Fear Really Is the Mind Killer

There’s wisdom everywhere, if you are ready for it. Late science-fiction author Frank Herbert definitely tapped into a large store of it when he wrote his masterpiece Dune. One particular passage from that book has stood the test of time better than any other bit, even to the point of becoming part of popular culture—the “Litany Against Fear”. It’s message is as practical and relevant in our current times as it has been since humans became conscious….

Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past me I will turn to see fear’s path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.

There is so much fear in the world today, even though our world is more peaceful and prosperous and offers greater potential for happiness and greatness than ever before. We’ve forgotten that “there is nothing to fear but fear itself,” as one of our wiser former presidents tried to remind us. And it’s easy to forget the many Biblical exhortations to “fear not” and “be not afraid” as well.

There’s good reason for such wisdom to be repeated by many leaders and writers throughout our history…Fear destroys that which makes us human. I mean this in a literal sense—fear gears us up for the fight-or-flight response, and completely shuts down our higher reasoning functions. It lobotomizes us. Admittedly, we evolved this way for our own survival, but even back when being wary of crocodiles and leopards was a big deal, becoming paralyzed by fear was equally unhelpful.

So I implore you, dear reader, to pay no attention to politicians and public figures who advocate hate and fear. (Yes, I am particularly talking about Trump, although he’s certainly neither the first nor the only blowhard to capitalize on the effects of fear on the public). Instead, have pity for them–they’re trapped in their own inner ruts of fear, inadequacy, anger, and uncertainty, and are only praying on others to make themselves feel better and fill the gaps in their own lives.

Remind yourself with the Litany above, and many other sources of wisdom written down through the ages, that fear is only ever “False Evidence Appearing Real”. It’s only in our heads, and rarely reflects reality. And even when things are going to shit, remember that fear only prevents us from using our natural intelligence to creatively come up with solutions, solve problems, grow, and make things better for ourselves and everyone else.

Let us all remember that we always have Choice—to change our perspective, to change our perceptions, to change our attitude, to change our expectations, and to change our lives, for the better. And also remember…

Yoda's quote about fear

Fear not!

On Immigration and ISIS

Immigration is good. Full stop. Illegal or otherwise; from war-torn regions or peaceful ones; no matter what the religion or background of the immigrants. It’s merely a fearful reaction of modern xenophobia to think otherwise. And on top of that, rejecting immigrants from the Middle East in this particular case is giving terrorists exactly what they want.

The recent outpouring of reactionary, fearful closed-mindedness makes me quite sad, not only as a human being with compassion, but as someone who hasn’t forgotten history. Even recent history—the world since 2001—is enough of an education to help us make much more reasonable decisions about our way forward than most pundits, and a vocal segment of the public, would have you believe.

There. Now that I have your attention, and maybe offended some of you already (pushing buttons is great 1st Amendment fun!), let’s dive into the depths of this issue with a bit more nuance.

Note: I will herein refer to ISIS/ISIL/IS as “Daesh” (technically, more accurately transcribed and pronounced as “Da’ish”), as has been suggested by many. It’s one minor way to delegitimize the terror group.

Although volumes could be written on the intersection of violence, terror, immigration, refugees, demographics, economics, and religion—volumes have already been written—I’m going to confine my thoughts here to (relatively) brief, evidence- and rationality-backed, long-term-outlook reminders.

Let’s get this out of the way first: The Governors who’ve stated they will deny Syrian refugees are shortsighted, ignorant, fear-pandering assholes.

Firstly, they have no authority whatsoever to restrict the State Department from bringing refugees into these United States, and they have no authority whatsoever to restrict refugees or immigrants from traveling to their states. These are basic, Constitutionally-based, long-established facts of our wonderful system of government and the rule of law. Refer to the Constitution (Article 1, Section 8, Clause 4), the Refugee Act of 1980, US v Guest (1966); and Saenz v Roe (1999), for starters.

And don’t even get me started on the chatter about a “religious test” for refugees. That’s some of the most despicable, un-American, un-Constitutional, backwards bullshit I’ve heard spewed from the mouth of a politician in years. It is startling how little self-awareness the “leaders” who say these things are, since they don’t seem to realize how much they sound like an American version of the Taliban, but even worse, in some respects.

Thankfully, many people on all sides of the political spectrum understand that to deny the refugees would be to deny our American values—in fact, it would be denying basic human rights.

As for the myths (yes, myths) that immigrants and/or refugees cause economic damage or enact violence, I’ll address those ideas below. Needless to say, this cowardly political move by many governors is pitiful.

Of course, these attitudes are nothing new. Those decrying allowing in refugees (or for that matter, any other sort of immigrants) are simply participating in a longstanding American tradition of fear-based, shortsighted bigotry. Just ask the Irish in the 19th century, or Jews before and after WWII, or any number of other ethnic groups throughout the entire history of the US. (Or ask George Takei about his perspective on how Japanese were treated during WWII).

Thankfully, our Founding Fathers, and other leaders since, have remembered that our nation is absolutely built by and made strong through immigrants of all stripes and beliefs (which is one reason I chose a picture of Ellis Island in 1912 to represent this post).

George Washington had it right:

“The bosom of America is open to receive not only the Opulent and respected Stranger, but the oppressed and persecuted of all Nations and Religions; whom we shall welcome to a participation of all our rights and privileges…”

As did Emma Lazarus, whose poetry is still a potent reminder for all who view the Statue of Liberty:

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

But, it’s easy to pass off such ideas as ideals. So let’s get into even more of the nitty-gritty details….

“But what about our Veterans?” is a popular response to talk about refugees and immigrants; “But what about our poor?” These are very good questions. And I agree—to a point. We absolutely must do more to help those who we’ve sent off to fight our battles. And we absolutely would do well to help those in need within our own borders. But it’s purely a false choice to say “we can’t take in immigrants or refugees unless we take care of our own veterans and poor first”. The reality is more complicated, especially in politics.

It’s also telling that in many (although not all) cases, we only seem to care about our veterans and poor when it helps our particular political arguments. We, as a nation, started talking more about our own needy only when illegal immigration became a public topic. And now, with refugees in the public consciousness, there’s suddenly a new push to help our own. Kind of telling.

So please, do something to help the needy! It starts with us, individually. Whether in terms of contacting our representatives to encourage shifting funds to veterans- and homeless- programs, or by arranging help yourself in your hometown—it starts with us.

But this has nothing to do with denying refugees or limiting immigration. Welcoming more people into our great nation only serves to make us stronger, adds to the economy (see below), and encourages more and more people to support each other and build community.

Immigrants and refugees only contribute to our economy and greatness in the long run.

First, I’ll mention a practical bit that many overlook, in light of the many governors clamoring to deny refugees access to our amazing nation—refugees are not a financial burden on states. There has been money Congressionally designated for public assistance and state reimbursement for expenses of settling refugees for a very long time, and it’s not costing anything extra.

Secondly, and more importantly, let’s look at the bigger picture of demographics. It’s easy to overlook long term trends when there are so many shorter-term cycles to pay attention to (e.g. we see this problem all the time with discussions about climate change). But long-term demographic effects are real, well-studied, and go a long way to explaining a lot of what’s on the news [PDF].

One particularly important point to remember is that immigration is one of the factors that’s helping to keep the USA as a superpower for the near future. We’re one of the few developed nations that isn’t suffering from demographically-damaging population aging, let alone economy-destroying population decline, and immigration is a big part of that [PDF].

Meahwhile, Japan is in big trouble—they’re back in a recession and demographics is a huge part of it. China (and to a lesser extent, India) are in for rocky times ahead thanks to their aging populations and imbalanced gender-ratios. Italy and other Western European nations are poised for further downturns if they don’t have more babies. And Russia is just plain dying.

This isn’t new information. [PDF]

The thing is, more than most other factors, it’s actually immigration (illegal as well as legal) that’s keeping the US in a good position going forward. Latin American immigrants filled a population gap during Generation X, and continued immigration from multiple regions is helping to offset the aging population and declining birth rate of non-immigrant Americans.

People also enjoy shouting about immigrants (illegal, refugees, or otherwise) “taking our jobs”. Well, just examine the grand experiment that several Southern states enacted regarding this very topic. Fact is, immigrant populations are economically complementary, not competitive. Illegal immigrants do work that even the lowest income-bracket Americans are loathe to do (which is an issue in itself, but that’s another blog post…). Not to mention that legal immigrants and refugees have made numerous major contributions to our great nation and to our economy. (Steve Jobs’ father was a refugee from Syria!)

Immigrants and refugees are not violent and don’t increase crime.

Since 9/11, the majority of terrorist acts on US soil have been perpetrated by domestic, non-Muslim groups and individuals, including many of the worst attacks. Police and federal law enforcement all label domestic right-wing extremism as MUCH more of a threat than any imported variety.

Even the Tsarnaev brothers are much more home-grown terrorists than externally radicalized ones—they grew up in the United States and their ideas were formed here (although psychological factors due to their youth in war-torn Chechnya are also significant…But just another reason to reach out and bring people into our communities and actually connect with them).

And I won’t even get into the fact that we’re still living in the statistically safest time to be alive as a human being in history, despite the constant threats we feel from the 24/7 sensationalist new cycle in this Age of Information…That’ll be for another blog post, too.

If anything, refugees and immigrants of all types and nationalities are significantly LESS likely to be involved in any sort of crime, violent or otherwise. Opening our arms and creating spaces where people are welcome makes things better, and safer, for everyone.

Again, believing that every refugee is a violent terrorist or sleeper agent is EXACTLY what groups like Daesh want you to believe, since it sews discord, weakens international bonds, and creates more disaffected people to prey upon.

The very fact that Paris attackers have few, if any, ties to the current wave of immigration sweeping Europe just further underlines this point. They know what they’re doing in terms of propaganda.

Don’t give the terrorists what they want.

Daesh wants us to fear immigrants and vilify the Islamic world.

By denying immigrants and refugees, we are literally handing Daesh exactly what it wants—further strife, more disaffected and disenfranchised people from whom to draw more desperate fighters. Anti-Muslim bigotry is tantamount to giving such radical terror groups military aid (which we have already done, more directly, time after time in the past). We are letting the despicable terrorists win by allowing them to divide us—“divide and conquer” is one of the oldest tricks in the book, and we’re falling for it.

They’re actually winning a PR-war against us by inciting our unaddressed fears, and using people that want nothing to do with their hideous ideology to do it.

We (the West, and the US in particular) created Daesh, and perpetuating cycles of violence is simply not the answer if we want an actual, long-term solution to such violent nonsense.

Although powers have fought proxy wars since nations were first formed, and despite the US [as an entity, mostly] intending the best with all it has done throughout the world in the 20th century and into the 21st, that’s no excuse for not learning from our mistakes and taking a more long-term approach going forward.

It may be cliché, and I know many will immediately dismiss this and brand me naïve, but violence is not the answer any more, especially in this Information Age, and especially regarding the Middle East. The cycles will not—cannot!—end until someone steps up and acts like an adult. Until the powers at be actually begin to act like they deserve our support and think of more than their pockets and the next election cycle.

Please ask Israel and Palestine (as but one example) how “eye-for-an-eye” is working out for them.

Containment is a part of the solution for the Daesh problem, and it doesn’t require vindictive, vengeful destruction. They will burn themselves out, as all regimes built on fear ultimately do, but only if we stop feeding them.

Allowing, if not outright encouraging immigration from these troubled areas is another powerful tool that can destroy these radical groups. As outlined above, immigration betters the economy, helps to build a worldwide community, and takes the teeth out of the ideologies of groups like Daesh.

There’s a reason why it’s a Trope that the bad guys always end up losing—because they mistrust each other and have no regard for themselves, others, or life in general. And there’s a reason why it’s a Trope that the good guys can’t help but win as long as they stick together, open their arms with love and trust, and go about making the world better for everyone.

The Golden Rule is a practical tool to win this war.

These ideas are not new.

Especially with regards to immigration and refugees, the Bible has many words of wisdom for us. Whether in the Old Testament

33 When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. 34 The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt…. [Leviticus 19:33-34]

Or the New:

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position.  Do not be conceited.

17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 On the contrary:

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”

21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” [Romans 12:14-21; emphasis mine]

The wisdom we need to harness has been shared by every master, philosophy, religion, and holy text throughout history and the world. “Treat others how you would want to be treated” isn’t some abstract, woo-woo, hippy-dippy bullshit, it’s an actual, practical methodology. What is useless, though, is just sitting back and “praying” for Paris, or Beirut, or the poor, etc. Do something. Even if it’s just bettering yourself as a person.

Peace starts with us. You and I, here and now.

When individual relationships are healthier, then our families will be healthier. When our families are healthier, then our communities will be healthier. When our communities are healthier, then our nations will be healthier. And when our nations are healthier, then we can enjoy greater happiness and prosperity on Earth than humanity has ever seen.

Gandhi was completely right:

“If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. … We need not wait to see what others do.”

It starts with us. But practically so. Take steps to understand and love yourself, so that you can understand and love your neighbor. And then also take steps to actually help your neighbors. Form a community. Choose another way other than conflict. Other than falling prey to our basest fears.

…And if you don’t want to pay attention to my words, or those of the Bible writers, or of the US Presidents, or of Gandhi…Then how about the Dalai Lama’s:

“People want to lead a peaceful lives. The terrorists are short-sighted, and this is one of the causes of rampant suicide bombings. We cannot solve this problem only through prayers. I am a Buddhist and I believe in praying. But humans have created this problem, and now we are asking God to solve it. It is illogical. God would say, solve it yourself because you created it in the first place.

“We need a systematic approach to foster humanistic values, of oneness and harmony. If we start doing it now, there is hope that this century will be different from the previous one. It is in everybody’s interest. So let us work for peace within our families and society, and not expect help from God, Buddha or the governments.”

Such a solution is not easy. And it is not quick. And it will take concerted effort by a large portion of humanity. But the rewards are beyond question.

I hope this all helps you, my dear reader, to ponder, explore, open up, and grow.

May you all have all the peace, harmony, contentment, and wellbeing you desire.


I highly recommend exploring all of the various links I provide in essay above, but if you’re an ardent bibliovore and yearn for yet more content, these additional references should sate your appetite:

More linguistic background on calling ISIS Daesh: Free Word Center

More info on why immigration, illegal or otherwise, is good for us all, from CNN Money of all places!

The Age Curve by Kenneth Gronbach is an excellent book that delves into how demographic shifts explain (and predict) so much of what happens in society.

“What ISIS Really Wants”—an excellent and in-depth exploration of what Daesh is all about. Worth the time to read: The Atlantic

“Digging Down to the Roots of Radicalism”—a solid examination of the origins of terror, with specific reference to Paris: Good Magazine

Lastly, but most definitely not least, “7 Thoughts on Syrian Refugees & the Gospel”—some meditations from a devout Christian on the topic at hand: Josh Howerton (Blog)

On Thinking

I’m an addict.

But I’m not alone. Chances are you’re an addict as well, to some degree. It’s hard to avoid becoming an addict when you grow up ensconced in modern society.

I’m talking about thinking, of course. Even though we are all so much more than our brains, 99% of us live mostly in our minds as our physical, emotional, and spiritual selves gradually atrophy.

We’re taught from a young age to sit still, with eyes forward, and pay attention to whomever’s in front of us, or we’ll never amount to anything or have the freedom we were already born with. What a burden for a kid to deal with! Soon our minds are racing as we ponder the implications, trying to contain our natural, inborn expansiveness. We spend more and more time fretting about our past behaviors and thoughts, and projecting and worrying about the future.

Eventually, we forget what it was even like to be fully present in the moment, in our bodies. We forget what it’s like to feel and experience the entire range of natural human emotions. We forget what it’s like to even consider the spiritual.

This leads to tremendous unevenness in life—a lack of balance among the various parts that make us human beings—that then trips us up over and over again. When we live mostly in our heads we get mired and stuck in endlessly echoing reverberations of thought. On top of that, repetitive worry leads to overproduction of cortisol (the stress hormone), which has all manner of negative health effects over time.

Runaway thought also prevents us from moving forward and growing after a trauma—whether the loss of a loved one, a difficult breakup, a change of careers, a wrench in our routines…Small or large, our out-of-control thoughts usually only serve to trap us in a rut. There’s a reason why the most common bit of practical advice after a major life change is to “just get out there and do something.” Action at least temporarily takes us out of our heads.

Now, it is true that we wouldn’t want to swing too far in the other direction, either—our minds are as much a part of us as our bodies. But the trick is to get to a place where the mind is a tool, not a puppetmaster. Just like our hands do what we tell them to do without question, our minds can be trained to provide the answers we seek without taking us over or running amok.

It is indeed difficult to de-program ourselves after a lifetime of such mental-centric training, but I assure you that it is possible. There are many ways to go about reclaiming ourselves and our lives from our thoughts, and I’ll share a few here.

Mindfulness and meditation really can have a huge impact on harnessing our thoughts, instead of our thoughts harnessing us. Nearly any style of meditation you find out there can help, but even something as simple as sitting quietly with your eyes closed, and focusing on the feeling of your breath going in and out of your nose can be powerful, even if for just 5 or 10 minutes a day.

And something to keep in mind regarding meditation—it’s never about stopping thinking. Don’t resist the thoughts that will naturally come. Just realize that there’s a part of you separate from your stream of thoughts, and that separate part of your awareness can just notice the thoughts, let them flow, and watch them disappear. Eventually, over time and practice, the flow of thoughts will naturally slow to a drip, and maybe even disappear briefly. That’s when you’re truly enjoying the moment as a multifaceted human being, able to utilize your own mind as a wonderful tool.

Exercise and repetitive tasks can also be meditations of sorts. A nice long walk or jog or trail run not only has physiological benefits that alter your neurochemistry, but it’ll naturally bring you out of your mind and into your body as well. And there’s a reason why so many anecdotes about Zen practitioners involve sweeping the floor, or raking sand, or other such “mindless” repetitive tasks—just like paying attention to your breath, you can dive into repetitive tasks to the point where the mind will naturally quiet down. Even doing the dishes can lead to “enlightenment”!

Finally, there are also loads of wonderful and insightful books available that explore mindfulness, being in our bodies, and generally harnessing the mind instead of being a slave to our minds. Two of my favorites are Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now, and Daniele Bolelli’s On the Warrior’s Path.

I’ll leave you all with an amusing little parable that perfectly captures the freedom that comes from getting out of your heads, that I highly recommend reading regularly as a reminder:

Heavy Thinking

It started out innocently enough. I began to think at parties now and then to loosen up. Inevitably though, one thought led to another, and soon I was more than just a social thinker.

I began to think alone—”to relax,” I told myself—but I knew it wasn’t true. Thinking a bit gradually became thinking all the time.

I began to think on the job. I knew that thinking and employment don’t mix, but I couldn’t stop myself.

I began to avoid friends at lunchtime so I could read Thoreau and Kafka. I would return to the office dizzied and confused, asking, “What is it exactly we are doing here?”

Things weren’t going so great at home either. One evening I turned off the TV and asked my wife about the meaning of life. She spent the night at her mother’s.

I soon had a reputation as a heavy thinker. One day the boss called me in. He said, “Listen, I like you, and it hurts me to say this, but your thinking has become a real problem. If you don’t stop thinking on the job, you’ll have to find another job.” This gave me a lot to think about.

I came home early after my conversation with the boss. “Honey,” I confessed, “I’ve been thinking…”

“I know you’ve been thinking,” she said, “and I want a divorce!”

“But honey, surely it’s not that serious.”

“It is serious,” she said, lower lip aquiver. “You think as much as a college professor, and college professors don’t make any money, so if you keep on thinking we won’t have any money!”

“That’s a faulty syllogism,” I said impatiently, and she began to cry.

I’d had enough. “I’m going to the library,” I snarled as I stomped out the door.

I headed for the library with NPR on the radio, in the mood for some Nietzsche. I roared into the parking lot and ran up to the big glass doors…But they didn’t open! The library was closed.

To this day, I believe that a Higher Power was looking out for me that night.

As I sank to the ground clawing at the unfeeling glass, whimpering for Zarathustra, a poster caught my eye: “Friend, is heavy thinking ruining your life?” it asked. You probably recognize that line. It comes from the standard Thinker’s Anonymous poster.

Which is why I am what I am today: a recovering thinker. I never miss a TA meeting. At each meeting we watch a non-educational video—last week it was “Caddyshack.” Then, we share experiences about how we avoided thinking since the last meeting.

I still have my job, and things are a lot better at home.

Life just seemed easier somehow, as soon as I stopped thinking.

This story is unattributed—I discovered it through a talk my mentor Rob Robb gave in 2000, but it also made its rounds on the internet and even in published books, since at least 1997, with minor changes. The earliest attribution I found was in a slightly longer version called “My Confession” by a Bob Worn, probably from the early 1990’s.

A Social Media Cheat Sheet

I was recently commissioned to produce an informal cheat sheet about social media and social networking. The aim of the project is to help Baby Boomers better understand their children and grandchildren, and to better navigate the ever-shifting currents of the intertubes, possibly to wade into the waters themselves.

At first I figured there must already be something out there, but the more I searched, the less I found. Aside from a typically dry and vague Wikipedia page and a bunch of charts geared towards designers or advertisers/SEO experts, there wasn’t much for the general public. But this is a good thing! Because it meant I could actually make a contribution to society (…I know, I’m laughing too).

By the time I finished the cheat sheet and shipped it off to the client, it had morphed into a detailed “educational supplement” and handy deskside reference to the web. (It looks great printed & laminated, too! It won’t be out of date for another few weeks, I promise!) During the design process I also realized that oh so many other people I’ve met could likely benefit from something similar—my own parents included.

So, I’m sharing it with you all here, for you to spread to anyone else in your lives who might benefit from increased internet fluency. Enjoy!

Social Media Cheat Sheet PDF thumb
Download a printable PDF here with fully functional hyperlinks.
Social Media Cheat Sheet thumb
Goto a static JPG image here. 1040x1517px.

*Caveats & Disclaimers*

  1. As I mentioned, this is an informal cheat sheet, not a dutifully fact-checked compendium. I put the bare minimum of research into this, relying mostly on my own knowledge base and personal internet explorations over the last decade or more. The “Core Audience” column in particular is half-sarcastic conjecture, with a dollop of intuition and a pinch of half-remembered data. I did try to get the “# of Users” column correct, though.
  2. Yes, I know I missed [insert your favorite niche social media site here]. Again, I stuck with the basics. But it’s hard to argue with importance of knowing at least half of my list, based on traffic alone.
  3. My Internet Glossary of Terms is also obviously woefully incomplete. But based on conversations I’ve had with n00bs and…people with accumulated wisdom, the few things I did include should give some useful perspective, with some bias toward my own interests.
  4. I don’t shy from using the full, glorious breadth of the English language, so if your grandmother’s neighbor is sensitive to swears, they are welcome to learn about this stuff from another source.

On “Another Middle”

Whether you meant to end up here or not, welcome to my blog! Here, you’ll find links, articles, videos, images, and more that I find interesting, inspirational, amusing, thought-provoking, and assumption-challenging, in addition to random tidbits that I feel like sharing with you all. Enjoy it!


Wherever we are, we’re in the middle. We can see as far ahead of us as we’ve already left behind us. Think of it this way: When you were 5 years old, you could look 4 years back, and imagine about 4 years ahead. Similarly, when you’re 40, most people think in terms of their past 40 years, and project about 50 years into the future.

Another way of looking at this idea is that at every new horizon we reach, we can suddenly see newer and more spectacular horizons still to come. Say you worked your whole life toward the goal of becoming CEO of a company. As soon as you reach that goal, new dreams and goals suddenly pop into being—why not run an even bigger company, or start a second business, or run for public office, or something else entirely?

“Another Middle” therefore signifies that there’s always more to learn and discover, and there are always new ways to look at the world. Personally, I also take it to mean that there’s never any rush to get anywhere or accomplish anything in particular, since there’s nowhere to go—you’re already Here right Now, and there’s nowhere else to be. So have some fun with life!


Since this is as much a personal blog as it is a “professional” one (whatever that means in this day and age), there are several disparate categories of posts here. I’ll explain each.


Although there are fewer of these than other types of posts here on Another Middle, I consider these the primary focus of this blog (I have a number of ideas on deck for Perspectives posts, but they’ll take time to compose and publish). These are the content pieces that I put the most thought and effort into, and where I delve the deepest into the world of ideas, and my own mind.

They are where I bare my soul, and put my thoughts, feelings, intuitions, ideas, connections, experiences, hypotheses, and observations out into the universe, to be shared, applauded, argued, agreed, debunked, debated, and dissected by anyone and everyone. Because I’m a masochist, I suppose.

But also because I feel strongly that the world needs more profound, reasoned, and expansive thoughts out there, to begin to balance the scales against the neverending tide of inanity, banality, triviality, stupidity, ignorance, negativity, and narrowness that constantly clouds Society’s discourse. Though, there is nothing wrong with fart jokes, either.

So I do hope that you, dear electronic passer-by, are able to take the time to read and react to some of what I have to say, and perhaps even share, comment, or connect with me.

Articles of the Moment

These posts began as emails to a small group of family and friends way back in my early college years, and which contained an assortment of articles, studies, and websites that piqued my interest. I’ve been a voracious consumer of internet content for over a decade now, from RSS feeds of EurekAlert, Science Daily, Science News, Futurity, Slashdot, Global Security, and Language Log, to news aggregator sites like Fark and Reddit, among many others. Especially before the Facebook Newsfeed became a ripe ground for sharing such things, emails with links and brief commentary seemed like the best way to spread information.

I have re-posted updated and edited versions of some of my old Articles of the Moment emails here (backdated appropriately), and will continue to fill in old posts over time. I also intend to make new “AotM” posts going forward as well, because there are even more fascinating and potentially life-changing ideas being created than ever before, and despite increased social-media-based news-sharing by everyone these days, most people only encounter a small fraction of them.

We’ll see though. There is a reason I called them Articles of the “Moment”—there’s no way I’d commit to a regular schedule of posting. Real Life keeps getting in the way.


There are no such posts yet, but I do plan on gradually posting bits and pieces of a travelogue I’ve been writing on and off for well over a decade now. These posts will chronicle my adventures during a Gap Year in 2000 and 2001, and will serve as teasers for a book I hope to publish.


Most “Personal” posts are from my college days, and are leftovers ported from a defunct Blogspot page that was somewhat active from 2004 to 2008. They are largely unchanged (merely minimally edited for grammar and flow), but I don’t necessarily have all of the same opinions or beliefs shared in them. It certainly is fascinating reading one’s own writings after many years of intervening growth.

Otherwise, any more recent Personal posts will likely deal with my day-to-day meanderings, travel anecdotes, work experiences, or my family or friends, among other general topics.

Recipes & Reviews

These are pretty self-explanatory, and are bits that every self-respecting “blogger” can’t avoid writing for very long. After all, food and opinions (and opinions about food) are second only to porn in driving web traffic around the world, right?

I don’t post many recipes unless I am supremely impressed with them, or they’re something I have been making myself for a while, since the web is already inundated with amazing food ideas merely a search away.

It’s a similar story with book or movie reviews—I’d sooner leave an Amazon review than post something here, unless the book or movie is exceptionally horrendous or amazing.


This forum for sharing the cacophony of ideas that pop into my head had its roots back in 1998, when I started a Geocities page that I had grandiosely and naively intended to become something like the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Too bad I wasn’t remotely technically skilled, well-connected, or motivated enough, or I might have beaten Jimmy Wales to the punch by a few years. Ha! As if. (The only “interesting” thing I really did on that old Geocities site was compiling some comprehensive, alphabetized lists—all the named stars in the sky by constellation, all musical instruments in the world by category, and all the domesticated fruits of the world by climate. In retrospect, those were fairly obsessive and niche things to do, and probably representative of the single-minded, compulsive list-making that still dominates on Wikipedia and the Web in general today).

During the first half of college, I abandoned the Geocities page and bought my first domain, growing an actual personal website as I taught myself web design. There was a fair amount of interest-related content back then, including a large number of pictures and descriptions of my Gap Year travels, all hosted on the 20Mb of “free” webspace that Penn provided to students. Throughout the rest of my collegiate career I added a (since-deleted) Blogspot blog (which is where the Articles of the Moment originated), and gradually refined the design and coding of the site, eventually moving to my own rented webspace.

It was in 2011 when I began taking seriously suggestions from those around me to become a life coach. So I began to half-heartedly refocus my websites toward that goal, and away from purely personal content. But it still took another 3 years of life and work experiences to bring me to today, and to Alex Lorenc Life Coaching and AnotherMiddle.


If you’ve read this far, then you clearly need a hobby, but nevertheless thank you for your attention and readership, and stay tuned for much more to come in the future!

Ultimate Bean & Feta Salad

I started development on this recipe way back in 2004, when it was little more than chick peas and feta cheese, but it has evolved to the following amazingness over time.

It’s a great dish to bring to parties, serve as an appetizer at your dinner party, or to just enjoy as a healthy yet filling and delicious meal during the week.

It’ll keep in the fridge for 5 to 6 days. Feel free to experiment and add or substitute all sorts of new things. Enjoy!

The Ultimate Bean & Feta Salad

Total prep time: 30 minutes of chopping and mixing
Serves 8 to 10

  • beans, 3 x 15oz cans (pick any three: kidney, pinto, red, cannellini, black, black-eyed, white, butter, garbanzo)
  • green beans, sliced, 1 can (alternate: 1 can of corn)
  • red onion, 1 small or ½ large
  • olives, pitted, 1 can (green or black)
  • feta cheese, 6-10 oz (around ½ pound) crumbled
  • parsley, 1 handful, finely chopped (optional addition or substitution: cilantro)
  • roasted red peppers, 1 10-12oz jar
  • garlic, 2-3 cloves, crushed or finely diced
  • olive oil, several dollops
  • balsamic vinegar, several dollops (alternate: cider vinegar)
  • pepper, salt, oregano, paprika, etc (to taste)

  1. Drain and rinse in a colander the beans and green beans (or corn) and add to a large mixing bowl.
  2. Finely dice the red onion and add in.
  3. Drain the olives, slice & dice, and add to the bowl.
  4. Chop up and crumble in the feta cheese. This is a good point to mix what’s already in the bowl.
  5. Dice the roasted red peppers and garlic and add to the bowl.
  6. Chop up the parsley (and/or cilantro) and add in.
  7. Add in the olive oil, vinegar, and any spices.
  8. Mix thoroughly and it’s done!

Kahlúa-Raisin Oatmeal Cookies

When I moved out of the dorms and into my own apartment after my Sophomore year of college, I started experimenting with cooking and baking. After all, learning to cook well on my own served to both save some money and give me an excuse to procrastinate more!

That’s why this, and a few of the other recipes posted here originate from the same period—2003 to 2004. There have been many iterations in the intervening years as I’ve perfected the recipe, and the following are almost guaranteed to come out mouthwateringly well. Almost. There’s always room for improvement.

Kahlúa-soaked Raisin Chocolate Chip Spiced Oatmeal Cookies

Total prep time: 15 minutes of heating and mixing
Makes around 30 cookies, depending on how heaping your teaspoons are.

  • raisins, 1 cup
  • Kahlúa, ½ cup (or enough to cover the raisins)
  • butter, 1 cup, softened
  • brown sugar, 1 cup, packed
  • sugar, white, ½ cup
  • eggs, 2
  • vanilla extract, 1 tsp
  • all-purpose flour, 1 ½ cups
  • baking soda, 1 tsp
  • ground cinnamon, 1 tsp
  • ground cloves, ½ tsp
  • salt, ½ tsp
  • rolled oats, 2 ½ cups, half blended to powder
  • chocolate chips (alternately: chopped walnuts), 1 cup

  1. Preheat oven to 350℉.
  2. Pour the Kahlúa over the raisins in a separate cup, and heat for several minutes. Set aside to cool and soak while we prepare the rest of the ingredients.
  3. In a large bowl, cream together the butter, brown and white sugars, eggs, and vanilla.
  4. Add the salt, baking soda, cinnamon, and cloves.
  5. Stir in the flour a bit at a time until the mix is smooth.
  6. Add the oats, chocolate chips (or walnuts), and Kahlúa raisins.
  7. Drop heaping teaspoonfuls onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Keep at least 1 ½ inches apart. Bake for approximately 12 minutes, but don’t overbake.
  8. Let cool for several minutes before moving them into storage.

Celebrating My Sisters’ Singing (part deux)

It’s been nearly 3 ½ years since I last recorded either of my sisters’ amazing voices (which I’m a bit upset about, since there have been some phenomenal concerts, including a soul-moving performance at St John the Divine Cathedral in NYC, but alas). So it was high-time to capture a bit more of their talent.

The following audio slideshow features both Jolanta and Karina singing Troisième Leçon à deux voix (the third movement from Leçon de Ténèbres) by François Couperin, for a Good Friday Vesper service.

Please enjoy.

Celebrating My Sister’s Singing

Last week my family attended another achingly beautiful Chorus Angelicus concert, which both of my sisters have been members of for many years now. I knew that Karina was going to be the soloist for Felix Mendelssohn‘s “Hear My Prayer“, so this time I brought along my digital recorder and made sure to get a good seat.

I put together the following slideshow/video to accompany the audio I captured, and…Well, I won’t say much else—the video speaks for itself:

AotM #15: Bittersweet Chocolate with Almonds Day

Yes, everyone, that’s right, Bittersweet Chocolate with Almonds Day is a thing. Enjoy some chocolate and almonds for breakfast, lunch, & dinner today, since they are an incredibly healthy and delicious snack.

  1. ‘O’ [Yawn!]
    …Did that work? Did you yawn through sheer peer pressure? Well hopefully so, since yawning is AWESOME! It oxygenates the brain, increases alertness, and moves you closer to a meditative state. So never be ashamed of yawning. I love articles like this that explore that fuzzy nexus of science and spirituality.
  2. Everyone should keep as many houseplants as you can handle. We spend more time indoors than ever before in human history, surrounded by more toxic chemicals than ever before, in more tightly sealed and insulated domiciles than ever before—those old drafty houses on the prairie were actually good for you. So do yourself a favor and invest in some all-natural, sunlight-powered, green air-filters. (Or spend more time outdoors…Either way).
  3. Books are great, and reading improves your language ability, but you can’t trust most books out there when it comes to grammar…Even that supposed “classic” Elements of Style by Strunk & White is full of horrendous and ill-informed advice. Grammar isn’t nearly as boring or stuffy as lots of codgy old books, misinformed teachers, and snobby editors would have you think. And incidentally, I absolutely love the Language Log blog, as it brings language and grammar to life.
  4. Your new car runs more lines of code than the Joint Strike Fighter (no wonder car costs haven’t gone down much over the decades). Might this cause some problems, maybe with brakes…? It’s unfortunate that it’s becoming more difficult to find and learn the pleasures of a no-frills manual transmission these days.