Category Archives: Blog

It’s a riot: when religion rejects Spirit

No doubt you have been following the news this week, and watching with some concern – maybe even anger – at the riots by outraged Muslims. The demonstrations have broken out in several middle-eastern countries and also (at the time of writing) in Britain and Australia.

Hate is a strange thing. It seems to defy the universal law of entropy.  Entropy entails that there is just a little bit of energy lost after all chemical reactions and physical processes. According to many physicists, the universe will eventually run down and go cold. But just before the last bit of stardust flickers and dims, I reckon we’ll still have some idiots grabbing each other by the throats and screaming “Look what you gone and done to us! You people are evil!” hate just seems to go right one expanding. Hate begets more hate.

Hate is contagious. It doesn’t take much to get caught up in it. No doubt a big part of this is the basic neurochemistry of the brain and body, and the evolutionary imperatives which lie behind it. You’ll find a lot of agreement with this in mainstream science.

From my experience as a longtime introspective mystic, I have seen that hate also has an “energy”. But it is not “energy” in the classic meaning of the term. It’s not part of one of the four known forces of nature. I am talking about the way that thought/consciousness operates within fields of intention, and these consciousness fields tend to be self-maximizing, acting like attractor fields which suck the “minds” of the unsuspecting into a vortex of ‘mental’ violence. And once the mind becomes violent, the body tends to follow pretty quickly. This is one of the reasons why the current violence tends to pull people in. Seeing others full of hate and blame tends to make us feel angry. Unconsciously we may be drawn into a “dark” consciousness field.

Culture is another factor which is important in much mass violence. If the culture in which you are embedded says it’s okay to project hatred and violence at the other, then naturally people will feel inclined to do so. In Muslim communities worldwide there is a strong victim mindset which has permeated their worldview. Victims tend to feel justified at lashing out in hatred and blame. After all, the “victim” is innocent, and the “other” is the wrong-doer. This kind of culture can be spread in many ways: the internet, religious teachers, news media, community, family and so on.

There is also the reality of individual spiritual maturity – or lack thereof. A person who has a high level of spiritual maturity knows his mind well. And in this understanding he knows the nature of all minds. Through the discipline of introspection he has come to recognise that the mind tends towards constant projection. The mind lives in an imagined world of belief and judgment while rejecting experience and data which contradict those beliefs. When we live from “the head” and life experience informs us that our beliefs are inadequate, we inevitably hit out at those who we see as threatening our worldview.

There is always a part of the mind that knows that its beliefs are fantasies. The alcoholic knows that it is not really true that “I can give up anytime I want”. The wife beater certainly realises deep down that it is a lie to insist that “The beatings are good for her”. The religious believer too, knows full well that it is impossible that his beliefs (and his God) are the only beliefs that are true and that every other religion is deluded or evil. But instead of going through the destabilising trauma of accepting that he might be wrong, and entering a state of “not knowing”, he attacks the thing that he believes is threatening his (imagined) world. But it is not the other that is the cause of his fear. The fear emerges from the truth that is bubbling up from within him, whispering “Your world is an illusion.”

This is why deep meditative introspection is forbidden in many religions. Religion tends to be terrified of the psyche. For it is within the psyche that the truth can be found. And that truth that will often contradict “the scriptures”. A great irony is that much religious practice is actually the mind’s way of making sure that it does not listen to Spirit.

Let’s face it. There is not a lot of wisdom and common sense in smashing things up and killing “the other” simply because he laughs at you. Why attack Americans, Germans, Brits and Australians when the YouTube video you are outraged by was made by a man of Egyptian heritage?

You probably agree that it’s madness: “These people are nuts!” Yet if you find yourself saying that then you are in the grip of the mind. It is not that you are wrong, technically speaking. Yes, the people murdering and burning and screaming revenge are deluded. They have lost control of their own minds, and their connection with Spirit (Spirit, like Grace, tends to find goodness and peace in everything).

Every spiritual and religious teaching has the potential to become a religion. That even includes this “teaching” you are now reading in this blog post. In fact all spiritual truth becomes a religion as soon as the mind takes possession of it; and that happens every single time you enter the world of thought!

Depressing thought, isn’t it? Yes, the THOUGHT is depressing, but not the simple awareness that lies behind it.

Times of violence and collective madness are perfect opportunities to deepen awareness for anyone committed to a genuine spiritual way of being. For as the flames rise before you, you can see yourself reflected in them, like a ghostly visage. Most people, like the silly kitten charging at itself in the mirror, cannot tell that they are just looking at their own reflection.

Can you?

It’s a question which is crucial to your future. And all human futures.

Marcus

 
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The Troll Wars – & what to do about them

BLOG: In the old story of the Three Billy Goats Gruff there was a big, nasty troll lurking under the bridge ready to devour the poor little goats. What a nightmare! Now in the twenty-first century the word “troll” has a completely different meaning, and we all know what it is. Trolls are internet bullies, lurking not under the bridge but behind the anonymity internet pseudonyms. The nightmare continues!

But it doesn’t need to, and that is the whole point of this post. I’m going to tell you a foolproof way to deal with trolls.

There’s been a lot of discussion about cyber-bullying in the Australian media of late. About a week ago Australian media personality Charlotte Dawson Checked herself into a clinic, suffering a kind of breakdown after she was ‘flamed’ big time on twitter. She tweeted “Okay, you win” just before she went down, so to speak.

Dawson is perhaps not so innocent, as she herself has made a name for herself in being a particularly acerbic critic on Australia’s Next Top Model. Charlotte Dawson is the show’s resident female version of Simon Cowell. So some people have said she that she got what she deserved.

I’m not taking sides in this latest troll war. I am just going to make a very simple point here.

Remember the old saying, “Sticks and stones will break my bones, but names will never harm me”? It’s what parents always told their kids whenever they copped a little verbal bullying in the playground. Today’s internet users in general should take heed, for this is exactly how you should deal with most internet trolls. But how?

I am pretty much immune to the trolls. I just can’t take trolling seriously. As a person who has spent twenty years practicing mindfulness and meditative reflection – and dealing with their own childhood “issues” – I find that the projections of others now have a diminished effect on me. In real life, I still find I sometimes have emotional reactions to various criticisms and putdowns; but on the net it is pretty much a non-issue for me.

Readers of my old blog might remember a post I wrote about the late, young Australian bodybuilder and internet entrepreneur Zyzz. It went viral. It was a real hit. Unfortunately most of the hits were to my head and body. The post was about the limitations of relying too much on attaching yourself to physical beauty and gaining an illusory sense of power over others and life itself. Some of Zyzz’ fans found the post, and launched a hellish tirade of hate against me in the comments section. My blog posts typically get two or three comments. This one got fifty!

Here’s just a couple. Look away now if you don’t like your “F”s and “C””!

The writer of this blog is an old man with no idea how modern life works. GTFO u fukking kunt…

This blogger is a sad excuse of human life. Go fuck yourself you fat fuck piece of shit. What kind of low life writes lies about another dead human being. You’re a sad virgin 4chan fat fuck who needs a solid ass whooping. Cum at me Bro…

(The blogger) is mad, doesnt lift (weights) and is a phaggot. this was all just a silly post to bring views to his blogging. sad cunt…

To be honest, after an initial moderate shock at the intensity of the first two or three comments by the trolls, the comments had little effect on me. I left the posts up, with the exception of one, where the troll attacked another regular blog member and called her a “whore”. I found myself feeling compassion for the posters, because I know what it is like to be angry and full of hate. I’ve explored that side of my own psyche to a deep level. These guys were just like me, only younger and little less developed in their spiritual maturity.

Here’s why this kind of stuff has little effect on me these days. Firstly I have a simple policy of walking away from any internet discussion where I find myself having a strong emotional reaction to someone’s posting or ideas, or what they say about me. A comment can only create an emotional reaction in me when I ‘attach’ myself to the thing, and when I become entangled in the story of it. The same comment has little impact on me from a distance, when I just let go and pull out.

Secondly, I understand well the nature of the human mind, and its tendency to project on others. Ego’s judge and condemn, and their agenda is to diminish or destroy the thing being projected at. The projections of internet trolls are precisely the same thing that everyone does every time they judge someone or a situation in their everyday lives. In this sense judgment – including that of the trolls – is a reflection of a person’s inability to control their own mental projections, and has little to do with the person or thing being ‘beaten up’. (So don’t take them personally!)

Finally, I have learned to bring my mind into presence at will. That means that even if I do find myself entangled with another’s projections – in real life or on the net – I can instantly bring myself fully into mental silence; back into the world of the real, as Morpheus says in The Matrix. And all emotional “drama” is illusion. It’s just the mind playing in the story of the past, bringing forward the hurt, shame and anger that lies within. As I wrote in my book Discover Your Soul Template, as soon as we bring the mind to focus upon something we can see, hear or feel, the world of the mind vanishes into the ether. And if it doesn’t, it just means that there is some ‘issue’ or hurt within yourself that you need to bring to the surface. Sure, there are times in life when you have to confront genuine bullies, and the internet is no exception. But those times are few and far between.

Human futures can never be merely about more technology, comfort and convenience. We have to open a space for people to move inward and develop an understanding of their minds at a first-person level. Some futurists think that a future where we can load our minds onto computers will be a utopia. Personally, I think that even if this is done, if those ‘minds’ aree as unconscious and ego-based as the vast majority we encounter on the internet today, all that we will get is a cyber-dystopia. A universe of ranting mental projections raging against… well, the machine. A machine that we have imprisoned ourselves in.

So next time you come to cross the internet bridge and you find a troll lurking underneath, just blow him a kiss and walk away in silent presence. It’s a lot more peaceful.

Blessings,

Marcus
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Drugging the future generation

NEWS/MEDIA/BLOG POST: I found this quite insightful NYT article written by a parent whose son was medicated for, well, being a boy. It seems her little one was being fidgety, playful and was even trying to make other kids laugh. He was diagnosed with ADHD and put on Ritalin.

Before you read the article, take a look at this YouTube video of a playful monkey teasing a tiger. If we put some education authorities in charge of forestry, they’d have Ritalin drips hanging from every tree, to make the animals normal.

 

Modern education and culture (including the increasingly pervasive use of mobile devices) is conditioning kids to multi-task and exist in a state of constant distraction. Sugar-based diets full of refined carbs surely don’t help. So why not just teach kids mindfulness: how to be present? How to breathe? How to relax into presence?

Firstly, my perception as a long-time mindfulness practitioner is that most adults are not actually present either. They live in “the head” in a state of mental dissociation. How can someone like this teach a kid to be present?

Then there’s a pervasive and very large problem in modern medicine and the pharmaceutical industry in general; and this was pointed out by Rupert Sheldrake recently. There is no funding for interventions where there is no profit to be made from the solution. You can’t patent relaxation and breathing. And there’s no money for drug companies in teaching people how to actually be here.

Perhaps the best solution is for aware parents to teach their kids how to be present in the privacy of their own homes.

Marcus

 

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/19/opinion/sunday/raising-the-ritalin-generation.html?pagewanted=all

 

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Raising the Ritalin Generation

By BRONWEN HRUSKA

Published: August 18, 2012(New York Times)

I REMEMBER the moment my son’s teacher told us, “Just a little medication could really turn things around for Will.” We stared at her as if she were speaking Greek.

“Are you talking about Ritalin?” my husband asked.

Will was in third grade, and his school wanted him to settle down in order to focus on math worksheets and geography lessons and social studies. The children were expected to line up quietly and “transition” between classes without goofing around. This posed a challenge — hence the medication.

“We’ve seen it work wonders,” his teacher said. “Will’s teachers are reprimanding him. If his behavior improves, his teachers will start to praise him. He’ll feel better about himself and about school as a whole.”

Will did not bounce off walls. He wasn’t particularly antsy. He didn’t exhibit any behaviors I’d associated with attention deficit or hyperactivity. He was an 8-year-old boy with normal 8-year-old boy energy — at least that’s what I’d deduced from scrutinizing his friends.

“He doesn’t have attention deficit,” I said. “We’re not going to medicate him.”

The teacher looked horrified. “We would never suggest you do that,” she said, despite doing just that in her previous breath. “We aren’t even allowed by law to suggest that. Just get him evaluated.”

And so it began.

Like the teachers, we didn’t want Will to “fall through the cracks.” But what I’ve found is that once you start looking for a problem, someone’s going to find one, and attention deficit has become the go-to diagnosis, increasing by an average of 5.5 percent a year between 2003 and 2007, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As of 2010, according to the National Health Interview Survey, 8.4 percent, or 5.2 million children, between the ages of 3 and 17 had been given diagnoses of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

What I didn’t know at the time is that there’s no clinical test for it: doctors make diagnoses based on subjective impressions from a series of interviews and questionnaires. Now, in retrospect, I understand why the statistics are so high.

We made an appointment with a psychiatrist on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. After we filled out an extensive questionnaire, she did the interviews and had Will’s teachers fill out short behavior questionnaires, called Conners rating scales, which assess things like “squirminess” on a scale of one to five. In many cases, I discovered, diagnoses hinge on the teachers’ responses.

A few weeks later we heard back. Will had been given a diagnosis of inattentive-type A.D.H.D. It was explained to us this way: Some children who are otherwise focused (Will had been engaged during his interview), have a hard time focusing in “distracting situations” — in Will’s case, school. The doctor prescribed methylphenidate, a generic form of Ritalin. It was not to be taken at home, or on weekends, or vacations. He didn’t need to be medicated for regular life.

It struck us as strange, wrong, to dose our son for school. All the literature insisted that Ritalin and drugs like it had been proved “safe.” Later, I learned that the formidable list of possible side effects included difficulty sleeping, dizziness, vomiting, loss of appetite, diarrhea, headache, numbness, irregular heartbeat, difficulty breathing, fever, hives, seizures, agitation, motor or verbal tics and depression. It can slow a child’s growth or weight gain. Most disturbing, it can cause sudden death, especially in children with heart defects or serious heart problems.

I consulted our longtime pediatrician, who told me that if Will had A.D.H.D., medication was the only way to give him real relief. I also read through hundreds of online posts, though I stopped after a diatribe about a nation poisoning children’s developing brains.

Meanwhile, Will was sitting out of music class on a regular basis. In addition to hating the recorder, he’d discovered he could get a cute girl to laugh by making funny faces. We decided to trust the doctors and the school. If Will really had A.D.H.D., we should treat it.

Starting in fourth grade, he took his medicine every morning, and he went to the school nurse after lunch for another pill. The doctor raised the dosage until the teachers saw results.

One afternoon, Will told me that during reading period he forgot to talk to his friends. “Everything got really quiet,” he explained. “It was like I was inside the book.” It was what his teachers had wanted. What we’d wanted. For the medication to focus him.

I should have been elated that the problem was so simple to fix. But I wasn’t. I couldn’t help wondering why forgetting to talk to his friends was a good thing and why we were drugging him to become a good student.

At home, he didn’t seem different, just hungry, since he now ate almost nothing at school. When I did some research, I learned that methylphenidate is also prescribed as an appetite suppressant.

The next year, in fifth grade, the pills stopped working. The doctor upped the dosage a few more times, then switched medications twice, but nothing. I thought back to Will’s fourth grade teacher, who had liked him. Then I thought about his current teacher; some of the other parents had complained that she didn’t seem to know what to do with boys at all. Maybe Will’s successful fourth grade year had had less to do with the medication than we’d all believed.

Sometime toward the middle of fifth grade, he simply refused to take the pills. He’d seen a television show about a girl whose parents kicked her out of the house for crushing and snorting her Adderall, and that convinced him that his medication was too dangerous.

THAT was five years ago. Will is about to start his sophomore year of high school. He’s 6 feet 3 inches tall, he’s on the honor roll and he loves school. For him, it was a matter of growing up, settling down and learning how to get organized. Kids learn to speak, lose baby teeth and hit puberty at a variety of ages. We might remind ourselves that the ability to settle into being a focused student is simply a developmental milestone; there’s no magical age at which this happens.

Which brings me to the idea of “normal.” The Merriam-Webster definition, which reads in part “of, relating to, or characterized by average intelligence or development,” includes a newly dirty word in educational circles. If normal means “average,” then schools want no part of it. Exceptional and extraordinary, which are actually antonyms of normal, are what many schools expect from a typical student.

If “accelerated” has become the new normal, there’s no choice but to diagnose the kids developing at a normal rate with a disorder. Instead of levelling the playing field for kids who really do suffer from a deficit, we’re ratcheting up the level of competition with performance-enhancing drugs. We’re juicing our kids for school.

We’re also ensuring that down the road, when faced with other challenges that high school, college and adult life are sure to bring, our children will use the coping skills we’ve taught them. They’ll reach for a pill.

Bronwen Hruska is the author of the forthcoming novel “Accelerated.”

Enough Already

BLOG POST: After living thirteen years in East Asia I now find myself living back in the old country, Australia. In fact it has been sixteen years since I left The Lucky Country; and just three weeks since I got back. So what do I notice that is different?

The first thing I appreciated is just how quiet it is here. To be fair, I am living with my brother in a small country town of Morwell (two hours drive from Melbourne), so it’s a huge contrast to the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong. In Hong Kong it’s a fight just to find a seat at a coffee shop or at the shopping mall. The streets are teeming with people, and quite often you have to literally shoulder people as they push and shove their way around you. When I walk down the street here, I am lucky to see any other human beings at all! The quiet is both nice… and a little disconcerting. One is often left to deal with one’s own sense of life and experience.

It is beautiful here. There is green grass, there are trees. The sky is vast and blue, with crisp white and grey clouds moving slowly overhead. There are birds too, something that one almost never sees in China. Indeed I have been attacked by several magpie mothers; a common hazard in the spring, as mothers attempt to protect the nests which contain their young.

At night the heavens here open up to the vastness of space, a million stars greeting the observer from scores, hundreds and thousands of light-years away. I can’t ever remember seeing a star in China or Hong Kong. It was often hard enough to see the moon or sun. In Beijing the sky is almost always grey, even when there are no clouds.

My brother and I drove to a house just fifteen minutes away from here a few days ago. There was abundant scenery to be seen; in the yard there was a horse, a goat and three dogs. I sent my wife a few photos. She is in Beijing at present. She said she was very jealous of the natural world she saw, and the “endless rolling fields”.

But it’s damn expensive here. When I arrived at Melbourne airport, I caught a fifteen-minute airport bus to a downtown train station. It cost me AUS$17. By contrast, the fast train to Hong Kong airport from downtown only costs about AUS$11. It travels ten times further than the airport bus in Melbourne. In China I can travel on a fast train from Beijing to the coastal city of Qingdao – a six hour journey – for about AUS$30. Everything else is really expensive, too. The cost of living here is extreme – with some exceptions. I was in a department store today and saw men’s shoes for as little as $12 – made in China, of course! Rent is much cheaper than Hong Kong, and that even holds true closer to Melbourne than I am. In Hong Kong an extremely unfortunate situation has developed whereby the government and property developers have taken a stranglehold on the city. With each passing year people are forced into smaller and smaller apartments at higher and higher rents. Most are 400-500 square feet, and that accommodates entire families. The latest trend is for the young in Hong Kong to live in subdivided flats. Landlords can make more money by dividing their already tiny flats into several rooms. There university graduates living in “flats” as small as 16 square feet. That’s about twice the size of your average coffin.

In Hong Kong and China I ate at restaurants every day, often two times daily. My wage was high, and the food cheap. In my three weeks back in Australia I have not eaten once at a restaurant. I am making my own lunch and cooking dinner again for the first time in over a decade. That is not an exaggeration. I cannot remember the last time I cooked a meal before my return!

Everything else costs more too. The internet, mobile phone bills, cinema tickets, coffee shops, you name it.

I have been complaining about the cost of living here, but then yesterday I listened in to a webcast by my favourite spiritual teacher, Leonard Jacobson. He was talking about abundance. He said that abundance does not always come in the form you think it does. Later that day I went to the gym not far from my brother’s house. As usual, after entering the gym I brought myself into presence by focusing on my breath, and my body. To do this I bring my energy out of “the head”, and get really grounded. When I did this yesterday it hit me. I already have access to abundance beyond imagining. All my immediate needs have been met since I arrived here. My judgment at the cost of living was just getting in the way of my experiencing how “rich” I already am.

 

After my workout, I went into the changing room, and ran the water in the washbasin. I cupped the water in my hand, and brought it to my mouth. I drank. It was cool and refreshing. “Wow!” I said to myself. For thirteen years in Asia I was unable to drink from a tap. Pure, fresh running water is available to everyone in Australia. What a gift! Then I looked in the mirror, and saw a very healthy 46 year old man staring back at me. How wonderful it is that I have my health, and can even engage in the vanity of going to a gym to shape my middle-aged physique. That was unimaginable in my parents’ day. I then walked out into the parking lot and jumped in my recently purchased car. Before my return to Australia I had not driven for thirteen years. Now  I find myself driving in a wonderful vehicle; second-hand but in great condition.

When I got back to my brother’s place, he had cooked dinner for me. It was a cool winter’s evening, but the gas heater was already on, warming the simple house.

Yes, that was when I really got it. The present is already rich in meaning and wonder. Why then do we always want for so much more? Many modern “spiritual” philosophies also encourage people to want more, and even that it is “spiritual” to do so. The New Age movement is full of such thinking. The best-selling The Secret (video and books) is perhaps the classic case. It has sold countless millions of copies. Yet as far as I am aware, nowhere in any of its teachings does it tell us the greatest secret of all. That there are riches beyond imagining right here and now, if only we stop, breathe deeply and still ourselves long enough to see and feel the magic.

In presence the mind stops longing and returns to a state of grace, where goodness is seen in everything; love in everyone. Gratitude becomes spontaneous. That is because in the silence of the present moment, we become love itself. And what a priceless gift that is.

Blessings,

Marcus

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Welcome to the new MindFutures!

BLOG POST: Finally, here we are at the new MindFutures site! So what’s different, what’s new, and what will remain the same?

The first thing you will notice is that new mind-futures.com contains most of my work and interests in the one location. Previously, my stuff has been scattered all around the net. Many of those old sites will stay up, at least for a while, but eventually they will fade away.

I wanted this site to include a broader range of subject matters than my old blog. So you will see some more serious academic stuff, scientific explorations, spiritual and esoteric discussions related to the mind and consciousness, investigations into the future and much more. Obviously mind-futures.com is a place where I can showcase some of my own work, but I also plan to make it an attractive site for others to come and discover what’s out there on the web and in the media.

The media/news page will be updated regularly. You can see the major areas of interest that I have from the drop-down (news/media) menu at the top of this page. Naturally, as a person who has written over forty academic articles in Futures Studies (many of which you can read on the Futures Articles page), there will be a strong Futures focus; especially what I like to call Deep Futures. Deep Futures are futures that are not just about science and technology, but explore the deeply meaningful, profound and spiritual dimensions of life.  I also love space and cosmology, so you will see regular links to related stories in the news/media section.

Expect the personal, the humorous, the scientific and academic and the mystical all rolled into one site. I spent twenty years exploring consciousness first hand; but I also took the time to develop my rational mind, and gained a PhD in the process. So I am not going to exclude either the so-called left-brainers or the right-brainers. Science and first-person insight are perfectly compatible, and each has its legitimate domains. So if you enjoyed my “intuitive reviews”, “intuitive profiles, insights and tales of personal debauchery across many a far-flung locale, you will still find similar writings here – though not necessarily in exactly the same form. And you, the reader, should also feel free to share both your personal and intellectual understandings here.

Feel free also to mention your own work/blog/interests here, as long as you don’t get too carried away with it! I’m sure you know where to draw the line with that kind of thing.

I promise to keep the blog section layman-friendly, but the odd academic post might appear there from time to time. The themes will be similar to my old blog. I plan to write a blog post at least two-to-three times a week.

One thing you will also note is that I rarely attack other people or philosophies. My own worldview is fairly spiritual and mystical. I realise that  there is a widespread tendency in many of the blogs (related to the themes on MindFutures) to spend energy criticising skeptics or those with a contradictory worldview. It’s my preference not to do that, as this is – at least for me – a waste of energy. I like to tread lightly through life, and that includes in regard to the things I have come to know through direct experience. There are also a lot of things I don’t “know”, but simply believe in. I am not so attached to these ideas that I need to fight those who don’t agree with me. And I am not interested in converting anyone to my worldview (and no, that’s not meant as a criticism of you 😉 .

This doesn’t mean that I won’t write with passion and enthusiasm on the things I feel are important. I most certainly will be doing this!

Needless to say I am still learning how to tweak the software, so forgive me if there are a few glitches here and there. They should become less frequent in time.

Finally, I am always open to feedback and suggestions. This WordPress theme is much more flexible than my old sites, so I can be a lot more creative here. Throw me a suggestion, and I just might be able to do it if I think it’s a good idea.

Blessings,

Marcus

 

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