I figured out why I hate gambling so much. It’s because I hate to lose. I really, really hate to lose, and whatever pleasure I gain from winning is overpowered by how much I suffer from losing.

Any activity that even remotely resembles gambling produces this reaction. What we call “investing,” in real estate, precious metals, the stock market…to me it’s all simply gambling.

All activities pose a certain amount of risk. If you believe in the magical power of certain prayers, then the time you spent praying was wasted time. Time lost. If you borrow money from banks to make real estate investments, then you’re almost certainly a loser. If you did this in 2008, as I did, then you were an idiot. If you worked for Goldman Sachs, then you were a winner.

Plunging in recklessly beyond your depth is a good way to find out how little you enjoy gambling.

Since I can’t dig myself out of a hole, the only thing I can do to remedy my situation is stop digging. Stop in this hole and in any other holes I might be inspired to create.

There’s a practical reason to narrow my focus besides avoiding the pain of loss from games of chance. I only have so much I can pay attention to. As I grow older, I find the beam of my attention grows narrower. Time grows short, and simply taking care of what’s in front of me is all I can hope for. So no more “investing” for this retiree on a fixed income.

Jung Meets Polanski


That which is too difficult to consciously process is stored in the unconscious mind. It does not disappear. As Carl Jung said, “Whatever does not emerge as consciousness returns as destiny.”

Nobody wants to be Mr. Potter. We’d all like to think of ourselves as George Bailey. Even misers don’t think they’re the problem; they conclude that free spending other people have money problems. We all would like to experience a generous spirit, a feeling of belonging, the assurance that our contentment does not depend on the actions of others but on our own true nature expressing itself in any and all circumstances.

If we’re not feeling that way now, we conclude it’s because others are holding us back. Circumstances dictate, but once they change, we’ll be able to relax and enjoy the present moment. We’ll choose to go out past the city lights and gaze at the stars. We’ll have the patience to develop a hobby. We’ll finally excel at things that delight us because we’ll no longer be driven by anxiety. We’ll have all the time in the world.

In our best moments, we realize that we’re choosing not to enjoy this contentment. Prodded by unreasonable fears, goaded by illogical desires, we toss and turn in this waking dream. “If only he/she/they would…then I could be happy.” “As soon as (insert somewhat plausible condition here) happens, then I’ll relax and stop fighting things.” Except the happy day never arrives. There’s always another unreasonable fear, another illogical desire.

This is how the unconscious mind manifests in our daily lives. It’s like a malevolent movie director (Polanski?) who makes brilliant but troubling films. We’re fascinated by the stories even though they make us feel troubled. We identify the characters and the tormet they endure, but maybe we’re relieved to find that we’re not that bad yet. Small consolation for a big problem.

Digital Fog



Many people smirk when they tell you “I don’t do social media.” They are above it. One imagines they spend hours in blissful contemplation over a good book, or perhaps engaging in what we used to quaintly describe as “writing” but is now known as “content creation.”

Maybe they glance up from their book occasionally, go online and look around. If they don’t like what they see they hunker down and try to tune out the monotonous drone of discourse that is not so much arguing over concepts as it is preaching to the choir. It’s not debate, it’s a pep rally. If you dare to say something on social media which irritates your fan base, you will soon hear plenty back at you. There is ample pressure to conform.

I’m learning some Handel keyboard pieces that he wrote when he was about nineteen. He and Bach were contemporaries and from almost the same part of what is now Germany. It’s hard to imagine one spot on earth turning out more pure musical genius than those two possessed.

I imagine there was a lot of pressure to conform back then when they were young and just making their way, but somehow I don’t think they let it get them down. They were alive with musical ideas, bursting with creativity, and they didn’t need focus groups and research studies that counted “likes” in order to forge ahead. They must have been as delighted by their creative output as we are today.

So we don’t need massive societal support to successfully be ourselves. We don’t even need dialogue. Bach once walked several days to hear a famous organist play. There were no recordings, no radio, no iTunes. None of that is necessary to reach great artistic heights.

If this whole Internet comes crashing down, the world will not be a worse place for it. It will simply be different. Songs will be written and performed, stories read and recited, dramas enacted, all without digital help. The blind English poet laureate John Milton used to compose his verses during the day and when his daughter came to cook him dinner at night, he would narrate to her his output for the day and she would write it down. Even late in life his mind was that sharp.

The digital fog that pretends to be so much will reveal the true nature of things after it’s been burned away.




God knows I’m as guilty of Internet addiction as anybody. I’ve posted so much on Facebook that I’ve lost most of my early “friends.” They’ve had to unfollow me so I wouldn’t overwhelm their Facebook feed.

Writing is work, sometimes hard work. It usually follows thinking, maybe even ruminating, which are forms of concentration, also hard work. Again, the restless mind rebels. Sharing memes is easy as is “liking” the posts of others. Instead of thinking, composing my thoughts and writing them down, it’s much less cumbersome to identify myself with a brand. Rather than formulate my own opinions or reiterate those of others, I can simply join their brand. “I’m a Noam Chomsky kind of guy.”

Nowadays this passes for self-expression. The background for this fundamental change in communication began with advertising. Most of do not consider ourselves intellectuals, but we are all consumers of products, and advertisers assure us that our shopping choices tell the world who we are. The brand and color of my telephone says a lot about me.

Teenagers focus on their musical preferences as a way to quickly inform others who might want to become friends or lovers as to what kind of person they are. In fact, this was the original function of Facebook; to help college students meet others who shared their musical tastes.

But this is dumbed-down communication, with none of the subtlety or complexity of real conversations. There is no discourse. No one is talking back and forth, they’re simply grandstanding. Everyone is in transmit mode, but no one is listening.

So we now have the perfect President for our culture at this time. A recent article in Salon described a reporter who met with Trump a few years ago. He said “he was clearly emotionally impaired: in constant need of approbation; lacking impulse control, self-awareness or awareness of others. We’d heard tales of his monumental vanity, but were still shocked by the sad spectacle of him.”

This is both sad and lonely. In villages I’ve visited in the developing world, people spend a lot of time simply hanging out together and talking. In Chiang Mai, Thailand, I remember seeing a woman join another group of women at a market. They were sitting on concrete very close to a busy highway, and most people would consider such this a difficult job in a horrible setting, but the expression on her face told me otherwise. They were all selling the same thing, bananas. As she sat down, she was smiling, preparing to talk to her friends and watch traffic go by. She knew why she was there, and whether or not she sold many bananas, I bet when she went to bed that night she didn’t wrestle with remorse or self-condemnation.

The problem with being a big shot, even only in your own mind, is the expectations are so high you can rarely succeed. If other people are aware of your ambition they will either dislike and avoid you, or try to stop you from succeeding. The more egocentric you become, the less credit you will give those around you. Your sensitivity to their feelings will also be low. Not only will those around you suffer, but you will find yourself lonely and isolated.

This may well be the future of our online society. Post photos of your vacation, your happy children, your bucket list accomplishments, and you will only inspire envy at best and revulsion at worst. As we scroll down the torrent, we will see an endless parade of self-appointed pundits, clueless analysts, faux journalists, all clamoring for an audience. Not many are listening or reading. Scrolling and browsing, are hypnotic activities that are addictive only because they are so rarely rewarding.

It has been said before that modern life is mostly one of indulging in addictions that we try to pretend are merely preferences, but secretly know to be snares. Shopping, sexual hook ups, and now discourse itself. Or what pretends to be discourse, but is actually grandstanding.