dictatorship that is currently forcing religious minorities by the millions into internment camps for re-education, and which has subjugated Tibet to decades of harsh occupation. But that’s ok with us as long as they keep the cheap iPhones coming. What are we going to do when they invade Taiwan? Imagine if new New York City were an independant country, and China were to try to stop the USA from invading across the Hudson River in New Jersey. Militarily there really would be nothing they could do to stop us, and the situation in Taiwan is exactly like that. If China invaded Taiwan, we would whine and complain, but would we stop the flow of goods? Unlikely.

We are the nation that has the greatest influence in the world. We used to be a bastion for peace. Our Statue of Liberty welcomes the poor huddled masses, but in reality we separate children from their parents and incarcerate them on the border with Mexico. We rant about the atrocities in Ukraine, but did we not engineer the invasion of Iraq based on false evidence of weapons of mass destruction? Have you seen the reports of how many Americans died in that war? A quick search shows 4,486 from 2002 to 2012. Have you ever seen any reports of how many Iraqi Civilians died? According to Wikipedia, over 1,000,000 deaths through 2007.

And think of the influence we have with Guantanamo Bay. How can we stand for peace and justice in the world when we have held prisoners without charge since 2002 and subjected them to brutal torture? Here is an excerpt from the letter written by the USA Military Jury in recent proceedings concerning Majid Kahn, who appears to have been sucked into our system more or less by accident. This was written by USA Military officers in a letter signed by all jurors in that case:

“Mr. Khan was subjected to physical and psychological abuse well beyond approved enhanced interrogation techniques, instead being closer to torture performed by the most abusive regimes in modern history,” according to the letter, which was obtained by The New York Times.

The panel also responded to Mr. Khan’s claim that after his capture in Pakistan in March 2003, he told interrogators everything, but “the more I cooperated, the more I was tortured,” and so he subsequently made up lies to try to mollify his captors.

“This abuse was of no practical value in terms of intelligence, or any other tangible benefit to U.S. interests,” the letter said. “Instead, it is a stain on the moral fiber of America; the treatment of Mr. Khan in the hands of U.S. personnel should be a source of shame for the U.S. government.”

— New York Times

Do you remember the Boston City Marathon Bombing? On April 15th, 2013, two terrorist brothers set off two bombs inside pressure cookers that killed 3 people. The news coverage was around the clock. Do you remember that? How about the Wech Baghtu Wedding Party? Have you ever heard of the Wech Baghtu Wedding Party? This was a wedding in Afghanistan on November 3, 2008, when the USA dropped a drone bomb on a wedding and killed 37 completely innocent people.

How about in 2021, when the USA was abandoning our operation in Afghanistan, and we dropped a drone bomb on Zemari Ahmadi? We thought he had bombs hidden in his trunk and that he was going to try to blow up people trying to flee the chaos we created at the Kabul airport. Turns out this was mistaken. He had water jugs for his family in his trunk and we killed ten of them. Was anyone ever held accountable for this murder? No.

So here we are, condemning the Russian invasion of Ukraine, while still buying their oil. Here we are complaining about China’s treatment of dissidents and the people of Tibet, but please, don’t stop to flow of cheap consumer goods. Yes, they are torturing people and putting people into concentration camps, but hey… we need these inexpensive televisions!

We have to look to ourselves first before we can point our fingers at others.

Of course Putin’s brutal invasion of Ukraine is wrong and should stop immediately. But we are ourselves guilty of exactly the same abuses. We ourselves torture people. We ourselves drop drone bombs on weddings and never even identify the people who did it. We ourselves trump up reasons to invade foreign countries and kill millions of people and only report our own casualties. We ourselves prop up brutal dictators so that we can extract the material resources of their countries.

If we want to make a change in the world, we need to stop buying Russian Oil. We need to close Guantanamo. We need to hold accountable our own people who give orders to drop drone bombs on weddings and innocent people. We need to stop supporting brutal dictatorships like Saudi Arabia just because we want the oil.

What should we write on the statue of liberty?

And what about social media? Sure Facebook is used to spread mistrust and misinformation, and that company takes zero responsibility for the content it publishes. They complain that they have not control over what others post on their platforms. This causes such division in our country. You can stop using these platforms today. But it’s just so convenient to use Facebook and Instagram and What’s App.

We are always told to look at the other for the source of our problems. We are told to fear Russia and China and Covid. But we have killed more people than any other nation in the last 20 years. Change must start at home.

I pray for peace. I pray for change. I pray to restore the integrity of the America I grew up to love. But we cannot condemn Putin while we buy his oil. We cannot condemn China while we buy their TVs. We cannot condemn Facebook while we scroll through pictures of cats in boxes.

Change starts at home. Let’s all start to read the other side of the story. Let us lead by example.


Lessons from The Rhythm of Life

I have been reading a book titled The Rhythm of Life by Matthew Kelly which a dear friend recommended to me. The gist of the book is that we should dedicate our lives to becoming the best version of ourselves. Matthew Kelly has sold over 40,000,000 copies of his books in 30 different languages. I thought that to have such a following, he must certainly have a few good things to say, and indeed he does. He explains that to be the best version of ourselves, we have four basic types of need–physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual. These needs he calls “secondary” needs, because it is assumed that the basic needs of food and shelter and air and water are satisfied. He makes the very good point that we are here to thrive, not only to survive. Once the basic requirements for survival are satisfied, we move on to our secondary needs, which are the things we should pursue in our lives to become the best versions of ourselves.

A lot of what he says resonates with me, and I felt good that my life in general reflects the basic values and priorities that the book recommends. But I have been suffering from a physical malady over the last several weeks that is causing me some concern and that is the result of my somewhat lazy and gluttonous behavior. Early in January, I caught a mild virus that caused me to develop laryngitis. I kept up my routine as usual, expecting that it would go away, but it did not. Now we are on the cusp of March, and so it has been about seven weeks since I first noticed the symptoms, and they continue. My behavior has been to pursue superficial wants and cravings and habits, and to ignore what is truly important to me, which is my physical well being.

The second lesson that really struck me concerns universal emotional needs and how these are interrelated to our physical well being. I have always strived to develop a very independent nature, where my own life and self image are not dependent on other people. I have been resistant to the idea that we “need” acceptance from others. I thought of this as a weakness and a failure to know my own self. Even in my last post I mentioned that I had the emotional maturity of a seven year old in that I see in myself a desire to elicit the approval of others. One of my spiritual teachers in the doctrine that I personally follow has helped me to persevere even when faced with opposition from others. I do happen to be highly effective in life, and I do get a lot of things done, and this often creates conflicts. My Padrinho teaches me that “dogs do not bark at park-ed cars”. The point is that people who are accomplishing things and bringing about change become targets of criticism.

My own work in this area was to learn how to accomplish my life’s work without causing unnecessary upset. I would focus on being considerate and trying to see how my actions impacted others, and also to focus on communication and developing consensus. I learned I could be more effective when I listened to everyone. But at the same time, as anyone has served on a large committee knows, you can’t make everyone happy. So there is a balance between listening and being considerate on one hand, and moving forward and accomplishing things on the other.

I would seek humility as a refuge in these situations, but I would not let the negative attention that I attract from time to time deter me from my purpose. And so it was that I adopted a rather stoic attitude of not “needing” the approval of other people. The Rhythm of Life gave me some very new insight into this area. The book says that to become the best version of ourselves, we need relationships with other people. Other people and our good relationships help us to have clarity and help us to become the best we can be. They also give us the opportunity to serve.

And so it is that we have all kinds of different relationships. We have superficial and transactional relationships and we have more intimate relationships. The author points out that we have to share our lives with others in measure to the relationship. So for instance, if I have a bad day and unload my baggage on someone who is not in close relationship with me, I will perhaps feel somewhat better for having articulated my story, but if I do not have a sufficient level of intimacy in my relationship with the other person, then this will be seen as over sharing, and will alienate them. Instead of feeling heard and understood, I will just feel awkward and embarrassed.

On the other hand, and here I am about to return to my throat, if we do not share enough with people who we are intimate with, then it seems like we are distant and cold, and this can, over time, impair the relationship and leave us feeling hollow and frustrated. In the case of my throat, I do have some fear around the situation. I don’t think I’m alone in that my imagination can start to run a little bit when I have a physical ailment. I have a tendency to stick my head in the sand and to not want to talk about it. And I hate going to the doctor, because I’m always afraid they are going to actually create some terrible condition, like Schrödinger’s cat, by looking for it. This might be a little bit of an aside, but I do believe that consciousness forms our material reality, and so by looking for something we actually create it. So if I have a problem with my throat, and I’m afraid that I might have scar tissue on my vocal chords, the last thing I want to do is “open the box” and find the dead cat. If I can ignore it long enough, maybe it will just go away.

And so for me, to speak to someone about a medical condition is a very peculiar dynamic. It requires real intimacy for me to want to reveal a medical condition, but more than that, it requires that the person I am talking to not to have a reaction of wanting me to go to the doctor. I will use my mother as a good example here. If I talk to my Mom about a headache, she’s going to want me to get an MRI. So I don’t talk to her about it at all.

Intimacy is new topic for me. I always have equated intimacy with sex, but this book has a much more nuanced explanation of the need for intimacy. Intimacy is revealing the true nature of ourselves to another person. This takes a lot of trust and it takes a lot of courage. And sometimes it even takes a degree of detachment from our personal lives.

Even this blog explores the boundaries of intimacy. I am talking about things that are personal to me, and it’s funny because there is a small audience of people reading this (thank you). Some part of me wants to reveal more about my personal life here, but at the same time, I am aware that this will become part of the permanent record, and so someone who is not acting in my best interest might in the future do some background checking on me, and come across this in an adversarial context, and then I will be eating my words. So when I write here, I have to write in a public voice about personal matters, and so they are all discussed at a level of general applicability. For instance, I can say here that my habits are exacerbating my laryngitis, but I do not want to get into detail about my personal bad habits in this public forum.

So this intimacy requires confidentiality as well. Several of the people I love in my life have come to my aid. I promised that I would go to the Ear Nose and Throat doctor if my throat did not improve before we return to Miami from Telluride. Today I went ahead and made that appointment. I have also developed a list of self care practices to see if I can heal this myself before that appointment. These were also recommended to me by people I love and trust, such as gargling salt water and avoiding anything that will cause my throat to become dry and irritated. It’s these people who love me enough and care about me enough that want me to be around for a long time who are causing me to take the right actions to “be the best version of myself” in terms of my physical health.

So there are several different types of intimate relationships that we all “need” to become the best version of ourselves. There is our intimate partner in the traditional sense of the word. And beyond this we need a handful of other intimate relationships with people who truly know us for who we are. These relationships help us to become the best people that we can be, and in turn, it is our joy to reciprocate and help them to become the best versions of themselves too.

I am very fortunate to have my wife and family a handful of these true friends in my life. These are the relationships I really need to be the best version of myself and to fulfill my purpose here. On top of that we have so many more superficial relationships that fit together with our lives and we exchange good with each other, but at a lesser degree of intimacy. I pay to get a haircut and I chat with the stylist, and I get a good haircut and some humorous conversation. Maybe we exchange a few treasures, but it is a level of public persona that engages in these interactions.

We all have so many masks that we need to get through our days. I have the expert in aviation mask, I have the financial analysis mask, and the attorney mask, and I wear these when I go out in public. Then there is the level of people who know me a little better than that. They see my devotion to nature, they hear me play guitar and see me play with my little puppy dog. This is the realm of personal relationships. And then there is a small handful of people who we share our true hearts with.

For me, this case of laryngitis, coupled with this brilliant book, has really taught me an important lesson. It’s to expose something I don’t like about myself to those who I truly love, and then to accept their concern as help instead of criticism. And so I am going to gargle my salt water, and I’m going to go the the ENT and I’m going to keep lozenges in my pocket, and refrain from whispering, and avoid anything that causes dryness of the mucous membranes. I’m going to do all these things so I can be the best I can be physically. And this is really something that I truly want, because I recognize that my health is fundamental to my overall quality of my short life on this awesome planet.

I would also like to offer a prayer of peace and forgiveness for all the suffering in our world right now. May our universal celestial mother cover the world with a mantel of peace.


The Audience of the Ego

Is it a common human trait to want popularity and recognition? I think it must be, and if I do just a little bit of honest introspection, I can see that I share in this craving for the attention of others. Certainly anyone who is reading this is aware of the ego and it’s need to feel important in the eyes of others. We hear so many spiritual seekers chastising themselves and others for “coming from ego.” It is my ego that wants recognition, and this is somehow bad, right? Like a truly enlightened spiritual being would be free of ego and would simply be without needing the validation from the outside.

I would like to suggest a little kinder treatment of the ego. For me the ego is the part of my consciousness that identifies as “me,” and this is the student in the spiritual school of life. It would not be much of a spiritual school if its whole purpose was to be rid of all the students. It’s not as simple as that. We cannot escape our ego to attain enlightenment. We can console ourselves so that we do not crave what we do not have. We can remind ourselves to be true to ourselves and not to depend on the approval of others. We can accept when others do not want to hear what we have to say, or when they do not recognize us for our knowledge or achievements. But we cannot be rid of our egos. We must be kinder to ourselves than that.

I think my ego is about seven years old. Really. I know how to act in life to avoid making a fool of myself. I have learned to bite my own tongue when I want to clamor for attention. But the truth is, deep down, there is a part of me that has the emotional maturity of a seven year old boy, and this part of me wants to be popular, wants to be picked first, and wants to get recognized by the teacher. If someone does not like or respond to me in the way I want, then this bothers my inner 7 year old. I naturally then strive to attain their approval.

This comes up a lot in the spiritual path. There are so many people who are so famous for presenting their spiritual truths. Some of these are quite profound and some are quite common. It really does not matter, because each has its own audience. I remember the time in my life when I first read a spiritual book. It was A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle. The wisdom contained in that book about the ego and inner peace was a huge revelation to me. I had never considered that before. I had never looked at myself from a higher perspective. I did not even know where the path that started there would lead.

This experience reminds me of another experience. I remember when I was young and I read my first “grown up” book. It was The Bourne Identity by Robert Ludlam. I was amazed by the character of Jason Bourne. Steel blue eyes, master of martial arts, cool under any circumstances. Wow. It was the first time I had ever encountered such a character, and I was riveted by it. And as I continued to read more, I started to see that all of the heroes in all of the books were human superlatives. The first time I encountered this, I was amazed, and as I continued, I saw that it was really very common.

And so it is in the study of the spirit. That first encounter with topics like the ego, and setting boundaries, and finding the divine within were so profound. And once I developed a conversational familiarity with these topics, I developed the capacity to share them with others. I could share the new knowledge I had, and the people who I could share it with were the people that did not have it yet.

So to being a good teacher is not really so much about having the highest knowledge. It’s about finding and communicating with those who are thirsty for the knowledge. So maybe in this life I have advanced beyond the elementary stage, or at least I’ve gone far enough to have dipped below the surface. Yet I do not have a large constituent of followers. There is no one outside my door clamoring for me to deliver to them pearls of wisdom.

I almost went in the other direction, which is equally egotistical. I almost was tempted to say “nobody wants to hear what I have to say” But that’s really not at all true either. There are now 16 people who will receive notification of this writing, and some of them will perhaps read this, and maybe even relate to it. There is a small group of people in my life who I share wisdom with, in both directions. The ego wants to either be a million or zero. It’s not very comfortable with ordinary success.

And so with spiritual truths, it is really not so much about who is presenting them. Most of them have already been presented over the several thousand years of spiritual study in our society. Some of most profound interactions I have had come from people who I met from indigenous cultures of the Amazon. It’s so interesting to me to hear from them. They have such profound wisdom to share.

One is “there are none so small that they have nothing to teach and none so great that they have nothing to learn, sometimes we are the great, sometimes we are the small, and it is in the balance that we walk our lives.” That was a good one from one of the few people I have met in my life who was actually a shaman. She was explaining why it was so important to always have the mind of a child and not think we know everything. She continued, when we think we know something, then we are blocked from further knowledge. Did not Christ also speak of having the mind of a child?

Another pearl I received from that was how to listen. I was talking with my friend and she was bowing her head with her eyes closed and not responding to me at all. I feared that what I was saying was not interesting and that she was simply suffering my boorish talking until I was finished. Not at all she said. She said when you truly want to listen you have to bow your head and close your eyes so that the words come into your ears and drop right down to the heart without going into the mind first. If they go into the mind first, then the mind immediately starts thinking of responses and of how the information fits into the mind’s view of the world. But if you can let the words travel straight to the heart you can connect with the heart of the person who is sharing with you, and after they are done speaking, you can take this gift from the heart up to the mind and then you will maybe have something to say about it or think about it.

She also told me, Spencer, in your world, in your life, you can go where you want. If someone or something is not to your liking, you can be done with them and simply move on. You can go away. But here in the tribe, in our culture, there is no away. There is only the tribe and the jungle. If you go “away,” or into the jungle by yourself, well death waits for you there. Certain death. There is no “away” for them, and so it’s very important to learn how to get along with your 50 or so tribe mates in your village. So profound.

I see so many people today selling some version of shamanism, and I can’t help but react with some contempt. It seems that there are so many people offering shamanic healing and practices. Some part of me resents this, but in honesty, that is only the part of me that is envious of the recognition they receive. I (my ego?) would protest that I am not like that, but is that true? Am I really not like that, or am I simply not very successful at that?

It’s so important not to judge, but it’s hard not to as well. Maybe someone who holds themselves out as a shaman is able to access some people who really crave an introduction to the spiritual path, and maybe the title of shaman gives another person a justification or reason for listening to the wisdom that is being offered. I might have to exercise discernment to make a decision for myself about whether I want to follow such a person. But it’s not at all appropriate for me to judge them. But I do anyway right? Some part of me puts them down. There is part of me that says “oh another California Shaman”. I might even joke, how can you be sure if someone is a shaman, well one clear sign is they are not from California. But really that’s just me wishing I shared in their popularity. What harm are they doing to me?

Is it the same with celebrity? I have met a few celebrities in my life. I always feel this strange desire to be seen by them. Is that familiar? It reminds me of an old Saturday Night Live bit where Martin Short dreams of meeting Pat Sajak on Wheel of Fortune. He has this fantasy world where he and Pat Sajak are best friends. Isn’t that the appeal? Don’t they have their fame because we all want some of what they have?

And they do have something special. It has been called the “it factor”. It’s a larger than life energy that draws us to them and gives them power. Some use it for good, some for their own self destruction, and some seem not to be able to control it at all. The famous people I have had good fortune to meet all seemed to me to have their lives very well put together, but this is not what I see in the news. What appears in the news usually looks more like a train wreck. Maybe that’s because as soon as we build someone up we want to tear them down.

And so that’s were we find ourselves. I have the knowledge and experience that I have, and the truth, or lack of truth, speaks for itself. I can speak my truth and maybe only 16 people will have the chance to read it. Others might speak and have hundreds of thousands of followers hanging on every word. I can’t really seek followers, that would be a lot like a dog chasing its tail. But I can seek the truth, and maybe there will be someone who benefits in some small measure from something I have shared. But to continue, it really has to be me that learns from what I am writing. It has to be enough for me to write what I need to learn.


Telluride –

It has been a few days since I have written anything, and I am starting this without a very clear idea of where this is heading. We came out to Telluride, Colorado to enjoy a month of late winter and early spring here in this beautiful box canyon. The picture you see is from behind a frozen waterfall up at the top of a little box canyon near our house here. It amazes me that we can walk a quarter of a mile from our house and find such a miracle.

This valley holds a very sacred energy, and the spirits of the people who lived here over the last thousand years are very present. This was a summer hunting and camping ground for many centuries. The weather was too harsh to live here year round without electricity and material support trucked in here. The winters up at 9,000 feet of elevation in these mountains are unrelenting. But in the summer it’s a different story. The valley floor is full of elk in the summer, and the black bears roam through the alleys in town overturning trash cans.

I have walked through some of these special places and felt the spirits of people who lived here a long time ago. I felt the joy of returning to favorite summer camps. And there is another history laid on top of that ancient story which is just as palpable. A history of hardened settlers moving west from post civil war America to mine these mountains for gold. The first mining claim was made here in 1875, and it was a tough bunch who managed to survive here year round. There is a monument outside a building in town which notes that it was the first bank robbed by Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

We took a tour of the local graveyard last summer, and it tells many stories. There are the graves of two brothers side by side, both veterans of the civil war, one on the union side the other on the confederate side. There are graves from epidemics, graves of women who worked in the red light district, graves of many minors who lost their lives in these harsh conditions.

Mining was the only industry here until the ski resort opened in 1972. And this brought yet another historical overlay to the region. Now the famous Telluride Mushroom festival brings together dead heads, mycologists, cooks, foragers, scientists and artists. Music festivals, the Telluride Film Festival, and all kinds of nature lovers gather now in this magical place.

Telluride presents such a stark contrast between the natural beauty of this box canyon, and the very harsh conditions. I am very grateful to be welcome here now, but I often wonder what it must have been like for the Ute people who came here before their way of life was uprooted and destroyed. Telluride sits at the top of box canyon that can only be accessed from the west. If you head west out of the canyon it’s not very far to arrive in Moab Utah.

Ajax peak stands at the top of the canyon to the west with dramatic water falls flowing into the head waters of the San Miguel river. As you walk along the river heading east, you come across beautiful meadows and ponds with beavers and ducks in them even today. Now there is a beautiful park at the east end of town called Town Park, and when I walk along the river here, I can almost feel the presence of all the generations of people who camped here in the summer. I can imagine their teepees and fires, and the game that they hunted.

I walked up to the top of the canyon to the frozen waterfall with some friends of mine who are members of the Native American Church. We stood in the remarkable landscape and made an offering of tobacco to the spirits that inhabit there. We asked for their blessing for us to be on this land and for their protection. Such spiritual power exists here, and on top of it are all of these overlays of history.

It reminds me that I am here now, but only for a flash of time. Across the street right now I hear the sounds of demolition of one house so that another can be built. But it all depends on our supply chains and support from the outside. One winter with no electricity, and this valley will be empty once again. Our presence here feels so permanent, but the spirits who live in these mountains have seen changes over thousands of years. We are just visitors here, and I am grateful for this moment that allows me to be a small part of this.


Ego, Karma, Personality, and Forgiveness – freedom through the examination of your conscience.

It’s a super rainy day here, and I came to my office by myself to listen to vinyl records and do some writing. I sat for a while before opening my computer in anticipation of the barrage of notifications and distractions I would have to wade through on my way to this blank screen. It seems there are so many forces out there constantly taking us out of the present moment and transporting our minds to distant conflicts. I often admire my little dog Frankie because he lives right behind his eyeballs. Constantly present. Here I am already distracted thinking that I need to cancel a meeting I had planned to go down to the marina and measure the depths of the boat slips at low tide. It’s pouring down rain on a Sunday. That’s done, and now I’m back here. Small distractions everywhere.

One of the ideas that has been sitting with me is the interplay between our ego, our personality, and our karma. I often hear a lot about these topics individually, but I do not very often here about them being talked about together. So what is the relationship between our ego and our Karma? To me it seems like one creates the other, much like the ancient image of the snake eating its tail.

There was a spiritual master from Brazil who lived from the late 1800s until 1971. His name was Mestre Irineu, and from the time he was very young, he had dreams of a celestial mother who would keep her eye on him. If he did something wrong, she would come in his dreams and punish him. She would roll him in the hot sand or in the mud of a rice paddy with sharp rice shoots pointing up. It was not for him to steal or take advantage.

Mestre Irineu has many hymns that he used to sing that talk about his mother is always watching him. I used to think that meant that there was a benevolent supernatural force that kept track of him and made sure no harm would befall him–kind of like a guardian angel queen of the forest. But when I heard the story of the mother that would appear in his dreams, I knew it was much more than this. She would watch his every step and hold him to account. There was no escaping her watchful eye.

This is like our Karma. We can never get away from it. We often try, as they say, we do our tricks down low, thinking that the master does not know. But of course he does. Everything is recorded in the record of our own karma, because our karma is our own conscience. We can deny the truth, we can avoid the consequences of our actions, we can hope that nobody finds out the truth, but there is no escaping our own conscience. We might fool even ourselves, but never our karma.

Let’s say for instance that we tell a little lie to someone and make up an excuse for not doing something that we did not want to do. We may very well have been justified in just being upfront and saying, for instance, I know we had plans for dinner tonight, but I’m feeling tired and would rather not go. But instead we say we had a headache and could not go. It’s probably not even morally wrong to do that because it really does not cause any harm to anyone, but what does it do to us?

The psychology of this is very interesting. The next time someone tells us they cannot do something because they have a headache, we will doubt them. We will wonder what the real reason is. Because we ourselves told a little lie to smooth out a social awkwardness, then we will see this in the world. This of course happens all the time. Do you not frequently receive excuses that you know are not true in the absolute sense? “I’m sorry I was late, you know, traffic.” Like you did not know there would be traffic in Miami at 5:00 on a Friday? Ok sure.

But we can also let this go right? Do I really care if someone has a doctor appointment or if they just don’t want to go to lunch that day? Does it matter? The important information, that I’m glad to receive in time to change my own plans, is that for some reason that my friend does not want to explain, lunch is not going to happen. Maybe they have to go do something else that they don’t want to talk about. Maybe they have a job interview and don’t want to tell anyone that they are searching for a job. It really does not matter to me personally what the reason is, the simple fact is I need to make new plans for lunch.

But the point is that we record our own actions in our own memory, and this becomes the lens through which we see the world. If we steal from our neighbors, then we expect our neighbors to steal from us. If we hate other people because of their race, we will be afraid when we walk past people of that race, because we will see them as feeling the same towards us. If we cheat in our relationships, we will be unable to trust. Our actions become our Karma in this way. It’s the collection of our past actions that is stored in our conscience and frames our perspective on the world.

This in turn, becomes our ego. It becomes who we think we are. It becomes how we see the world. The ego is a very illusive being that lives inside our conscience. It wants recognition, approval, acceptance, and to be admired. But it also knows the truth about what we deserve and what we have earned. So, often, what we want and what we deserve do not really align, and we experience distress. And it is this distress that often leads us to seek a solution.

And so it is that the ego is the patient that shows up at the door of a therapist, it is the initiate who starts a 10 day vipasaana, the ego is the seeker who holds its first cup of ayahuasca, it is the lonely soul that starts the Camino de Santiago. And the first thing the ego bumps into on this path of self discovery an objection to the notion that we are receiving just what we deserve. We don’t like this medicine very much. We often want to point to other reasons for our failures in business, in relationships, in school, in overcoming addictions, in whatever we are failing at. We don’t like to think that we deserve what we get. But the ancient wisdom is unrelenting. You reap what you sow, and that is what we all deserve.

The first lesson in all of these paths is to learn to examine your own conscience. It is all written there just as clear as a book, for those who want to see. But we usually don’t see it. And this is where good friends really come in handy, because they usually see things from a little different perspective. Sure our friends have their own distortions in their own lenses, but it’s not the same distortion as the one we have, and so another perspective can help us to see the truth. If we want to.

Have you ever had a friend who complains about the same thing over and over? Another lousy job? Another lousy boyfriend? Another excuse for why they did whatever they always do? Continuations of self defeating behavior? A good friend can hold the light on what we don’t want to see, but it’s up to us to open our eyes.

Our egos hold onto wounds and resentments like little treasures. These are little treasured bits of evidence that prove that the world is unfair and out to get us. They are the stories we tell to ourselves, and to anyone who will listen, that justify us. These stories paint us in favorable light. How could we have been expected to do better given the awful circumstances? Of course we could not. These become the stories about who we are.

And so it is that our actions, in this life and in others, are recorded in our conscience, and this becomes the lens through which we see the world, and this forms our ego. And our ego then manifests itself as our personality. The personality is how this complex presents itself to others in the outside world. Karma is our history, ego is the result, and personality is the display.

We come into this world already with a Karma from our previous lives, or at least that’s what the ancient wisdom traditions of the east tell us. We come into this incarnation with the karmic baggage from our previous incarnations. We continue to play those same stores out in this life time, until we dissolve these karmic blocks through the process of forgiveness. Forgiveness was preached by the spiritual master known as Christ in the Judeo christian frame of reference. It comes as compassion and non-attachment from the east. All of the true wisdom traditions have the same prescription, even if the colorful stories are different. It does not much matter whether you believe in a god with an elephant head and a human body, or a god in the form of a man who was born of a human woman through immaculate conception. Stories of God coming into human form exist in all wisdom traditions, and the most important message they bring is the message of forgiveness.

This was a difficult topic for me initially when I started my spiritual path. I was super angry and feeling the victim. I was feeling misunderstood, and I thought the treatment I was receiving was unjust. And so when the notion of forgiveness was laid at my feet I initially did not understand. Why forgive people who continue to do me wrong? Turn the cheek so you can slap me again? That sounds like a sucker to me. But here in the battle, it is the sword of forgiveness that cuts the most.

Forgiveness is simply the ability to leave behind the treasures of resentment that the ego holds onto. It is the release of the stories about how we were wronged and did not get what we deserved. It is abandonment of the idea that we live in an unfair world that is out to get us. It is simply the determination that we accept the world and our role in it, and we are not going to carry around all this baggage anymore.

My favorite teacher of this is an imaginary baboon that is a friend of mine. This baboon friend is ornery. He lives in a tree and shouts insults at any who walk by, and if you stop to take issue with his insults, he will bombard you with monkey poo from the top of his tree. You can stand at the bottom of the tree and point your finger and yell, while he throws monkey poo down upon you. You can walk off and tell your friends about what a bad monkey my baboon friend is. You can hold onto your resentment, and you can judge other baboons to be the same way, and maybe some of them are. But really, would you argue with the baboon? Would you want to hold on to resentment?

It’s easy to say “no, of course I’m not going to hold resentment towards a baboon.” We can all see that there is no point in expecting the baboon to behave any differently. Baboon gonna do what baboon gonna do. But what about your coworker who routinely fails to show up and leaves you holding their shift? What then? Well “what then” is you tell your boss that your coworker’s delinquency is not your responsibility, and you don’t take their shift. And you smile and go home.

See this dynamic? If you stay and take the shift for your delinquent coworker, your boss might be happy, and your coworker will thank you and give you a great story for why this time was different, cause their phone was not charged and their car died. You will be left holding the bag of resentment with a story of how you are the victim. But it is your own action that causes you to suffer. Or maybe, having embraced your power, you might choose to take the shift, for time and a half. Your choice. No resentment.

Let’s say you were looking forward to seeing someone, and they stand you up. Ok that’s a bummer right? Your lunch did not go as expected. If you are quick, you can still make the best of it, but let’s grant that it’s a disappointment. But the next time, bring a book. Because if they stand you up again, it’s your own fault if you are disappointed. Forgive but don’t be a victim. We all have this power, but most of us don’t see or appreciate it.

So if we examine our conscience, we will see how we sowed the seeds of our own harvest. We can forgive the rolls others have played in bringing them to pass, and we can modify our own actions in the future. We can plant new seeds next time.

And so through a process of self examination and forgiveness, we can clean our conscience and release our karma. It’s as easy as that. And as we relax our karma and let go of our collections of resentments, as we clean the lens through which we see the world, we get lighter and lighter. We expect peace, harmony, love, truth and justice in the world, and we receive it.

And after practicing this for years and years, we can start to get a little quicker. When someone cancels on us with a flimsy excuse, we don’t dwell on it. We just bask in the divine love of the sun that is always there for all of us. May the sun shine down on you.


Sales – The Easiest High Paying Job or the Hardest Low Paying Job

For the last thirteen years of my corporate career, I worked in sales originating loans for private aircraft. My manager at the company I worked for was one of my best mentors. He taught me that sales was either the easiest high paying job or the hardest low paying job, and the difference was up to us. Successful salesmanship is a way of being that enables you to help people who trust you to get what they need. Unsuccessful salesmanship, on the other hand, involves trying to persuade people to buy products, whether they need them or not, so that you can meet your sales quota. You can see that you can work very hard to achieve mediocre results, or you can have results just flowing to you. Which would you rather do?

The Key to Successful Sales is Manifesting Abundance

I was first introduced to the concept of manifestation and abundance through the Abraham Hicks Vortex Meditations that a friend referred me to on Christmas Eve 2011. I realize now what I did not know then, and that is that the key to Sales Success is abundant thinking. In a world of abundance everything we need naturally flows to us with little effort. There is enough in the world for everyone to be satisfied, and success comes easily. From this frame of reference, a good sales person needs only to help others to get what they want, and success flows naturally.

In a world of scarcity, on the other hand, we compete for limited resources. There is a fixed amount of stuff in the world, and this stuff is not enough to satisfy everyone, and so it’s up to us to get as much as we can get. It is a world of competition, poverty and stress. When we go into sales from this perspective, the very difficult job of a sales person is to somehow convince potential customers to do what the sales person wants. This scarcity vibration permeates our being, and other people pick up on it.

As a Sales Person Remember that Others Feel the Same Way

Are you familiar with the polarity of magnets? Have you ever noticed that when you line them up correctly, north pole to south, they stick together automatically, but when you line them up in the opposite orientation, they repel each other. I remember being so mesmerized by this force. It’s the same force we feel with sales people.

Have you ever walked into a store to take a quick look at something that caught your eye, and then had a sales person send you right back onto the street? It feels like a misaligned magnet. As soon as they approach, I feel their energy and I am either attracted to them or repelled. I have literally seen over eager sales people chase customers right back onto the street. Have you ever had this experience of just wanting to have a look around, and then feeling chased off by a sales person?

It is understandable. Sales people working on commission can come to see each customer as a stepping stone to their quota, like fish or something. The language of typical sales instruction and management reflects this. I have heard sales people celebrate that they “sold the whole boat” to someone, like it’s some kind of victory. A little star goes on the board in the sales office and there is some chest thumping. I remember each year our company had a “President’s Club” for sales people who reached a stretch quota. There was tremendous pressure to meet this objective, and those who made it went on a trip with the head of our division. Those who did not stayed behind. Nobody wants to miss that trip.

How does a good sales person reconcile these competing forces? How do you make sales both easy and high paying? There really is only one true secret. You have to, in your heart, truly desire to help people get what they need or desire with your product offering. Success can only come from true commitment to being of service to your clients.

I remember when I was financing corporate aircraft, our “price” was the interest rate and the origination fee for the loans we would advance. The first question out of everyone’s mouth was “what’s the interest rate.” If you have ever financed a home with a mortgage, you may have experienced that a lender can offer a super low variable interest rate with a short term interest only period. They can structure the transaction to get the rate almost down to zero for the first year. That’s what created the housing bubble of 2008 right? The rate on a qualifying 30 year fixed rate mortgage would be significantly higher, but also a much better deal for the borrower, because they actually have terms that will let them stay in their home until they own it. The bank takes the risk of interest rates going up in the future and commits to leaving their money out for 30 years. As a sales person I had to really gain someone’s trust to lead them to a better deal with the higher price.

And the key to this was knowing who I could actually help. In the world of aircraft owners, we were often dealing with extremely high net worth clients. Many of them had large investments in corporate or municipal bonds, like tens of millions of dollars in a bond portfolio. After the financial shock of 2009, when the federal funds rates dropped to almost zero, the yields on these bonds also went down dramatically.

The truth in this environment was that it usually was not sensible for an ultra high net worth individual to pay a rate on a fixed rate loan that was higher than the rate they earned on a bond portfolio, because a loan is exactly the opposite of a bond. If a potential client owned $10,000,000 of bonds with a ten year maturity and a fixed yield of say 1.5%, why would they want to take out a loan with a ten year term and a fixed rate of 3%? They would earn $150,000 per year of interest on the bond, and then pay $300,000 of interest on the loan. In this case, it often made more sense for the client to sell the bonds and pay cash for their jet.

So here’s the tricky part in the sales process. The question a good sales person who truly wants to help their client would ask is “Why would you want to finance your plane with us, if you could sell a bond and pay for it, and then save yourself $150,000 in interest?” Most sales people in our industry were terrified to ask questions like this, because the answer might be “good point, I’ll pay cash.”

People who own their own jets tend to be very good negotiators. They tend to be very smart people. They tend to know how money works. To earn their respect and trust, “NO” has to be the right answer when a financing deal does not serve them. So discovering a big reason why they would not want to do a deal saves everyone a bunch of time and creates great trust. And things do change.

Sometimes they would surprise me. They might say they would sell the bonds, but they don’t want to because they were collateral for a portfolio loan account, or they did not want to use their available capital on an asset like the aircraft which can support its own financing. Other times they would say, yeah, that’s the truth. We don’t really like to finance anything because the rates we earn on our bonds are so low right now.

Do you feel the energetics of this? By being willing to ask these difficult questions, they would see that I would accept “no” for an answer if the deal was not in their best interest. I would not try to talk them into doing something that they did not want to do. The flood gates of information would open once that tumbler clicked. They trusted me because I was actually trustworthy.

I would say to them, yeah your right, it does not make sense for you to finance your plane right now. But here is the market analysis I prepared for you, and this is what the market for your jet looks like, and please let me know if I can give you any helpful information on the aircraft. And then I would take my leave.

And then I would send them a thank you note for their time. Then the next time I financed a jet like theirs, I would call them up and say “hey we just did a deal on a plane like yours. Would you like to see the market analysis?” Then they would start to call me whenever they had a question. And sometimes, they would say, “the plane we bought really does not have the range we need to get to all of our business locations, so we were going to trade up to a larger aircraft.” And presto, I would be given the opportunity to look at the next deal.

The Same Energetics Apply to Short Term Sales Cycles

Sales in jet financing thus often had a two to five year cycle. I would start with initial contact, then develop rapport and trust, and then a few years later when they got ready to trade up their aircraft, I would be in position to help them. But the same energy works in very short term sales like retail.

Imagine you work in a store with crystals and candles and buddha statues and a potential customer walks in looking for a gift for their sister. Greet them by saying in a friendly way “hi, welcome to our store. Please feel free to look around, and let me know if you have any questions” And then give them space so they feel comfortable, but not abandoned. Let them look for a while and notice what they are looking at. Eventually their body language will let you know when you can approach them. Say they keep fidgeting with crystals and glance around looking for you, then you can ask “can I help you find something?” Then the whole story about the gift for the sister will come pouring out. The key energetic is that they sense your willingness to let them leave without buying anything. This has to be sincere. Once they sense that you only want to help them, that you have plenty of customers, and a successful store, they will want to buy from you. But if you hover over them and get all pushy before they are ready, they will run right out the door.

Can you see how this abundant thinking makes all the difference? If clients are scarce and if sales are a zero sum game, then sales people are predators, and potential customers are prey. If the world is abundant and abundance flows freely for everyone, then sales people are helpful allies that help others make good decisions and increase the flow of abundance in their own lives.

And so it is that if you have this abundant attitude, you spend your days with people who trust and respect you, you get referrals, you get call backs, you get deals done, and you don’t waste time with people who really shouldn’t be in your pipeline. If your attitude is scarcity, then you throw everything on the wall and take whatever sticks. You have lots of maybes that drag you on forever because they feel guilty saying no to you. Your customers dodge your calls, and your phone never rings. One way is hard, one way is easy. One is abundantly compensated, and the other pays very little.

Sales is a wonderful career for those who have the right attitude, and a short one for those who do not. Happy selling!


Living in a Magical World — Free The Mind to Experience Awe

Good morning dear reader. Today is my Solar Return and I was very happy to share my morning coffee walk with my lovely wife Stephanie and our mutual friend Marya. We all enjoyed coffee with the dogs in Coconut Grove and we had a lively conversation around the nature of our beliefs. As I have written here before, I come from a hyper rational way of thinking. I suffered for decades under the cold eye of material reductionism and lived a great part of my life in a world devoid of magic, miracles, and divinity. For me, everything was the result of atoms bouncing around like billiard balls, and anything more than that I considered wishful thinking by weak minded people who refused to accept the truth. Occam’s Razor was my religion.

And so this morning Stephanie was talking about how her faerie beings help her keep a beautiful and tidy environment. She explained how she used to feel frustrated or annoyed when I would leave my shoes scattered haphazardly around the entry way, or empty my pockets on the kitchen counter, or basically go about my way like a Labrador retriever. She would ask herself why it was always she who cleaned the messes. She told us how she now recognizes that it is her faerie guides who like to beautify her environment, and so now when she sees something out of place, it is the place that she cleans, not the mess. Suddenly her thinking and feelings around the situation shifted, and she appreciated the guidance she receives to beautify her surroundings.

The old Spencer would have judged this belief based on it’s objective truth in my material reductionist worldview. Occam’s razor has no time for Faeries. But that’s not me anymore. We talked about how useful this belief was to Stephanie. It gives her a frame of reference for her experience in the world that empowers her to make her environment beautiful without building up resentments towards the perpetuators of disorder. And it helps me too.

This is not just her putting a sugar coating on my disrespect. I actually do want to participate in keeping our environment peaceful and calm and beautiful. It’s just that my awareness and sensitivity are not as refined as hers. I am very Yang and masculine in my way of being, and so I tend to be focused on the object of my intentions. I might be coming home from the grocery store and on my way somewhere else, and my mission might be to get the cold items in the fridge, and I focus on this, and then I leave the dry goods out on the counter. Sometimes I remember to stop and look at the kitchen and see if there is anything out of place, but this really is training to improve myself. My natural inclination is to focus on my task and screen out distractions.

But the faeries are helping me too. I appreciate the environment they create, and instead of feeling nagged by Stephanie having a stronger desire for neatness than I do, I can support the effort to elevate the energy of our space to the level that faeries and spirits like to inhabit our home. And they do. Everyone feels it when they come over. They feel the feeling of calm in our home, and the way everything is just so makes this possible.

And after all, we really have only the dimmest understanding of the true nature of our reality. We are like super intelligent goldfish in a goldfish bowl debating what exists in the outside world. We debate the source of the food that gets sprinkled on the surface, and we call in Mana from Heaven, our daily fish bread. We peer out of the bowl with a telescope and observe the living room around us. Maybe we even manage to develop technology to enable us to send up a periscope above the rim of the bowl for a better look. But really, how much do we understand? What if a new goldfish comes in and has memories of another place and another bowl? Is that heresy? There is no proof of another fish bowl is there? Occam’s razor says no.

So we can see that insisting on our limited view of the world is not really very helpful at all. It limits us to thinking of things in terms of a model of life with no purpose or meaning. It is very difficult to understand why anything matters in a world where the only truth is a bunch of billiard ball atoms bouncing into each other until the Sun eventually explodes. Occam’s razor and the material reductionist world view give us little to love.

And so it is that we can either see the divine in everything, or we see the divine in nothing. Magic is either everywhere, or it’s nowhere. You are either a spirit incorporated in a material body having this material experience, or you are a consciousness created by the interaction of chemicals in a very complex brain structure. We can all debate, like the goldfish in the goldfish bowl, about which of these understandings is materially most accurate. But this is really not a very interesting discussion, and if history is any guide, it’s not very productive either. This is because basically every theory or concept to describe the true nature of the Universe has ultimately been proven to be a remarkable oversimplification. The Big Bang is no exception, it is just the latest theory of the goldfish bowl.

A better way to evaluate beliefs is in terms of whether they ring true in your heart and whether they are useful in life. For me it rings true that I am here on this world for a purpose, and that this purpose is to learn and to teach, and that when I’m done here, I will return to where I am dreaming this from. For me this is a very useful frame of reference. It gives meaning to my relationships, it enables me to see divine guidance all around me, and it fills me with a sense of awe and wonder at the beauty of nature and the firmament. For me, I see the divine in everything, and this is very useful. I am much much happier now than before I opened my mind.

It’s so freeing to open our minds to miraculous possibility, and there is so much that flows from this. Over the next weeks, I pray, to receive some material to share here about what can happen when we just open our eyes to a miraculous world.


Investment 101 – Say “NO” to Crypto and The Difference Between Trading and Investing

It’s kind of funny sometimes to straddle the worlds of spirituality and finance. So many of my spiritual friends want to invest their money well, but they were never given an education about the basic principles of investment. I have read so many articles saying that “crypto is good because it opens up investment to people who never had an opportunity to participate in the market.” But this is utter nonsense. Crypto and meme stocks and the market around them are encouraging well meaning people to take huge risks with important assets. I know a lot of good people who have real money tied up in completely specious assets like crypto currency and meme stocks. Some of them may end up exiting their positions with a trading profit if they exit their positions at a market peak, but this does not mean that they are acting as investors. They are acting as traders, and there is a huge difference!

The difference between trading and investing.

Trading and investing are two completely different concepts. Trading is the practice of buying something and then trading it for something of higher value later. Baseball cards are a great example. If you have a deck of baseball cards, you can trade them with your friends. You can either trade them directly, my Hank Aaron for your Derek Jeter, or you can buy them and sell them. And baseball cards might even hold their value for quite a long time, so long as there are a lot of people out there who still want baseball cards.

Compare this to buying a share of a company like Apple, which the favorite stock of my favorite investor, Warren Buffett. When Warren Buffett buys Apple stock, he well knows that there may come a point in time where there is someone who wants to pay him a lot more for his shares than he thinks they are worth, and in that case, he might sell them. But that’s not why he bought them in the first place. He buys the shares because he wants to own a portion of the income stream produced by Apple’s business. He is buying the stream of income generated by Apple’s business. This is an investment in the underlying business of Apple.

Baseball cards, like crypto currency, do not actually produce anything at all. They may become more scarce as time goes by and copies of desirable cards are lost or destroyed, or locked away in collections that are out of circulation. This may cause the price of these objects to increase, but it’s not quite the same as producing anything of value. In actual fact, they only produce expenses and losses. If you have a big collection of items like cards, or stamps, or vinyl records, you have to take care of them. You will have expenses and occasional losses. But one thing you will never have is a revenue stream.

Investors make money even if they never sell

The key understanding about investing in stocks is that you are actually purchasing a portion of the underlying company’s revenue stream.. If you invest money in a business with underlying profit, you will participate in the earnings of the company, and you will make money even if you never sell. This gets a little confusing in today’s world because investors are highly motivated to avoid taxes, so companies are always looking for how they can return profits to investors while minimizing taxes. There are four essential ways for companies to return profits to investors.

Four Ways Companies Return Profits to Investors

The first way for a Company to use profits is for the company to invest the profits in assets for its own operations. They may use it to open a new factory or develop a new product line or even to make an acquisition of another company. If they do so, then the profits, which would be collected in the form of cash, are converted to long term assets of the company. This practice of reinvesting profits is very common in growth companies, and in this way profits will increase the value of each share of the company, because now each share is a small part of a larger company.

The next way to use profits would be to pay off some company debt by retiring some bonds or by paying off a loan. In this scenario, the “short term” asset of cash reduces the liabilities of the company. The profits came in to the company as cash and then flowed to decrease liabilities instead of to increase another asset. This will have the same effect on the value of each share as an asset purchase.

Third, they might decide to go into the stock market and buy back some outstanding shares of their own stock, if they believe it is trading below fair value. Berkshire Hathaway has been doing exactly this over the last couple of years. And if you really want a smart investing tip, simply do what Warren Buffett does. If Warren Buffett is buying shares of Berkshire Hathaway, and you have money to invest in the stock market, you might want to think about buying some Berkshire Hathaway shares yourself. When companies buy their own stock, they reduce the number of outstanding shares, and that changes the math a little bit, so every remaining outstanding share owns a slightly larger percentage of the company.

The last thing the board might decide to do is distribute the cash it earned to the shareholders in the form of a dividend. Most mature companies do pay a dividend. This directly profits each shareholder.

The first three of these strategies result in unrealized capital gain for the investors. The intrinsic value of their stocks have increased because the company balance sheet has improved. These profits are not taxable to the investor until they sell their shares. When a company pays dividends on the other hand, the money received is taxable to the investor. Until recently there was a penalty in the tax system for dividends, because they were taxed as ordinary income. As a result, companies would often have an incentive to buy back shares instead of paying dividends.

False Capital Gain from Trading Momentum

The real gains from companies that earn profits outlined above are very different from the unrealized gains many traders see in their personal stock or crypto accounts. When traders purchase stocks with the intent of selling them in the future at a profit, they are not so concerned with the earning of the company during their ownership period as they are with the price some future purchaser might be willing to pay. The more, the faster, the better. This is known as momentum, and investing in momentum never ends well.

If you want to do some research, you can start with the Dutch Tulip Bulb mania of 1534, dramatic rise, crash of the South Sea Company in the year 1711 in London, the tech stock bubble of 1999 to 2000, or the leveraged residential real estate bubble of 2007. There have been many changes in Human circumstances but not much improvement in the madness of crowds.

Crypto Currency Has No Intrinsic Value

It is important to understand the difference between the market value and the intrinsic value of an investment. Crypto currency and Meme stocks have market value. There is no doubt about this. You can go and buy or sell 10 bitcoins for about $39,000 each, and net a cool $390,000. If you only paid $3,000 for them, well then you just put $360,000 in your pocket. But the only reason a bitcoin has value is because someone is willing to pay for it. Bitcoins do not actually produce anything. On the contrary, they require huge resources just for a computer network to “remember” that they exist and who owns them. A company’s shares have market value as well, but underneath the market value is a going concern that actually makes things. The intrinsic value of a share is what an investor should expect to receive in future profits over the remaining expected life of the company.

To illustrate this, imagine what would happen if a large number of bitcoin holders decided to take their profit out of bitcoin at once. There would be a game of musical chairs as people tried to liquidate their holdings into a vacuum of buyers. The first sellers would satisfy the highest price orders, and then the price offered by the next willing buyer would be lower, and so on. The “market value,” which is simply the number of bitcoins multiplied by the last sale price, would rapidly head for zero. In the end, all that would be left would be a bunch of idle computer servers with no cash flow to keep the power on, and bitcoin would just be gone. There is no intrinsic value left for the small group who end up owning all the bitcoins.

Compare this to a hypothetical crash of Apple stock. Imagine if everyone wanted to sell their shares of Apple at the same time. The last buyers, who would undoubtedly include Warren Buffett, would then own a giant company with amazing Human capital and technology and plants all over the world that makes a staggering number of devices each year. There might be a musical chairs for the shares, with everyone trying to get out at once, and the market value might crash, but this would not in any way change the essential value of Apple as a going concern. At the end of the market route in the share price, the remaining stock holders would own a great company and billions of dollars in cash flow. Apple has intrinsic value, bitcoin does not.

Meme stocks are similarly detached from intrinsic value

A meme stock is one step up the food chain from crypto, because at least there is some enterprise behind it. However, the shares are traded like baseball cards as well, because the prices they trade at have no connection to the underlying business’s performance. Let’s look at GameStop for an example. I cannot think of anything to explain why someone would think a brick and mortar store to sell video games is a good idea. I was driving down south Dixie Highway in Miami today and saw that the old Specs Records and Tapes building was torn down for a new project, and so went the days of the brick and mortar store for selling music. Remember Blockbuster? I have not heard any explanation for why GameStop is a winning business model. But sometimes people are motivated by other forces such as nostalgia. I would imagine that many millennial aged men spent a lot of their free cash at GameStop when they were young, and so now they remember the store fondly, and they were therefore inclined to buy the stock.

Tesla is a good company with a very expensive stock

Tesla stock is another interesting example because it actually has a very good business and a credible story for why it will continue to grow into the future, but its stock price is extremely high relative to the expected earnings of the company. So the analysis with Tesla is more nuanced. I love the company personally, but I do not own the stock because I believe it is considerably overvalued. Elon Musk himself has specifically acknowledged that the share price is high, and he has also sold, and caused Tesla to sell, a huge number of shares since Tesla tock price started its most recent surge. On the other hand, Tesla is revolutionizing the entire transportation industry. Also, I drive a Tesla, and I believe in owning stock in the companies I do business with.

But Tesla stock is currently down roughly 1/3 from its all time high and it is still trading at 276 times its earnings. This means that it would take 276 years for the company to earn its own value at the current rate of earnings. That’s a long time to wait to get your money back, especially with inflation now running above 5%. Tesla is definitely a growth stock, and who knows, maybe they go parabolic in their business. I would celebrate that. But Apple posted record earnings as well, and it only takes them 28 years to earn back their own market value. Berkshire Hathaway stock is selling at under 9 times earnings. So if you invest $1,000 in each of these shares, it would take 276 years for you to earn $1,000 from Tesla, 28 years to earn it back in Apple, and 9 years to earn it back with Berkshire Hathaway. We can all talk a lot about the future, but in ten years, shares of Berkshire Hathaway will have earned their own value back. It takes a very compelling story about the future to make me want to wait another 266 years.

What do you do now?

If you are trading stocks and crypto for fun with money you can afford to lose, then enjoy your hobby. But remember this kind of trading is a zero sum game. For every winner there is a loser of the same amount. If you have real money that you need for your future invested in crypto, you might come out ok. Maybe this time really will be different. But you might also lose your entire investment. My preference is to invest where I believe the intrinsic value of the company is higher than the current stock price. I may not make the most return, but I sleep soundly. If I inherited an account full of crypto and meme stocks tomorrow, I would immediately sell all of it and invest it in good profitable companies with reasonable share prices.