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Week of December 16th, 2021

Make Everything Around You Beautiful?

"I'm going to make everything around me beautiful. That will be my life."
—Elsie de Wolfe

"I want enough time to be in love with everything."
— Marina Keega

"I would like my life to be a statement of love and compassion—and where it isn’t, that’s where my work lies."
- Ram Dass

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Is there anything more dangerous than getting up in the morning and having nothing to worry about, no problems to solve, no friction to heat you up? That state can be a threat to your health. If untreated, it incites an unconscious yearning for any old dumb trouble that might rouse some excitement.

Acquiring problems is a fundamental human need. It's as crucial to your well-being as getting food, air, water, sleep, and love. You define yourself—indeed, you make yourself—through the puzzling dilemmas you attract and solve. The most creative people on the planet are those who frame the biggest, hardest questions and then gather the resources necessary to find the answers.

Conventional wisdom implies that the best problems are those that place you under duress. There's supposedly no gain without pain. Stress is allegedly an incomparable spur for calling on resources that have been previously unavailable or dormant. Nietzsche's aphorism, "That which doesn't kill me makes me stronger," has achieved the status of a maxim.

We half-agree. But it's clear that stress also accompanies many mediocre problems that have little power to make us smarter. Pain frequently generates no gain. We're all prone to become habituated, even addicted, to nagging vexations that go on and on without rousing any of our sleeping genius.

There is, furthermore, another class of difficulty—let's call it the delightful dilemma—that neither feeds on angst nor generates it. On the contrary, it's fun and invigorating, and usually blooms when you're feeling a profound sense of being at home in the world. The problem of writing this book is a good example. I've had abundant fun handling the perplexing challenges with which it has confronted me.

Imagine a life in which at least half of your quandaries match this profile. Act as if you're most likely to attract useful problems when joy is your predominant mood.

Consider the possibility that being in unsettling circumstances may shrink your capacity to dream up the riddles you need most; that maybe it's hard to ask the best questions when you're preoccupied fighting rearguard battles against boring or demeaning annoyances that have plagued you for many moons.

Prediction: As an aspiring lover of pronoia, you will have a growing knack for gravitating toward wilder, wetter, more interesting problems. More and more, you will be drawn to the kind of gain that doesn't require pain. You'll be so alive and awake that you'll cheerfully push yourself out of your comfort zone in the direction of your personal frontier well before you're forced to do so by fate's kicks in the ass.

In Chinese, the word "crisis" is composed of two characters. One represents danger, the other opportunity. There has been no English equivalent until now.

The Beauty and Truth Lab has retooled an English term to convey a similar meaning: "kairos." Originally borrowed from Greek, "kairos" has traditionally meant "time of destiny, critical turning point, propitious moment for decision or action." In its most precise usage, it refers to a special season that is charged with significance and is outside of normal time. Its opposite is the Greek chronos, which refers to the drone of the daily rhythm.

These meanings provide the root of our new definition of the word. As of now, when used in the context of a discussion of pronoia, "kairos" will have the sense of "a good crisis, a rich problem, a productive difficulty."

"We should feel excited about the problems we confront and our ability to deal with them," says Robert Anton Wilson. "Solving problems is one of the highest and most sensual of all our brain functions."

The definition of "happiness" in the Beauty and Truth Lab's "Outlaw Dictionary of Pronoiac Memes" is "the state of mind that results from cultivating interesting, useful problems."

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"The opposite of a correct statement is a false statement," said the physicist Niels Bohr. "But the opposite of a profound truth may well be another profound truth."


The Dalai Lama says: "I call the high and light aspects of my being spirit and the dark and heavy aspects soul.

"Soul is at home in the deep, shaded valleys. Heavy torpid flowers saturated with black grow there. The rivers flow like warm syrup.

"Spirit is a land of high, white peaks and glittering jewel -­ like lakes and flowers. Life is sparse and sounds travel great distances."

—The Dalai Lama, as quoted by James Hillman in *A Blue Fire*


You Go Both Ways

"Chiaroscurofy" is a word that means "to find a comfortable place where you are partially in darkness and partially illuminated, or half in shadow and half in sunlight." You may actually do this someday.

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I want to be transparent about the fact that my spiritual practice and my relationship with the Divine Intelligence are at the heart of everything I do and say. All that I publish is deeply colored by my love of Goddess.

Among the understandings that fosters in me: I'm welcoming toward people who don't have similar inclinations; I'm fine with you NOT having spiritual views or having spiritual views that are different from mine.


I want to say more on the subject: People often tell me how horrible and awful and malignant and destructive all religion is. They are quite sure that religion is responsible for the majority of the world's problems, that religion is the cause of most wars, and that there is nothing at all redemptive or benevolent about any religion anywhere anytime.

These people often don't seem to recognize that there are types of religious paths other than the fundamentalist varieties of mainstream religions. If they've heard of shamanism and indigenous spirituality, for example, they are oddly dissociated from the prospect of evaluating those practices as quests for transcendent religious experiences.

They make no acknowledgment of the abundance of organized religious and spiritual practices that comprise the total human experience—like, for example, Sufism, paganism, Qabala and Kabbalah, shamanism, Tantra, Western Hermetic Magick, Taoism, Hinduism, African diaspora religions like Vodou, Candomblé, and Santeria, various kinds of Buddhism, Bahai, and mystical Christianity.

They don't seem to be aware that most of those systems have deities and spirit beings, and many have characters like angels and faeries.

Here's my response: I truly have no urge to convince the religion-despisers and the staunch or even fanatic atheists that they should change their minds. I am glad they have views that are right and healthy for them. I feel the same about people who are apathetic toward religion and deities. Follow your truth!

However, I want them to know that I myself am a first-degree, totally devoted worshiper of Goddess. My daily communions and conversations with Her are the highlights of my life. I have also studied and loved Western Hermetic Magick and Qabalah for decades.

That means I have prayed and carried out Qabalistic meditations and performed ceremonial magick and done a whole lot of things that religious and spiritual people do. My intimate relationship with the Invisible Realms is primary. It is at core of my life, and informs every single thing I do.

Again, I have no desire at all for you to be like me; no wish for you to think and act like I do. My hope is for you to be yourself, purely and strongly.

But I feel it's important that readers of mine who hate religion or feel apathetic about it should know the truth about me. Whenever you read anything I write, you should know that it has originated in my connection with the Divine Intelligence—the One Being in the Universe who is the source of us all.


I will add that my passion for social justice is rooted in my spiritual practice. My intimate relationship with the Divine Intelligence fuels my quest to undo all that contributes to patriarchy, misogyny, bigotry, racism, oppression of LGBTQIA people, the perpetrators of ecocide, militarism, and plutocracy.


PS: In my view, there is no hard, fast, unambiguous distinction between religion and spirituality. I see many people fond of citing them as being different, but I don't share that idea.

A reader said to me, "I too worship Goddess, but not in any set form with set dogma, and that I think is the difference between religion and spiritual practice. In one word the difference is certainty. People who worship a religion are certain of the name of their god they are certain of their attributes, they treat the spiritual as a static unchanging experience. When actual spiritual practice is the opposite of certain, it is as variable as life itself."

My responses to that reader:

No one develops their "spiritual" views and practices in isolation. We are always borrowing and adopting from views and practices that have come before and that we have heard about.

My experience of people with religious inclinations, including myself, is that they are often NOT at all certain. That's why faith is a key component in spiritual and religious practices.

No one I know who worships Goddess has come to understand Goddess sheerly on the strength of their inner connections with Goddess. We have ALL learned from other humans about how to perceive, understand, and worship Goddess.

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Notice how you feel as you speak the following: "The strong, independent part of me resisted the embarrassing truth for a long time, but I finally came to accept that I'm someone who craves vast amounts of love.

"Ever since I surrendered to this need, it doesn't nag me all the time, as it used to. In fact, it feels comforting, like a source of sweetness that doesn't go away. I never thought I'd say this, but I've come to treasure the feeling of having a voracious yearning to be loved."

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Code words for experiments in enhancing your lust for life:

numinous: (adj.) describing an experience that makes you overwhelmed yet fascinated, awed yet attracted—the powerful, personal feeling of being viscerally inspired

ostranenie: (n.) encouraging people to see common things as strange, wild, or unfamiliar; defamiliarizing what is known in order to know it differently or more deeply

smultronställe: (n.) "place of wild strawberries"; a special place discovered, treasured, returned to for solace and relaxation; a personal idyll free from stress or sadness

rasasvada: (n.) the taste of bliss in the absence of all thoughts

firgun: (n.) the act of sharing in or even contributing to someone else's pleasure or fortune, with a purely generous heart and without jealousy

Mudita: (n.) sympathetic or unselfish joy, or joy in the good fortune of others.

vorfreude : (n.) the joyful, intense anticipation that comes from imagining future pleasures

unne (adj.) to be happy on someone else’s behalf.

compersion (n.) an empathetic state of happiness and joy experienced when another individual experiences happiness and joy.

The words and definitions are from

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Experiments and exercises in becoming a joyfully unpredictable, blithely receptive, uproariously sensitive Master of Smart Love

1. What causes happiness? Brainstorm about it. Map out the foundations of your personal science of joy. Get serious about defining what makes you feel good.

To get you started, I'll name some experiences that might rouse your gratification: engaging in sensual pleasure; seeking the truth; being kind and moral; contemplating the meaning of life; escaping your routine; purging pent-up emotions.

Do any of these work for you? Name at least ten more.


2. When many people talk about their childhoods, they emphasize the alienating, traumatic experiences they had, and fail to report the good times. This seems dishonest—a testament to the popularity of cynicism rather than a reflection of objective truth.

I don't mean to downplay the way your early encounters with pain demoralized your spirit. But as you reconnoiter the promise of pronoia, it's crucial for you to extol the gifts you were given in your early years: all the helpful encounters, kind teachings, and simple acts of grace that helped you bloom.


3. "You can't wait for inspiration," proclaimed writer Jack London. "You have to go after it with a club." That sounds too violent to me, though I agree in principle that aggressiveness is the best policy in one's relationship with inspiration.

Try this: Don't wait for inspiration. Go after it with a butterfly net, lasso, sweet treats, fishing rod, court orders, beguiling smells, and sincere flattery.


4. Have you ever seen the game called "Playing the Dozens"? Participants compete in the exercise of hurling witty insults at each other.

Here are some examples: "You're so dumb, if you spoke your mind you'd be speechless." "Your mother is so old, she was a waitress at the Last Supper." "You're so ugly, you couldn't get laid if you were a brick."

I invite you to rebel against any impulse in you that resonates with the spirit of "Playing the Dozens." Instead, try a new game, "Paying the Tributes."

Choose worthy targets and ransack your imagination to come up with smart, true, and amusing praise about them.

The best stuff will be specific to the person you're addressing, not generic, but here are some prototypes: 1. "You're so far-seeing, you can probably catch a glimpse of the back of your own head." 2. "You're so ingenious, you could use your nightmares to get rich and famous." 3. "Your mastery of pronoia is so artful, you could convince me to love my worst enemy."


5. In response to our culture's ever-rising levels of noise and frenzy, rites of purification have become more popular. Many people now recognize the value of taking periodic retreats. Withdrawing from their usual compulsions, they go on fasts, avoid mass media, practice celibacy, or even abstain from speaking.

While we applaud cleansing ceremonies like this, we recommend balancing them with periodic outbreaks of an equal and opposite custom: the Bliss Blitz.

During this celebration, you tune out the numbing banality of the daily grind. But instead of shrinking into asceticism, you indulge in uninhibited explorations of joy, release, and expansion.

Turning away from the mildly stimulating distractions you seek out when you're bored or worried, you become inexhaustibly resourceful as you search for unsurpassable sources of cathartic pleasure.

Try it for a day or a week: the Bliss Blitz.


6. Take inventory of the extent to which your "No" reflex dominates your life. Notice for 24 hours (even in your dreams) how often you say or think:
"That's not right."
"I don't like them."
"I don't agree with that."
"They don't like me."
"That should be different from what it is."
Then retrain yourself to say "YES" at least 51 percent of the time. Start the transformation by saying "YES" aloud 22 times right now.


7. "There are two ways for a person to look for adventure," said the Lone Ranger, an old TV character. "By tearing everything down, or building everything up."

Give an example of each from your own life.


8. Entomologist Justin O. Schmidt drew up an index to categorize the discomfort caused by stinging insects.

The attack of the bald-faced hornet is "rich, hearty, slightly crunchy. Similar to getting your hand mashed in a revolving door."

A paper wasp delivers pain that's "caustic and burning," with a "distinctly bitter aftertaste. Like spilling a beaker of hydrochloric acid on a paper cut."

The sweat bee, on the other hand, can hurt you in a way that's "light, ephemeral, almost fruity. A tiny spark has singed a single hair on your arm."

In bringing this to your attention, I want to inspire the pronoiac rebel in you. Your homework is to create an equally nuanced and precise index of three experiences that feel really good.


9. Late at night when there's no traffic, stride down the middle of an empty road that by day is crawling with cars.

Dance, careen, and sing songs that fill you with pleasurable emotions.

Splay your arms triumphantly as you extemporize prayers in which you make extravagant demands and promises.

Give pet names to the trees you pass, declare your admiration for the workers who made the road, and celebrate your sovereignty over a territory that usually belongs to heavy machines and their operators.


10. Go to the ugliest or most forlorn place you know—a drugstore parking lot, the front porch of a crack house, a toxic waste dump, or the place that symbolizes your secret shame—and build a shrine devoted to beauty, truth, and love.

Here are some suggestions about what to put in your shrine: a silk scarf; a smooth rock on which you've inscribed a haiku or joke with a felt-tip pen; coconut cookies or ginger candy; pumpkin seeds and an origami crane; a green kite shaped like a dragon; a music CD you love; a photo of your hero; a votive candle carved with your word of power; a rubber ducky; a bouquet of fresh beets; a print of Van Gogh's Starry Night.

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I am quite sure that I would no longer be living on the Earth as "Rob Brezsny" if it hadn't been for the interventions of Western medicine and the pharmaceutical companies. So of course I'm grateful for their gifts to me.

On the other hand, that doesn't mean I approve of everything they do and think they are perfect servants. Not at all.

I passionately criticize the terrible things pharmaceutical companies have done (like their role in furthering the opioid epidemic and mass death from overdose), and I am angry that some practitioners of Western medicine don't make better use of the many fine alternative healing methods that are available.

F. Scott Fitzgerald's principle applies here: "The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function."


I have used alternative medicine for over 30 years, too, and it has provided me with a lot of wonderful healing: Chinese Medicine and herbs, acupuncture, homeopathy, cranial sacral therapy, guided visualization, supplements, Somatic Experiencing, and medical intuitive counseling.

BUT . . . I have on several occasions had bad reactions to alternative treatments. The most egregious example was my experience with a naturopath in 2008. His treatment made me sick in ways that took a long time to recover from. I was much too trusting for far too long.

The point being, every healing modality has risks.

The point being: I can hold in my mind the seemingly contradictory ideas that various healing treatments may be helpful or may be hurtful.

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Gary Snyder says: "Our bodies are wild. The involuntary quick turn of the head at a shout, the vertigo at looking off a precipice, the heart-in-the-throat in a moment of danger, the catch of the breath, the quiet moments relaxing, staring, reflecting -- are universal responses of this mammal body.

"The body does not require the intercession of some conscious intellect to make it breathe, to keep the heart beating. It is to a great extent self-regulating, it is a life of its own.

"Sensation and perception do not exactly come from outside, and unremitting thought and image-flow are not exactly outside. The world is our consciousness, and it surrounds us. There are more things in the mind, in the imagination, than ‘you’ can keep track of -- thoughts, memories, images, angers, delights, rise unbidden.

"The depths of the mind, the unconscious, are our inner wilderness areas, and that is where a bobcat is right now. I do not mean personal bobcats in personal psyches -- the bobcat that roams from dream to dream.
"The conscious agenda-planning ego occupies a very tiny territory, a little cubicle somewhere near the gate, keeping track of some of what goes in and out (and sometimes making expansionist plots), and the rest takes care of itself. The body is, so to speak, in the mind. They are both wild."

- Gary Snyder, The Practice of the Wild

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