Uncle Thor's Lessons, Anecdotes and Humor


The Power of Gratitude

Gratitude is an attitude that works. Every year at Thanksgiving, Americans take note of those things for which they are thankful. This all sounds like a nice sentiment, but there is a pragmatic side to it all. And these days, both the sentimental and practical aspects of gratitude are more necessary that ever.

We are beset by an increasing, annual flood of greed as we enter the Winter Holiday season. Whether you celebrate Yule, Christmas, Hanukkah or no particularly holiday at all, you are exhorted to spend yourself into debt. The manufacturers and retailers and purveyors of stuff ramp up their marketing earlier and earlier in the season. In effect, they are urging you to buy so you may give. Within their messages is an implication that to show one’s affection, one must spend more extravagantly. In other words, they are saying Stuff = Love and Stuff = Esteem.

Stuff cannot buy love or esteem. Stuff can only buy a flimsy parody of love and esteem. Real love and respect come as they will, and stuff has little or nothing to do with either.

Once again, the merchants of greed are opening their stores earlier than ever before. Again, they are opening on Thanksgiving Day to draw a glut of customers. And as in recent years, there will be a stampede of greed-fueled patrons hoping to get the small amount of goods that have the lowest discounts. In the start of the season which is promoted as a time of goodwill by most religions, people will push and shove, grab and brawl to save get a discount. In effect, they sell out their dignity for a few dollars.

Gratitude is the antidote to greed. Gratitude acknowledges and appreciates what you have. It does not moan over what you had in the past, nor pine for things that you want for the future. What you had before is just a memory, and what you think you want is just a wish. What you have today is real. When you are grateful for what you have, you use it and get the most from it. Should you focus on what you have lost or what you want, you are fixating on things that do not exist for you.

I am reminded of a quote from The Magic Story by Frederick Rensselaerr Dey

“Man should not be blinded to whatsoever merit exists in the opportunity which he hath
in hand, remembering that a thousand promises for the future should weigh as naught
against the possession of a single piece of silver.”

What you have now is everything! Gratitude is appreciation. It looks not only at stuff, but the things in life that cannot be measured by material means. Gratitude includes the people, places, good fortune and other assets that fill a person’s life. Gratitude recognizes such unmeasurable things as love, kindness, friendship, health and beneficial circumstances.

If you are not grateful for the people, places and things in your life, you can lose them. The sad fact is that people without gratitude do not realize how much they appreciate something until it is gone.

To whom should you be grateful? You can be grateful to a God, Gods, Destiny, good fortune, the goodwill of others, or no particular thing at all. The important thing is to keep a thankful attitude for that which is yours. Thanksgiving is an appreciation the good in one’s life and experiences. It is the antidote for greed and many other ills.


I heartily recommend The Magic Story. I first came across it almost 40 years ago. The story itself is embedded with wise advice for those who will heed it. Should this be your first encounter with The Magic Story, read it several times during the next month. There is a reason this little story is still being passed around. Here is a link to a PDF copy for you:



The Path to Wisdom is a Hard Road: My Insight

I had been cursed with bad luck almost from birth. I was put up for adoption as an infant. My adoptive family turned sour by the time I was 8 years old. They liked to take their problems out on me. Add to that the problem of high intelligence. It almost guarantees an outsider status. As time progressed, other adventures happened. I lost everything a couple of times, for instance. And there are other losses I will only share with those close to me.

I will not go through all the troubles of the ensuing years. Things became peaceful after I met my wife. For many years, we had peace. Then, in 2003, I was hit with a monster. I had a heart attack. Since then, I have been on a cardiac adventure.

I have faced my demise on several occasions over the years. Some incidents were quick, others slow.

Has it all been miserable? Of course not. I outgrew my circumstances and rose above them time after time. I have met extraordinary people and learned from some very wise individuals. I have pursued spirituality and have had experiences from Alchemy to Zen and back again. I have meditated with the Zen people, prayed with the religious folk, touched great Power with metaphysics and joined in arcane rituals in smoky, torch-lit chambers. I have invoked the Gods of my genetic ancestors and learned how to cast the future. And through this, I have overcome my own flaws of character and found truth that transcends everyday reality.

One of the byproducts of all this is wisdom. Through the troubles and triumphs and the search for Spirit, an unexpected byproduct is wisdom. This is a thing that comes not with an easy life, but a willingness to learn, experience and observe.

If there is one thing I can say, it is that wisdom is not so much adding new ideas but subtracting ideas and attitudes. In many ways, it is more a great unlearning where the false falls away so as to reveal the truth. One must be willing to let every idea, notion and belief be challenged to stand up to the barometer of truth. One must be willing to a be a fool for a short while so one can be insightful for the long haul. You must never be afraid to appear stupid, because many around you have no idea of what you are doing.

Never be afraid to make a mistake. Fear of mistakes keeps many in bondage. Be willing to be wrong so that you may learn to be right. (A turtle only moves forward by sticking his neck out.)
Not all people are given to this work. Those who are not driven here are no less valuable. One learns that whatever a person’s journey through life, he or she is a valuable part of the whole. Wisdom only makes a man wise. It does not make him a master of all of life’s tasks.

You take wisdom where you find it. The most unlikely person may be the one to share an insight of great value. The wise are not aloof ascetics, nor are they ostentatious and haughty. Wisdom comes where you find it, and you most often find it where you would least expect it. Part of this is knowing to whom to listen, to whom not to listen, and when you have heard all you need from that source. You are not alone in this endeavor and you are not the first to undertake it.

You are doing this because deep within, you know you can do nothing else.

Welcome to my world.


2017 – Pre-Yule Message for Heathenry

This message is for Heathens (Asatru, Odinists, etc.)

It is that season again. Merchants and manufacturers are ramping up their advertisements. Stores are preparing their Black Friday greed-fests, opening earlier and earlier. Many now open on Thanksgiving Day! The message is the same. Show someone that you love them by giving the most extravagant gifts you can acquire. They infer that it is perfectly fine to go into debt just to give the best gifts.

It is a message that you can buy esteem, love and gratitude. The message confuses spending with that which is meaningful. This message suits those of whom it can be said, “They know the cost of everything and the value of nothing.”

Yule is not Christmas. Yule is not a time for extravagance, nor is it a season for greed. Yule is a time for family, for love, for happiness and warm traditions. Yule should be an expression of joy and well-being.

Let us not treat Yule like Christmas. Control your wallet. Let us minimize the shopping and emphasize the meaning. This means foregoing the Thanksgiving Day sales and the Black Friday mania. It means ignoring the advertisements. The value of Joy shared among loved ones must prevail.

This year and every year, we must reclaim Yule. Be steadfast in maintaining the integrity and happiness of your Yule celebration.


Religion and The Heart

The woman had been a member of a notorious cult for years. She had served it faithfully. Her husband, also a cult member, had been having troubles. The woman was told to go to the place where he had been working. On arrival, she was told that her husband committed suicide.

Several of her co-religionists stood by while the distraught woman cried inconsolably. Not one went to comfort her or show the least bit of compassion. Compassion, care and love are not part of that cult. Even then, one might expect at least one of the cultists to show the woman some kindness. Yet not one moved to her side.

Perhaps it is religion, but it is devoid of spirituality.

We perceive divinity as deities rather than abstract principles. Life is more than a set of processes. That which is divine is more than an aggregate of automatic spiritual laws akin to the laws of science. Love, inspiration, wisdom and joy are as necessary as the principles by which Spirit operates. By extension, religion should be loving, inspiring, wise and happy. Without these attributes, religion becomes rigid, morbid and abusive.

One has to wonder how a religion can be so devoid of Life as to lack an iota of kindness. The path of spirituality should not be an entirely intellectual exercise. Religion should be a vehicle for spirituality. As such, it needs more than a mechanical procedure.

One of the sure signs that a religion or supposed path to spirituality is false is that it ignores the heart. A loveless religion is like stale cookies, stagnant water and flat beer. To be spiritual, it must be felt as well as understood.

Your spiritual path should feel like a comfortable garment. Not too tight, not too loose…in the words of Goldilocks,” Just right!” It should feel like that comfortable glove that keeps your hand warm yet lets you move your fingers easily. It should be like that old jacket that fits better than all the rest. The key word here is FEEL. Intellect can inform, but like home, it is the feelings that matter most. This is an instance where intellect can misinterpret but feeling rings true. Though it is normally best to put intellect over emotion, there are cases where the opposite is preferred.

Your spirituality should give you the means to deal with others both intelligently and emotionally. Our existence demands that we experience our world both mentally and emotionally. That includes the people in our lives.

There are times to be tough, times to be firm and times to be strong. Likewise, there are times to be kind, times to be caring and times to be joyful. Religion without Love is a religion without Life.

Your place in life, ideally, is to express the unique individual that you are. That means expressing the mind and spirit. Life is an all-in thing. Love, laugh, enjoy! That is the expression of true religion in which abides a genuine spirituality.


Dreams Realized

Dreams Realized

Many years ago, I knew a fellow named Howard. He was a bus driver. Howard was about my age. One day, he told me about his dream job.

Howard had always wanted to drive a bus.

Then Howard told me a revealing fact. He had made the front page of the local newspaper some years earlier. I remembered the article, but had not made the connection. A teenage boy, age 15, had stolen a bus on at least three occasions. Each time, he rode the route and picked up and dropped off passengers. That was Howard!

Far away across the Atlantic, an English boy named Chris wanted to be a Guardsman. As a boy, his parents bought him a little red uniform complete with the fur busby hat. Years later, he joined the Army and became a Grenadier Guardsman. He wore the red uniform and busby. That was his dream, and he fulfilled it.

Some people do get their dream jobs, after all.

I am intrigued by it.

There is gratitude in knowing that for some individuals, their lifelong dream job has become a reality.

We have our dreams.

Some become a reality. Howard and Chris realized theirs.

Maybe it is for the best that some do not. Before I was old enough to go to school, I wanted to be the guy with the hot dog cart. And then there is my brother in law, who as a little boy wanted to be a garbage man. The closest I got to my dream was selling burgers at a booth at a local event for my American Legion Post The nearest my brother-in-law got to his was taking out the trash. Better it is that these dreams never materialized.

And so the point. Some dreams, when realized, bring satisfaction. And some youthful dreams seem good at the time, but are best not fulfilled. Time and wisdom exposes them as less than ideal. For those of us whose childhood dreams were best unrealized, it is nice that others can have their dreams come true. Howard and Chris remind us that there are dreams worth having.


Political Hatred: The 21st Century Bigotry

Just to reassure my friends: I do not judge you by the candidates for whom you vote, nor for your choice of political party. (I am opposed to Extremists on both Left and Right: Nazis, Communists, etc. Then again, I do not have any friends who are Commies, Nazis or other enemies of freedom.) Whether you choose Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, Green, etc, I assume you made that decision based on your own experiences, your needs and your best judgement. I do not think you are a hater, fascist, libtard, bigot, traitor, lily-liver or any other ridiculous epithet. What with the present political climate, you can support Trump, Schumer or anyone in between and you can rest assured that I do not think more or less of you for it.

I see people hurling vitriolic condemnation of others because of their choice of candidate and political affiliation. Some of the accusations are cruel, hateful and untrue. There are too many people who take it as a grave offense that others do not agree with their views in matters of politics. The election was over and done almost a year ago, and these thin skinned whiners are still casting aspersions on others. Those at fault are on both sides of the political debate. It does not take an advanced degree in psychology to see what is really going on here.

“When you point the finger at others, three fingers point back at you.” Instead of vilifying the people whom they condemn, they reveal their own lack of character. I am seeing that some people who I thought were reasonable, on both sides of the political line, are at heart cruel, vindictive and intolerant. Most of us consider it wrong to disparage people because of race, religion, gender, ethnicity, age, level of education, occupation, economic strata, and so forth. It is equally immature to hate because people do not ascribe to the same political and social views as oneself. Every time I see someone going on a rant against others over this, they sound as hateful and delusional as every other bigot. Swap out a few words, and they are indistinguishable from every raging racist, religious bigot, xenophobe, homophobe and misogynist.

To those who do so, I say to each: Grow up. You may think you are making sense, but you sound like a fanatical moron brimming with hate. I have lost respect for several of you because of your hateful diatribes and ridiculous accusations.


I have heard some really stupid things. The latest was about the Las Vegas shooting. There are wicked sorts out there who claim that the concert-goers “deserved it” because “….most country-music fans are Trump supporters…” A couple months ago, there were some on the other side who said that Nazis and Klanners in Charlottesville did a service by “…stomping the leftist…” counter protesters. It is sick to wish grievous injury and death on others because you do not agree with their politics. If you are feeling that much hatred, the problem is not the folks whom you oppose. YOU have a problem and need to deal with it because something is tragically wrong with YOU.


To reassure folks, remember that our country has checks and balances. Our Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches keep the balance. The President has his limitations, as do Congress, the Senate and the Supreme Court. While it may seem that the divisions today are irreparable and we are on the way to civil war, the facts show otherwise. Those of us over a certain age remember when things were far worse. The Civil Rights battle and the Vietnam War controversies were far more heated, involved far more people and saw much worse violence. Look at films of the brutality aimed at Civil Rights marchers in Selma, Alabama. View the videos of the violence that erupted during the protests at the 1968 Democratic Convention. Look at Kent State. We have witnessed worse, yet the country always came through. If you doubt the checks and balances, look what happened to Nixon via Watergate and the impeachment of Bill Clinton. Whether you have faith in elected officials or any party, or none at all, have faith in the United States of America’s ability to weather the tide. There are far more people like those who helped their neighbors in the recent hurricanes in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rice, and the people who worked to save others during the horrible shooting in Las Vegas, than there are people out to hurt our country and our people. Better to be among those who help than those who hate.


Some Hard Facts about Violence

Ending Violence

Much violence is done in imitation of what people see through the entertainment media. TV and Movie violence is very different from real violence. The brawls and gunfights on television are “cleaned up”, stylized portrayals of violence. Real violence is messy, painful and disgusting. Any doubts? Ask a veteran city police officer about real violence.

Shooting is never as clean as it looks on television. There is blood. And sometimes it comes with guts and bone. Knives can make the most wicked and bloody wounds. Bats, pipes and other bludgeons tend to lacerate skin and draw blood. People who think violence is okay need to see this.

Let me be blunt: the decision to use violence is a grave one. It has more gravity than the stereotypical brawl between two morons. Such a choice should never be done lightly. Unfortunately, too many people see violence as a first option for any dispute rather than a last resort in a life-and-death situation..

To those who are prone to use violence to assuage their bruised egos, I say this: Your bruised feelings in no way justify the use of violence. Being offended is no cause to physically harm another. Grow up. Life is not all about you and your feelings. Thicken your skin and take it like an adult. This world does not need another thin-skinned hothead looking to avenge any hint of offense.


How to Diminish the Appeal of Hate Groups

The late talk show host, Tom Snyder, enjoyed my All Gauge Model Railroading Page (www.thortrains.net) enough that he placed a link to it. He was a model train fan and we traded a few emails. I liked Tom. His talk show pulled no punches and he was not afraid to tackle controversial subjects.

I learned a lesson from his show many years ago, long before anyone had even thought of an Internet. He brought some modern-day Nazis on the show. These were the George Lincoln Rockwell types. Tom let them talk. He hit them with a lot of hard questions. He gave them enough leeway to make fools of themselves. People asked why Snyder would have people like that on his show.

Tom replied that when you put the spotlight on people like that they shriveled. They certainly did on his show. I would like you to consider this.

Today, we have idealistic fools who think they can stamp out hate groups through violence and tinkering with the law. The fools want to “shut them up.” All that will do is drive those people underground. It will not eliminate them. It will not diminish their appeal to folks who think like them. More likely, it will make them more appealing. The only thing accomplished will be to force them to operate where we cannot see them.

An old Irish saying applies here: Better a Devil you can see than one that you can’t.

Though the logic of that expression should be obvious, some folks will miss the point entirely. So let me elucidate:

If the extremists go far enough underground to conceal themselves and their activities, then we have no clue as to what they are doing or where they are focused. We can no longer counter them because we do not know where they are or even if they exist any more. That gives them the element of surprise. They have freedom from observation and the time to hatch more intricate and destructive plots. Imagine a hundred Timothy McVeigh type schemes in the works.

No! We need to put the spotlight on them. We need to get them to speak in front of the camera. We need to get them out in the open so people can really hear what they have to say. And we must subject them to inquiry right then and there. I can assure you that public scrutiny will do more to counter them than any plot to silence them. It will also discourage those who might have been tempted to join them. Given public scrutiny, the extremists and their words will be best advertisement for shunning them and their crackpot ideologies.


Hands in My Wallet

Many years ago, a friend invited me to go on a weekend with him at a place in the Poconos. He had bought a time-share at a resort. One of the bonuses was that he could take friends to the resort for a weekend. The catch was that at the end, the friend would be subjected to a sales pitch selling time shares.

The resort was an old golfers’ country club. On arrival, we were given tickets that we could use at the resort like money. It was a nice enough place. Apparently, it was expanding its reach beyond golfers to summer and winter vacationers and hunters.

The last day, we reported to another building where we were cordially greeted. I knew nothing of time shares. The sales pitch began wit ha slide show about the resort and its amenities. Next, it spoke of other resorts with which a person could swap a time share. In other words, instead of going to Pennsylvania that year, he might trade to go to one in Europe or other parts of the US.

The show emphasized the owner’s interest in participating in events at the resort, with pictures of him having a barbecue with members / guests. I recognized that little bit of advertising. It was tantamount to saying:“Join the club and hang out with the rich man. He wants to be your friend”

That told me that the resort was really stretching with the time shares. They were going for folks with average incomes. Apparently, there were not enough rich folks joining as they had in the old days.

Of course, this was a waste of time and energy. I had no intention of buying anything. Time share? I could just as easily buy a couple acres of land and put a small house trailer on it if I wanted a country hideaway.. I had no interest in golf whatsoever.

After the presentation, I was asked to speak with a representative. He was a small, nervous-looking man in a cheap sports jacket. There was a look in his eyes that I had seen before, but did not place at that moment. We went into a small cubicle and he began showing me available time shares. I played along, intrigued by the whole concept. Yet at no time was there any intention to buy one. A hoity-toity country club was no place for me.

The little man stressed that I could sign a contract, and if I was not satisfied, I had three days to cancel it. He said that a few times. He implied that I had to move fast to get the timeshare I wanted at the best price. And here is a useful bit of wisdom about that kind if salesmanship. Getting into the contract is easy. Getting out might be a hassle. (I discovered later that terminating contracts often involves sending a registered letter and all that.) Better not to get into it at all.

I told him that rather than buy on the spot, I would think about it and call later. He pressed for me to sign on the dotted line but I refused. Again, he was told that I would think about it.

Suddenly, the little man’s whole attitude-changed. He picked up his sales binder and started to walk away. The man acted as if I had done something personally to hurt him. The abrupt reaction was as if that air had instantly been let out of a balloon. It was weird. He just spent time trying to sell me a time share and now, by his sudden change of demeanor, made sure that I – or any other customer subjected to such rudeness – would never come back to buy.

Keeping to my normal standards of courtesy, I offered him a handshake. He gave a dead fish handshake and walked away. I didn’t like the feeling I got.

Then it hit me. The little man had that hungry look. It was as if he mentally had his hands in my wallet. The man was focused on my money. What about me? To him, I was just a situation he had to handle in order to get it. Later, I learned that he was not a professional salesmen. None of them were. Almost all were time share buyers. The resort arranged for them to sell timeshares so as to earn commissions that paid for their own. Aha! The wee fellow expected me to help pay for his time share.

I was that little man’s one shot that weekend to make a commission. He not only wanted a sale: he thought he deserved it. To him, it was a “done deal.”

To be blunt, the things promised in the slide show and other promotional materials were too good to be true. The problem is not what they tell you, but what they do not tell you that is misleading.

A couple years ago, my wife and I were food shopping. In the same plaza as our favorite supermarket was a mattress store. Audrey wanted to look at mattresses, so in we went. Almost as soon as we started looking, a salesman descended on us. We told him we were just browsing, but that was not enough for him. He stayed with us, wanted us to try something to test a mattress’ firmness, and guided us toward more expensive mattresses. At one point, the man said, “This isn’t high pressure, it’s high practicality.”

We told the man more than once that all we wanted to do was browse. The constant sales pitch was annoying. Audrey and I wanted to look at what we chose to see. He kept trying to direct us everywhere else. This was a high-pressure sales pitch for, of all things, a mattress!

Finally, the man stropped and said, “What can I do to get you to buy a mattress today.”

By this time, Audrey and I were miffed. Audrey replied, “Nothing. We just wanted to look.”

This man expended all this energy and effort despite our telling him several times that we just wanted to browse. He turned his back and abruptly walked away from us. Obviously, he finally realized that we had only come to browse. And like the little man in the Poconos, he mentally had his hands in our wallet. Like that little twerp, the mattress salesman acted as if we did something to him.

People can act that way when they do not get their way. And even if they are the active one in the situation, they act as if the other person is at fault when it goes sour.

“There is something of yours that belongs to me, and if do not get it, you hurt me!”

Remember that YOU control your wallet, not some high-pressure salesman. And by all means, do not sign the contract until YOU are ready to buy. They can wait three days if their product or service is as good as they claim.


Facts about Extremists

Facts about Extremists

Extremists tend to be unhappy people. They have a lot of anger. Feeling like nobodies, their causes make them somebody. They think that by fighting for something bigger than themselves, they are somebody. And fight they will. Many of them are very devoted to the causes they espouse. Extremists will work for their cause, at their own expense. Many are willing to face ostracization, jail and worse in the furtherance of their causes.

And make no mistake. These are not all a bunch of ignorant thugs. Some people get cold comfort thinking they are intellectually better than the extremists. Many extremists are intelligent, if misguided. Many are otherwise capable individuals into whose lives the proverbial monkey wrench had been thrown. Extremism is a way they compensate for the losses. That same intelligence has so enwrapped itself in their various ideologies that they can see no other way.

Doing things for their cause gives them a sense of validation. The more they commit to it, the more validated they feel.

Look at history. Both Nazism and Communism had attracted intellectuals to their side. Both systems had very intelligent people working on their development. The presence of smart people does not change the obvious fact that both Nazism and Communism both have a history of brutality, genocide and complete disregard for human rights. Both thrive on hatred for their enemies. Without someone to hate, both Communism and Nazism atrophy.

I would say the key word to understanding extremists is frustration. These are people who have been frustrated in one or more areas of their lives. Many have been made powerless by unfortunate events in their lives. Granted, it happens to others who do not choose an extremist path. However, for the people in question here, it has found outlets via participation in extremist ideologies and activities.

Be aware that however you react to them, you will not change them one bit. They have chosen their ideologies and have developed a talent for ignoring arguments to the contrary. Respond with silence and they say they have made people afraid to respond. Argue with them and they say you are being hoodwinked by some inimical group or ideology. Fight them and they claim you are violent. Even if you beat them, they claim victory because they say they got their point out into the open. Extremists thrive on getting a reaction: any reaction! For them, any publicity is good publicity. They are not going to back down from their viewpoints and they are not going to go away.

When you see that extremist, remember that he is a frustrated and angry person who feels that Life has cut him a raw deal. Maybe it has. Life is unfair. However, that extremist has chosen to deal with his frustrations in a way that is abhorrent to the rest of society. He has adopted an ideology which stands against the ideals of our society. He has become a weapon of that ideology. Under it all is a person who has a “hole in the soul.” You can rest assured that the extremism with which he tries to fill that hole will never suffice. Until he turns away from it and seeks a rational means of fulfillment, he will be a frustrated and angry person lashing out at the world.


How do I know this? Back in the 70s, I brushed wings with extremists. I have known people who adhered to various extreme ideologies and groups: For the most part, these were not casual acquaintances. Several were friends. And yes, I had the dilemma of not being able to introduce some friends to other friends. I knew many of these people well enough to know their histories, their families and some confidential details. Among folks I considered friends were people on both sides of the equation: Right, Left, White, Black, Christian, Jewish, Panthers, Nazis, Klanners, Commies, etc. The ones who really took their causes to heart all fit the profile given above. Some were still involved when I knew them. Some had cut ties to their extreme causes and chose a more rational life. I lost contact with the last of them over 30 years ago.

Many of these individuals I knew were good people at heart. The problem was that their innate goodness was buried under a lot of frustration, hate and misguided thinking. I had no doubt that their good nature did not extend to those they considered adversaries. The same person who might go to great lengths to help someone could just as quickly turn violently hostile when facing one of his enemies. Others were malicious folks seeking an outlet. Indeed, a waste of human potential.

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