Reflections, revelations and proposals esoteric: Themes to elucidate the depths of human potential.

Month: February, 2017

Dharma: The Path of Accomplishment

Years of extended research and esoteric application were defined by a filtering and fermentation through which I transformed digested bits of knowledge into something that worked to my satisfaction. Even though I was, and still am, driven to forge my own corpus of esoteric potential, I often take for granted the benefits of esoteric process. Many sorely underestimate the basic nature and implications of these benefits because they cannot see them in terms of material value.

In other words, it becomes discouraging for many when an allegedly healthy transformation of self via esoteric empowerment does not insure that one ends up as wealthy as a globalist tycoon and/or as popular as an award winning celebrity. I guess it’s about priorities. Such can be manifested in my opinion, but due to the artificial (socially engineered) nature of those representations of success, and the resulting conflict such artifice creates, the only way even occult process can get you such things without the standards of this world changing radically is via sacrifice- of self or others.

By change of standards I refer to sustaining sense of purpose that defines the “perks” as the means to worthy ends rather than all that matters. I do not speak of spiritual accomplishment in any way divorced from terrestrial fulfillment. I speak of the forging of meaningful “dharma”- to use a Sanskrit term. It is my contention that understanding the word dharma in a felt way, as opposed to being burdened by rote analysis, will help in coming to terms with what it means to evolve in terms of esoteric accomplishment. Let’s first look at a traditional exposition of the word’s meaning.

The word ‘dharma’ (धर्म) in Sanskrit is derived from the root धृ  meaning ‘to hold’, ‘to bear’, ‘to carry’ or ‘to support’.  धारणात् धर्मः –  that which holds together or supports is dharma.  In this sense dharma encompasses all ethical, moral, social and other values or principles, code of conduct and behavior which contribute to the well-being, sustenance and harmonious functioning of individuals, societies and nations and which prevent their disintegration.  In a wider sense it is dharma which sustains and supports the whole world.

I find this very similar to the definition of “religion” as that which binds and controls/manages (as in “to relegate”). The difference is that negative connotations of the religion concept are pretty stark compared to the positive ones of meaning of dharma. The latter is a sustaining dynamic, a carrier that keeps things from falling apart. Religion may use that as an excuse, but it plays an active and dictating role rather than one where support is divorced from dependency and manipulation. This is not easy for the mind that is not esoterically inclined to understand about things like morality and ethics. They are not meant to dictate behavior, but to sustain the health and integrity of the essence underlying behavior: our deeper identity.

It is easy to surmise that dharma is the hidden hand that holds all we value so that it does not dissolve into chaos. Yet, discerning examination would illuminate chaos itself as anything but the enemy. It is rather the power and tendency to dissolve the structure and ordered patterning of any process or conceptualized entity. Chaos, as I am referring to it here, is a universal solvent that induces structure and form into action and fulfillment of purpose. Chaos in this manner is cooperative with dharma, not its antagonist. Chaos and dharma are mutually interacting so that one without the other represses the proliferation of all that is of true worth. This, however, leads to another misconception: that dharma itself is tantamount to order.

Let me clarify with a metaphor: To establish the medium of oceans where life can proliferate, salt and water are both required, and in the right proportion. Salt is the binder and water is the solvent. One holds together and supports and the other pulls apart and mobilizes. It is similar to sustaining ideal pressure in a medium. Ideal pressure for a human being depends on the balanced between the pressure in the body that pushes outward and the pressure in the environment that pushes inward. It is their equalization that actually sustains.

Indeed, it is easy to misunderstand dharma. At the same time, we can use that to realize what drives the tendency to such misunderstanding. The conventional interpretations regarding support, sustenance and the bearing of a burden appear to be colored by our own proliferating state of imbalance. Suffice it to say that dharma is not order or law or morality per se.

It is the balance between order (law, morality etc.) and chaos. That balance is intrinsic to neither order nor chaos. It is intrinsic to the nature of the beneficiary of balance. The first- and by no means the last- step in establishing dharma and hence sustaining existence in a meaningful manner, lies in knowing the nature of what is to be sustained as such.

How effective is conventional morality in this? How many, if any, religions or laws or any alleged bastions of moral order take the necessity of chaos into account? Chaos is always risky, or at least seen that way by those whose experience of dharma is either lacking or corrupt. Order is seen as oppressive when corruption and neglect proliferate on the other end of the scales.

Freedom, as such, results when the forces defining one’s mobility are perfectly balanced. That is when they do not interfere from whatever one is, does or becomes.  The point when the forces are balanced is not, however, a universal quantity, but is solely dependent on the nature of the subject of balance.

Dharma is, therefore, not a binding form of support. Nor is it a path of perpetual escape from what appears to be limiting for the sake of losing all that is meaningful because of an inability to appreciate it- hence making it a scapegoat for one’s true lack. From an esoteric point of view, dissolving into the infinite and being focused into a singularity of unexpressed monomeric potential, are both events reflecting loss of meaning. In chemistry a monomer is a unit of matter that has the potential to bond with more of its kind.

I have noticed that chaos and order have in many minds taken on the interpretations of evil and good, and sometimes in reverse. Usually the “good” represents what is lacking and the “evil” what is abusively abundant. The true culprit, however, is always the lack of synergy that represents the requirements of our true nature. We can take a lesson from the workings of nature here. Our bodies and the natural physical environment cannot function without a constant balance of synergistic processes. Everything works in its right proportion to reflect the balance between form and the energy underlying it.

Although we can apply the implications of the above rant to many areas of experience, dharma is most often associated with esoteric wisdom and accomplishment. It is not, in my view, that the meaning of dharma is lost when we find things derail in its application. It’s more that we lose sight of how that meaning is meant to be beneficial and healthy. There are a variety of reasons for this.

If the process of dharma’s application is warped, then esoteric process is also warped. If esoteric process is warped, then dharma’s application is also warped. Imbalance is exacerbated resulting in a feedback loop. Therein, false perception and adverse conditions proliferate. They foster deliberate corruption, and the active striving for meaningless existence, regardless of the pretenses of interpretation upon which that is based.

“Evil”, in this manner, results when insanity becomes the convincing imposter of the ideal. Instead of denying “Evil” as a conception we can explore the possibility that it is a mutation of insanity. In this, the latter manifests intelligence. It then takes its malaise to the logical conclusion of reversing the sense of existential meaning so that all that is sane is treated as the illness and existence is forced to become its own contradiction. Something like esoteric knowledge, when applied in resonance with one’s true nature, can ultimately offer something of value: The balance that is the basis of all heart’s desires.

Touching Upon The Esoteric Path

When regarding esoteric wisdom’s applications there is the idealism of spiritual truth, and there is the methodology of alchemy and transformation. The two are not separate, especially if “spiritual truth” includes the world where we live, the underworld, the cosmos and its denizens right along with the abstract dimensions of every pure consciousness.  

The final frontier, however, is not out there in the heights of consciousness and the luminosity of spirit, but within the hidden living depths of earth sentience and the intimacy of the warmth of density. It is within where self is manifesting into its defined distinction where we find the basis of all that is physically tangible, and it is the paradoxical inner world of all that is physical where the sleeping potentials of the meaning of it all lie to be caressed into awakening. The myth of the Sleeping Beauty has an esoteric component as well, after all. It is one of the stories of goddess.

 In any case, I have been bringing together elements of alchemical activation that I found most effective out of a morass of traditional possibilities, interpretations and marketed insights. My premise has always been to explore what is most available. If we find ourselves attracted to something, no matter how it is presented, it deserves attention, or at least a chance. Even discredited knowledge can hold an allure because we sense something about it: that it might lead to the opening of undiscovered doorways of opportunity.

With so much information chaos, online and off, it is not easy to discern between what is credible and what is role-play or fantasy where esoteric material is concerned. We are challenged to figure things out with very little guarantee or certainty beyond our good sense. That is not necessarily a bad thing. Relying consistently on being spoon-fed regurgitated wisdom makes us soft, in my honest opinion.

Owning one’s wisdom, on the other hand, means owning the power that comes with it. It means to dare the calculated risks of trial and error, founded on persistent research and listening to the felt voice reaching out from the most genuine parts of our beings. The journey of owning one’s wisdom is nothing less to me than a hero’s journey; a fantastic and incredibly demanding adventure of discovery, growth and empowerment. Certainly, it is no walk in the park.  

All that being said, there are themes of esoteric accomplishment that time and again have been proven indispensable basics in my quest. The first dynamic of esoteric progress is the attainment of the autogenic (self-established) altered state. It includes the awakening and purification of mind, the emotion body and the sensate nature rooted in one’s physical form and extending from it. The toning of the mind, consciousness and one’s very attention through concentration and meditation is one area. The sensitizing of one’s felt sense as energy is another.  

Then that energy sensing capacity, combined with the meditative altered state can bond with our spatial awareness so we may consciousness experience the “phantom body”- the unilateral extension of what is known as the “phantom limb” effect in amputees. This is just a foundation. The above stages are cooked within each other. That cooking is fueled by one’s passion for wholeness and an ongoing opening to deeper awareness so that the process evolves into a kind of psychic fermentation. The latter dynamic is the crux of what is often labelled “inner alchemy”.

This fermentation is too involved to lay out here, but there are writings east and west that describe symptoms and stages of its progression. Each culture appears to tackle it differently, the west relying more on symbols and codes probably due to persecution and the Asian cultures being overall more direct, but also occulting information for the most part. Older traditions extending to shamanic practices were rooted in oral transmission, and records of such are rarely accurate.  

The good news is that the  field of accomplishment is always the human being, and we are all media of potential exploration in that sense. Another plus is the “higher self” effect, a form of activated or innate awareness that is most often apart from one’s familiar ego structure. It acts as a guide depending on how much one credits its feedback to increase its participation in ones unfolding progression.  

I have often heard, and agree, that those most predisposed to esoteric cultivation feel as if called to those practices. Sometimes the call happens at a specific time on one’s life, and sometimes it has always been there. Human societies run on a structures conditioned into their members. Esoteric cultivation tends to break and dissolve those structures to pave the way for a greater and deeper experience of self and world.

It is much like the snail dropping its shell to grow. Like the snail, growth comes in stages and new shells cover the vulnerable flesh. These, in turn, must also be abandoned. Just because one has left their old shell once doesn’t mean they are free of such defensive restrictions once and for all. Neither does it mean that they need to keep dropping shells and being exposed. The process is up to them. Some just want or need to grow more and will remain at “the next stage” indefinitely, for better or worse.  

Be that as it may, the pillars of human societies may serve interests that define themselves as the authorities of the given social structure. Having the conditioned perspectives of their populations dissolve into something that may not serve their interests can lead to strict measures being taken to avoid or discourage such practices. Esoteric practice, furthermore, is known to strengthen and bring into activation latent potentials of the human body-mind that may pose a threat to those who thrive on the herd of humanity remaining in their version of the status quo.

The exploration of motive, means and opportunity doesn’t just apply to the solving of crimes. It pertains to the exploration of any human activity, especially where we are ambiguous about who did it. This is why I think one finds the promotion of esoteric knowledge and practice in various groups that are in defiance of social convention, but also why established authority structures don’t just ban or demonize and corrupt such practices, but aim to monopolize them.  

Today, in my honest opinion, the search for esoteric wisdom that is absolutely “credible” and objectively verifiable in an empirical manner (as if it were modern science) is futile. Even time worn traditions are not absolute in their reliability because individuals respond differently to esoteric approaches on the one hand, and the efficacy and benefits of many methods is flexible and adapts to changing cultural and historic conditions when a tradition is living.

Even the most effective time honored and accredited methods such as the activations of Vajrayana Buddhism have a number of schools that approach them differently, emphasize different aspects of the core methodology, and can appear as independent systems altogether, when the bigger picture of their historic evolution isn’t known.

Commitment to a path chosen by those deepest parts of our nature, whose call we literally cannot deny, is indispensable. Shortcuts, furthermore, are illusions. The path we must traverse is the path we do traverse when we are ready. It avails us not to bring up examples of other’s failures. Perhaps the path is a razor’s edge we are forced to walk barefoot. Perhaps the so-called failures were simply not listening as much as they thought.  

Our accomplishment is more likely when we dare to be steadfast in our persistence to cultivate all that we desire that moves us forward. Facing obstacles of all types and overcoming them in a number of ways, is par for the course. In my experience, however, it is nothing like the horror stories promoted in circles where people act with rashness and near ignorance, where minds are either closed, in denial or biased, and where one gobbles up whatever fancy shiny bauble of knowledge is thrust in one’s face.

And even though one must be very much aware that there is no such thing as something for nothing in this or any, the truth is a matter of transformation and exchange. It is not about buying and selling as we are accustomed to it in our limited material congresses. Maturity is gained by experience, and discernment too. But within, there is guidance that is our birthright and once that is honestly an influence one can credit then one need not fear of the “wrong path” even if fear might be thrust upon one’s heart for any number of other reasons.

Esoteric cultivation and accomplishment even, may not be for the majority of human beings. However, nobody can really point fingers or define groups that can or cannot proceed with realistic expectation. Not until they have endured the finger of their own limitations and have experienced its dissolution from their existential frame. And that is far easier said than done.





Standing at the Crossroads

The occultism of Western civilization- if not the world over- is undergoing an interesting transition. I clarify the meaning of “transition” as “crisis”, under its original meaning of “cross roads”. At the time of this writing the Internet has accelerated the occult information explosion in Western culture to the level of trivialized overkill and disillusionment.

Popularization, the tendency to make esoteric knowledge more marketable (that is, to sugar-coat it), and easy access to information that a century earlier was available to none but the wealthy and persistent few,  appear to have led to a state of confusion in the perspectives that credit esoteric possibilities as being worthy of exploration.

And so those of us interested in the potentials of esoteric study and accomplishment, regardless of where we find ourselves in those terms, may have a sense of the crossroads of which I speak. This crossroads is a position of strain because of the pressure to choose a path. As I attempted to emphasize elsewhere, Esothemes is about moving forward. In my view, the choice that builds the most forward momentum is the decision to remain in equilibrium at the nexus where possibilities- even uncomfortable ones- meet. That is to say, the crossroads in mention is the place to be. It is there where things will fall into place.

The point of insecurity, of uncertainty and of maximized psychic vulnerability appears to be the point of greatest instability and weakness. It is, however, the point that challenges us to dig deep and access our latent strength. Through that challenge we are encouraged to build the momentum that can overcome inertia and the conditioning and entropy that hold us back from where we not only want to be, but where we need to become.

The occult crossroads is that arena of experience where our views regarding esoteric possibilities appear to be most easily trivialized and undermined. It is where we are on the verge of being proven wrong, and where we are most likely to be deceived by all that sounds too good to be true, and all that sounds too true to be good for us. It is where we are prone to get defensive and respond to one extreme of perspective with the opposite extreme; and where our desire to get strong is an endless dance with our alleged weakness.

In spite of the dire drama described above, there is another option: we can remain in a position where the questions are not answered. We can be open to how that feels and explore where the feeling goes. By accepting that initially dissonant position, and by treating it as worthy of our attention, we may find a surprising confidence emerging in the midst of uncertainty. The more we dare relax into feeling all while knowing nothing, the more we sense the accumulation of power in that very stance of accepting our allegedly precarious position.

The crossroads, the nexus of confusion and uncertainty, of which I speak is specific to occult possibility, but we find it in any attempt to get the facts of any situation, only to find more and more concluding that life’s as random as ever, that there are no conspiracies, that people are stupid and that the population deserves to be culled, or that this or that opposing group or idea is the enemy and so on and so forth.

Where esoteric promise is concerned, this nexus can easily lead to confusion regarding what’s real and what’s bullshit. We live in a time where so many have  amassed factoids regarding esoteric wisdom and the traditions surrounding it that the difference between truly genuine esoteric knowledge based on experience or deep perception is practically indistinguishable from  well dressed bullshit.

Misinformation and disinformation can be expressed with as much conviction as well researched fact. Disappointment piles upon disappointment. The toil of retracing one’s steps from endless dead ends of misconception mounts, and buying into the flowery phantasms of media saturated drama weakens the strongest of idealistic passions.

It sounds exaggerated and overly dramatic, but having a sense that there is more to life than whatever we are told there is can set us up for trauma when people in our environment actively strive to invalidate our emerging sense before it matures into experience backed conviction. Under such circumstances there are a few options that appear almost immediately.

We can give up and “get real”, or we can compromise our passion and scale down our expectations. If not, we can stick to our guns and stubbornly insist on the truth exactly as out intellect has grasped it for better or worse. In all the above options, however, we avoid the natural dissonance of sensing the need for change. If in that need we meet the seeming wall or void of not knowing  where to go, what to do, or if we are just chasing our tails, the most useful and empowering change available is to stand tall at the crossroads.

In that stance we can feel the tingles and waves of being left wide open with no guarantees, and we can turn from trying to figure it all out to face what we do know: the paths that have brought us where we are in the now. Even then, logical evaluation comes second to extending sentience and feeling into all that was, including our own drives, motives and justifications. In not knowing the facts, we get to know ourselves, and therein lies the path to finding truth.

We don’t have to constantly demand proof of everything presented in our information stream. We don’t need signs of authority or accreditation. We don’t have to resort to verbatim reproduction of menus of practice. The whole point of cultivation is to cease being an automaton in all ways, after all, and to get real. At the other extreme, we can avoid the sweetness of all that sounds good, while sidestepping the bitter medicine the realist must always swallow to remain free of deception.

We can, on the contrary, have our pie and eat it too- and that’s not just another platitude. It means we can be inspired, and we can be rational. This can be done because we are served best by releasing our addiction to the mind sets that enslave us. The mindset of limitation and the mind set that seeks shallow alternatives in the name of freedom and love.

The point of this rant is to bring up my perception of attitudes I have encountered among those who are either interested or experienced in esoteric theory and practice, however they might specify their views. I too have been among those holding onto these attitudes, including not knowing where or how to proceed when all I felt around me were contradictions to my once unshakable convictions.

I grew to realize, as I let go of being right or being wrong, that just because something can be shaken doesn’t mean it is being broken. Adjustments are always part of life, and finding the balance between flexibility and staying power is a process that undergoes its own fair share of ups and downs.

I write this to assure the reader that being obsessed with proving anything, or even the origins of any information that claims to be esoteric or occult is less useful than the information itself. The world of the unseen is such that even a con artist may inadvertently be a source of truth (to a point and for a time), and still be under the impression they are leading victims by the nose.

Much invaluable inspiration comes in the form of insights off the top of the heads of both the wise and the unwary. Lies and truth can shop from the same tailor, but only the latter has substance when filtered through cultivated discernment and tested via application.

Of the two options discernment is more convenient, however. Testing may require a commitment of time, faith and energy as well as material resources that we cannot afford to waste on a mounting pile of errors where learning from mistakes only leads us to an endless array of more dead ends and viable options.

Fortunately, there are ways to cultivate discernment, and these are probably the most reliable of approaches of inner cultivation. The simplest one takes advantage of the very crossroad of uncertainty that tends to be a common stop off point on any life journey for many of us. For as we open to feel all that we do not know, the door opens for us to explore. That’s a path that requires no justification.


Welcome to Esothemes

I start this project with a paradoxical mix of hesitation and enthusiasm. That’s encouraging because it is honest and perfectly in line with what an occultist and a mystic encounters in themselves and in life at large. Paradox is an old and dear friend.

This blog is a personal exploration of applied esoteric gnosis, where terms like esoteric, occult and mystical will be used loosely and interchangeably. I have been hesitating  in moving forward here because I want the curious if not interested reader to understand what is not as easy nor simple to comprehend as populist presentations assume. That is not always an easy ambition to realize. I also want to present material the motivated reader can take to the next level and actually apply, but in a healthy and mature manner. The latter isn’t easy to define either let alone ensure.

That being said, let me emphasize that this blog is not about lessons per se. That requires even more depth than what I can provide here, as well as better organization. The real project I am starting, in fact, involves more than just this blog. That will be revealed in time.

In any case, I believe one can still learn much from the content. I have had over thirty years of occult exploration and experience, including the practice of yoga and internal alchemy as well as magic of various sorts. I have also done some rudimentary teaching starting over a decade ago online. It was a good experience, but I wanted to go deeper. The experience of teaching as well as discussing and debating with a colorful groups of practitioners as well as pretenders gave me more pause then hope.

It wasn’t a matter of being or not being good enough. It wasn’t a matter of being or not being strong enough or not being knowledgeable enough. I simply did not feel ready. Truth be told, I am a trained physicist (PhD) with research experience and some publications years back. I understand teaching challenging topics and I don’t take it lightly. I have also spent much of my life wrestling with the paradox of being a scientist as well as one for whom the esoteric aspect of existence is fundamental to who they are.

Unlike some, most of whom are not formally educated in hard science (and rarely actually practicing it professionally), I do not label the mystical and occult “scientific”. It is not scientific because it is not empirical, that is “based on, concerned with, or verifiable by observation or experience rather than theory or pure logic”, according to the easily accessed online definition by google.

It goes without saying that esoteric exploration is not primarily based on logic. It is based on inspiration, intuition and imagination along with a number of qualities one is advised to cultivate, along with the former. Logic- and especially common sense- and organized theory are not to be thrown out. Instead, they form a necessary and integral part of a process rather than define the process exclusively. They are necessary to conceptualize and bring inspiration, imagination and intuition down to earth and into manifest application.

One can also explore the esoteric as a poet and an artist. It may be purely aesthetic without a shred of practical fiber. Yet it still may hold potential as a boon and blessing upon the individual and collective human condition. When I separate science from occultism, therefore, I am doing so in terms of leaving occultism free of the limitations of the modern conception of  empirical science, which is rather exclusive in the way it operates, and unforgiving regarding any trespass regarding its well-defined dictates.

Thus I am of the view that one must be careful when comparing scientific theory to esoteric ideas. The latter often require a down to earth mindset in order to be modelled and conceptually structured for sharing and practice, but the real nature of esoteric wisdom is that of felt experience, which is purely subjective in a very special way. That is to say, this is subjectivity beyond the conventional understanding of something only in one’s head, heart or gut and separate from what another might perceive. As far as pragmatist reasoning, subjectivity may as well be tantamount to selfishness if not overtly touted as being mired in make-believe.

One might argue that I am limiting both science and esoteric potential in my so-called liberation of the latter from the absolute dictates of the former. To put it in scientific terms, however, the frame of reference of the esoteric is the subject, not any object. You cannot even begin to touch any esoteric concept  if you remove the subject as the center of experience. In modern scientific theory, the subject is identified as “the observer”. The theory implies that observation is anything but passive. All activity implies interaction, and hence even observation involves some sort of objective exchange that affects the outcome of the condition in mention. Specifically, quantum theory is based upon the interpretation of a series of fundamental experiments. The resulting mathematical formulations are the real expression of the theory’s meanings.

It has been fashionable to point to similarities between the more radical interpretations of the equations and their experimental underpinnings with occult and mystical conceptions of various (mostly Indian and Far Eastern) spiritual traditions. Such comparisons have been an inspiration to me, especially when done by open-minded scientists. It is, however, to forget that the interpretations are speculative from a purely empirical perspective. That does not invalidate them, but it can confuse those who are not in the know regarding the actual science in relation to the philosophical expressions inspired by speculations around it.

This has been an issue for me because I cannot take sides, nor can I act as if science as it is understood and practiced today is a viable spokesperson for the occult and mystical. To be honest, I don’t believe is the best representative of the mystical either, just as I don’t see it viable to completely throw out the whole concept. Science may in fact one day validate the implications of esoteric wisdom and occultist application, and religion may one day represent an honest path of mystical devotion without the implications of blind faith and abuse that mark most religious doctrines today in one way or another.

As far as science is concerned, it is especially realistic to consider that research may one day explain and easily reproduce so-called psychic abilities of telepathy, precognition, remote viewing and even psycho-kinesis, if it hasn’t done so already far from the public eye. Indeed the expression of psychic abilities are easier, in my honest opinion, to embrace as potentially scientific than the more encompassing and often transcendent existential implications of esoteric wisdom.

One can argue and debate, where esoteric topics are concerned, without any end in site. I have done so and intent to avoid doing so in the future, even where I may be tempted to play my own devil’s advocate. Instead I have much to share about selected topics as well as general thoughts and musings.

These can be of interest to  practicing magicians, meditators and enthusiasts of all sorts of spirituality. It is all, however, my own take on things. When I speculate, I intend to state I am doing so. When I speak from experience, I will clarify that as well. There has been so much written and spoken regarding occult gnosis that going back to an original source of any existing idea is not always realistic, so forgive me if in this blog I am somewhat lazy in that regard. I may not name names, but I will say when an idea or inspiration is not mine or not mine exclusively as context permits.

So now that the rant is done (for now), once again welcome to Esothemes, an exploration in all matters esoteric from a singular perspective that I hope you will at least find interesting, engaging and perhaps even inspiring at times. And if you should choose to undergo or are undergoing your own unique journey through the vast territories of occult potentiality, may the real deal meet you halfway. After all, where is the fun if it were all too easy?