I want to leave everywhere I go better than I found it.
I want to leave everyone I meet better for the encounter.


"Gong Long?” I asked with disappointment.
“Yes,” confirmed my Transcendentalist. “Gong Long.”
I had just given the white robed monk, Hu Non Furst, an offering of a basket of fresh fruit.
In return he gave me a mantra, "Gong Long." I wasn’t sure if I liked it. It’s supposed to clear my mind, but all I could think of was a football pass play.
I asked for another mantra. He objected.
The ceremony degenerated rather quickly. Long story short, I ended up wearing some fruit and he went down with the wicker basket around his neck.
I needed a new mantra.

I am finding my religion. Every day brings another revelation but Life keeps tossing me a new set of challenges. A mantra is your portal to a peace of mind. A mantra takes the edge off. You really can't chill quietly or ponder freely without one.

A mantra can be an unintelligible word, a concrete idea or a vague notion. It can even be an action. Some say a mantra should be given to you. As I was waiting for mine, I had a few ideas on what makes a good one:

1) A good mantra would be universal, something that all creeds and cultures can sink their teeth into. It must be a truth that has no room for debate or bloodshed.
2) It has to be simple, so I can remember it. A "Triple A" mantra should stay in the headlights.
3) There should be a pleasure principle. It’s gotta feel better than it hurts; the heaven should outweigh the hell.
4) This mantra must be convenient and fast. I have a problem with the Islamic prayer schedule. Five times a day is redundant, a real time killer and hard to schedule around, especially during the cocktail hour. Conversely, the old Christian once-a-week is a long time between a good idea.
5) Enlightenment should be time and cost-effective. Some speak of a Karma Bank. My mantra has gotta be a direct deposit.
6) And, it’s gotta be cheap. With the high cost of DSL, living in wartime and greenhouse gases, I really can’t afford anything like the Mormon Commission, the Episcopal Clip or the Pre-Tax Tithe. Plus, there’s my bartender to consider.

There I was, a man in need of a mantra. Suddenly, just when I needed it most, Fortuna, the Roman Goddess of Luck, graced me with one.
On a recent morning, just before I woke up, Rey Ray made a guest star appearance in a dream. Rey Ray was my best pal’s great-uncle. King Ray was a family man, congenial and hard-working. I had a great fondness and respect for him. We shared the love of a cold beer and a hot tamale.
I can’t recall the context of the dream, but I remember that I was standing on the deck of a burning galleon. I looked up and saw Rey Ray on the quarterdeck. Rubbing his full belly, the old man looked around, saw me and smiled. Johnny Cash wrote a soulful song called 'A Satisfied Mind.' (It's always on the Fortuna playlist.) Rey Ray had the grin of a man with a satisfied mind. He winked, raised his arms above his head and flew into the night sky.

A little later, I woke up with the feeling that everything was gonna be OK. To see Rey Ray, I was reminded of a Life Lesson that I had learned from him. His revelation would become my mantra.

I remembered, at his funeral several years back, Rey Ray’s daughter recalled the rigors of a typical family picnic. Once they arrived at the park, big daddy Rey Ray would command all of his kids and a couple dozen cousins to clean up the area. It’s hard to enjoy the beauty of nature when you are looking at someone else’s trash. (At a picnic, I’d rather deal with hungry ants but these days, you better look out for used condoms, spent shell casings or rusty heroin needles.)
Naturally, the kids chafed at the chore, but they understood that a clean camp made their picnic more enjoyable.
The real mutiny began when the day was done and the car was loaded. Rey Ray told the kids to clean up the campsite again. A cranky chorus protested the injustice. Why tidy up when we're cutting out? The kids wisely argued that they were leaving a place as they had found it. But Rey Ray didn’t see it that way. He commanded the kids that they would leave the place better than they had found it.

What a frame of mind! This is the mantra I had been looking for.
Better Than. It even has a whiff of elitism!

Better Than is beauty, symmetry and function. It’s egalitarian. It’s not limited to five times a day.
If I live Better Than and treat people Better Than, I might even stop kicking the dog. If you can pull it off over an entire day, you are practically guaranteed Life’s greatest reward: a Good Night’s Sleep. The Karma Bank would overflow.
Unfortunately, like anything worthwhile, it requires some courage and purposeful thinking.

A tidy little package, Better Than is an attitude with clear purpose.
I want to leave everywhere I go better than I found it.
I want to leave everyone I meet better for the encounter.

Better Than
is fortunato. It could even end wars.


PARTICIPATE! If you have a 'Better Than' story to tell, CLICK HERE