It starts with five simple words:


And then it comes. The music builds. Lightning from the sky strikes the man with the upraised sword. Does it hurt him? Just listen to what he says next:


You remember. Electric bolts of pure energy crackle around his muscled body. Hands that can punch through solid steel grip the sword that transformed the bumbling prince into the most powerful man in the universe. You remember the way it felt to grab hold of a plastic sword or a stick or even empty air and say those same words: I have the power.

We all want the power. But the world seems to be short on magic swords these days. Believe me, I've checked. (You think I'd be writing this if I had a magic sword? No way. I'd be out battling shadow beasts and seven-headed monsters, saving nubile red-haired maidens from guys with skulls for faces.)

So what do we do? Well, I suppose you can grow a mustache and build weapons devices and adopt an orphan who grows up to be captain of the guards. But let's face it. Not everyone can grow mustaches. And even if you can, do you really want to? Basically the only people who can have mustaches without looking silly are those who've always had mustaches. (Having a mustache attached to a beard doesn't count, by the way. It's still just a beard. That's a whole other story.) It's something set from the time of adolescence, something you have to choose. Either you're a mustache guy or you're not. Once you've decided, it's locked in. (It works both ways, too. Suddenly you shave off your mustache and bam! You've got a lip coming from nowhere. Scary.)

Okay. You don't have a magic sword, or a mustache, or skill with weapons or space technology in a barbarian sorcery world. You can't be He-Man or Man-At-Arms. I'll assume that, like me, if you can't do any of the above, you also cannot fly, ram into buildings with your head, or transform into a mystical falcon. Is this reason to despair? Will your life be meaningless from now on?

The answer to all of these questions is: NO! You can have the power without the magic sword. No, I don't mean you'll be able to pick up Castle Grayskull and throw it into the air using your bulging muscles. I'm talking about the real power that He-Man wields. His morality.

Fast forward to the end of the show. The battle with Skeletor was fought and won. Old skullface runs off, shaking his hands in the air, vowing eternal revenge. Like we're scared. Next time we'll just beat him again. No matter who he brings along! (By the way, who has a skull instead of a face? How can he even see without eyeballs?) After all that the show should be over, right?

Wrong! Now comes the most important part. The moral.

You've heard the expression, "the moral of the story." No doubt your 11th grade English teacher had you combing all the pages from "Call me Ishmael" to "Finis" so you could explain, in your own words, just what Moby Dick really meant. He-Man would never lead you on such a pointless chase. At the end of every single episode, He-Man (or one of his faithful and heroic friends) tells you plainly and simply what you should know about how to live a good and happy life. That knowledge, my friends, is real power. With it you can master the universe. Stay tuned.

Friday, May 29, 2009

It's Tough To Be A Dragon

One of the things He-Man teaches us again and again is that you can't judge a book by its cover.

Take Dragons, for example. Dragons can fly; they have razor sharp claws that can tear you to ribbons; they have a massive tail that can crush your spine; and, oh yeah, they breathe fire. Very dangerous creatures to be around.

Those are precisely the reasons Skeletor takes control of a clutch of dragon eggs. With Beast-Man's help, he steal the eggs, juices them up with quick growth serum, and sicks them onto the heroic warriors.

Luckily for the good guys Man-At-Arms has developed a stasis ray that immobilizes the dragons.

At this point, the heroes could rest easy. They've defeated the dragons - and dragons are bad, right? I mean, look how dangerous they are. Something so scary and dangerous must be evil. But He-Man doesn't stop there. He doesn't assume the dragons are bad. He wonders why the dragons attacked. Well, who would want to attack Eternia? Old Bone Dome, who just happens to a have an animal control expert on staff.

This leads him to investigate Skeletor. It's a good thing, too. Skeletor has broken through Castle Grayskull's defenses and imprisoned the Sorceress. He-Man and friends, with the dragons as allies (once Beast-Man is stasis-ized) manage to win back the day.

If He-Man and company had simply assumed that the dragons were bad (and not investigated Skeletor, thus learning of his diabolical plot), they might not have arrived in time to save the Sorceress and Grayskull. A Skeletor in control of Grayskull would have meant enslavement and eventual death for every foe of Skeletor.

(By the way, can you really blame the guy for wanting to be in control of Castle Grayskull? Come on! The guy has a skull for a face! It's like the thing was made just for him. Are the good guys taunting him? Couldn't they at least put a beard made of vines on the front of the castle to make it look a little less like the Big Bad Bone?)

Usually we're told not to judge by appearances because of the effects this can have on the person (or creatures) being judged. That's true here, of course - the dragons weren't put down, which I'm sure they appreciate. But more importantly are the effects on the people doing the judging. Looking past the book's cover and reading the pages gave them the information that saved their lives.

Friday, May 15, 2009


The moral mastery blog is on vacation until May 29th. Until then, if you run into a difficult situation, just ask yourself: would He-Man do this?

And if you're really desperate - would even Orko do it?

Friday, May 8, 2009

Cleanlines is next to...

Orco doesn't keep a very tidy room. He tries to clean it up with magic and just ends up making it worse. It would just be simpler for him to pick everything up by hand (by floating, arm-less glove, I mean) but he would rather try for the easier way out. Even if it ends in a clutter bomb.

Orco isn't just avoiding the physical activity of cleaning. He's avoiding the mental task. The mental task involves choosing where things are to go, to be sure - but usually things have their pre-arranged place. The harder mental tasks are making choices of priority: what to do first, what the best way is to do it. Engaging in these mental tasks requires you to visualize doing the task; this can be harder than the work itself. It suddenly seems like so much work. Oh, how unpleasant it will be to gather all that dirty laundry. Oh, I hate washing the windows. Oh, my toy box is full - wherever will I find the space? And on and on. He gets caught in a feedback loop.

Some people handle this part easily, because they don't think about it much. Others worry. I think Orco is one of the latter.

So instead he would rather not think about it. He'd rather throw out a magic spell and hope that it takes care of itself. It rarely does.

Orco needs to learn to think about something without worrying about it. This is no easy feat, and he doesn't have any magic shortcut up his sleeve for help with this.

Here's my advice, Orco: write out a plan. Don't let your mind wander over all the unpleasant possiblities. List each general task you need to complete: put stuff away, make your bed, throw garbage out. If you need to, make a more detailed sub-category (put stuff away would involve: 1) putting back priceless Eternian jewels from Queen Marlena's personal collection; 2) giving back to Man-At-Arms his shrinking ray.)

Once you have your plan in place, stop thinking about it, start doing it, and check each item off as you go down the list. Presto! No more worry.

One important point: if you run into trouble (like, say, Man-At-Arms is currently lurking in his labaratory and you'd rather not be seen returning his Shrinking Ray because you didn't exactly ask permission to borrow it) don't start worrying. Simply repeat the above process all over again. Consider your objective, and write down the best plan for achieving it.

Once this becomes habit, Orco may not need to go through the formal process of writing it down. His mind will work toward solutions instead of worry.

Friday, May 1, 2009


Skeletor has found himself in He-Man's mercy on more than one occasion. Does He-Man deliver the coup-de-grace? Does he rid Eternia of countless years of terror? No. Like Superman and other do-gooders, He-Man chooses not to "stoop to their level."

He-Man's rationale is a classic golden boy hero creed: the moment I act like them (the villains), I become them. He-Man will always stop short of causing someone's death. Fine. There's a certain symmetry to such a belief.

What's the only alternative for dealing with those who cause death in the first place? Imprisonment, naturally. The only problem is that Skeletor can pretty much disappear at will. Whether he summons a dimensional portal or simply dissolves into thin air, Skeletor always gets away.

Should He-Man adopt a new policy? If Skeletor cannot be contained, does he have an obligation to take Skeletor out once and for all? Should He-Man kill?

No. Not because Skeletor's life should be protected at all costs, or because it's categorically wrong to kill. He-Man shouldn't kill because it's not his job to do so. He's not part of the Eternian military - he's a volunteer. As with all volunteers, you can only expect what you pay for - which is exactly nothing. He-Man has decided to take upon himself the task to "defend the secrets of Castle Grayskull from the evil forces of Skeletor." He's willing to sacrifice his time and risk his life to perform this task; if he wants to make it all the harder on himself by not putting an end to Skeletor once and for all, that's his business.

I think that deep down He-Man believes one day Skeletor will change. That after years of witnessing He-Man's peerless example Skeletor will finally see the error of his ways. Personally, I think He-Man's wrong, but I'm not the one donning furry speedos at the first sign of danger, am I? (My wife certainly hopes not.) He-Man chooses to believe, and he takes responsibility for that belief every time he lifts aloft his magic sword to battle Skeletor. He has earned the right to fight the way he wants.

The only sensible thing to do, as loyal tax-paying Eternian citizens, is to vote for the creation of a specialized cadre of assassins and send them to Snake Mountain. Let He-Man be golden boy; we just want to live in peace.