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Posts Tagged ‘history’

“Try not to become a man of success but rather try to become a man of value.” ~ Albert Einstein

I’ve been meeting with various members of my team about their plans for 2011 and while the details are unique to each one, a common theme is emerging.

Success follows those who add value.

If you care more about adding value than you do about what you can get out of the world around you, you’ll find that decision-making is cleaner, being free of the sticky tentacles of self-concern.

It’s easy to add value. The process begins with being observant, listening and asking questions on occasion and ends with offering whatever help is within your power to provide. It might be a word, a gesture, lending a hand or making a valuable connection. Help comes in many forms.

Many people fill their days consumed with self-interest, desperately trying to find ways to eek more satisfaction, pleasure, financial reward or fulfillment out of their immediate circumstances while dwelling on how the world makes them feel. Whether robed in gold or bronze at the end of the day, such an approach constrains to emptiness.

As the resolutions of the New Year begin to take shape in the womb of your mind, make a point to base your resolutions in the desire to add value to the world around you. Whether it is a fitness goal, a change of heart, habit or attitude, focus on how you can increase your ability to a blessing.

I am convinced that most diets and fitness plans fail because the individual goes into it hoping to get something out of it for him or herself rather than focusing on how he or she might be able to help others more effectively because of the change. Self-improvement is more sustainable when its focus is outwardly instead of inwardly focused.

2011 is full of promise for my team and for you. I trust that best use will be made of whatever comes our way. Onward and upward!

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“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” ~ Albert Einstein

I’ve often marveled at the ingenuity of those standouts in history who dedicated their lives to the restoration of goodness and truth to their rightful place at the apex human understanding and function. It hasn’t been easy. Human beings have resisted this restorative process tooth and nail throughout the ages, giving every reason and excuse for not coming to the point of yielding every ounce of their capacity to the expression of goodness.

“The ideals which have always shone before me and filled me with the joy of living are goodness, beauty, and truth. To make a goal of comfort or happiness has never appealed to me; a system of ethics built on this basis would be sufficient only for a herd of cattle.” ~ Albert Einstein

In my estimation, the greatest hindrance to the restoration of sanity on earth is the obsessive pursuit of comfort. Human beings want comfort on their own terms. For each one, it means something a little different, and yet those differences always seem to conflict and contradict rather than complement one another.

Don’t get me wrong. Comfort is not intrinsically bad or evil, but it becomes so when its possession is put ahead of goodness and truth. Comfort achieved at the expense of goodness and truth is fleeting, hence the multitude of comfort-seekers in every corner of the earth.

“If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end; if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin, and in the end, despair.” ~ C.S. Lewis

What percent of your energies do you devote to the development of a greater understanding of truth? What is truth to you? To me, truth is the pattern of principle, purpose, design and control that govern the expression of life as well as all creative activity.

The principles of truth are eternal, while their application is specific in relation to the need at hand. There is no “your truth and my truth,” for the truth is holistic and more importantly, never in conflict with itself.

The truth is the one thing that will set you free from a life of wishful thinking and despair. Get to know it and you will not be left comfortless! No matter how much the world challenges, criticizes and condemns you, you will be at rest if goodness and truth are your central concern.

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Der Jungbrunnen by Lucas Cranach, Image by Wikipedia

 

“A great secret of success is to go through life as a man who never gets used up.” ~ Albert Schweitzer

Man’s obsession with the discovery of the fountain of youth reaches deep into early history. Whether driven by the desire to overcome his mortality or by the quest to rediscover the key to eternal life, his search spans the written record.

Herodotus, in his “History of Herodotus” written in 440 BCE, tells of Ithyophagi messengers who made their way to Ethiopia to visit the king of the land, where the men were “said to be the tallest and handsomest in the whole world.” Upon their arrival they “questioned the king concerning the term of life” and they were told that most of their people lived to 120 years and some of them well beyond.

Herodotus then added “When the Icthyophagi showed wonder at the number of the years, he led them to a fountain, wherein when they had washed, they found their flesh all glossy and sleek, as if they had bathed in oil- and a scent came from the spring like that of violets.”

Al-Khadir and Alexander the Great, Image by Wikipedia

Islamic tradition also tells an intriguing tale of a prophet named al-Khadir (The Green Man), who was the only person to have discovered the secret to immortality by drinking once from the fabled Ma’ul Hayat (Fountain of Life). Eastern versions of the Alexander Romance describe the tale of Alexander the Great and his servant crossing the Land of Darkness in search of the fountain of life. The servant, incidentally derives from the Arabic tales of al-Khadir!

The archetypal idea that there could be a magical place where restorative waters flow freely is tantalizing, but I have to wonder if we are looking at the record too literally, as children often do when told a story. Could it be instead that the fountain of life is figurative and not literal, a state of being instead of a geographic location or a physical spring?

The stories of great men and women through history who lived phenomenally influential lives are appealing to anyone who has not yet given up on life. They lived life fully and in some cases they found a way to do so without being used up in the process. Was it serendipity, the right combination of genetic material or did they tap into the source of life itself, deep within their bosom?

I imagine that all three of these explanations had some part in it, though good luck and the right genes were likely secondary to the strong sense of self that comes only to those who tap into the wellspring of life within themselves. This connection, I suspect, is not something that can be “gotten” or “possessed,” instead, it is something that manifests as it is given into expression through body, mind and heart.

I am a firm believer in the idea that you cannot give what you do not possess, and I believe in this case that we must add, “…what you do not possess or do not know that you possess.” I believe that the fountain of life is present in each and every person on earth. Whether or not you tap into it is a matter of choice.

Education, religion, spirituality, inspirational and motivational tools that line the self-help shelves and so on are a means to an end in the sense that they provide (in varying degrees) the guidance necessary to reestablish this connection between inner resource and outer expression. When taken as an end, they quickly become a dead end rather than a living one. When viewed as the key to “getting” life rather than giving it, the well-paved road to enlightenment morphs into the road to a hellish life, paved with good intentions.

I would love to hear what lights your fire, what inspires you to push where others crumble and fade away. Don’t be shy…the world needs your vision!

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Washington's Farewell Address, Image by Wikipedia

MAGNANIM’ITY, n. [L. magnanimitas; magnus, great, and animus, mind.] Greatness of mind; that elevation or dignity of soul, which encounters danger and trouble with tranquillity and firmness, which raises the possessor above revenge, and makes him delight in acts of benevolence, which makes him disdain injustice and meanness, and prompts him to sacrifice personal ease, interest and safety for the accomplishment of useful and noble objects.

Having read now quite a number of the leaked cables exposing the underbelly of American foreign policy, I cannot help but be shocked at the great distance we’ve travelled from President George Washington‘s vision for American diplomacy to the pusillanimity that dominates the international political arena today. In President Washington’s famous “Farewell Address,” he described the ideal quite succinctly:

Observe good faith and justice toward all Nations; Cultivate peace and harmony with all. Religion and Morality enjoin this conduct; and can it be that good policy does not equally enjoin it? It will be worthy of a free, enlightened, and, at no distant period a great Nation to give mankind the magnanimous and too novel example of a people always guided by an exalted justice and benevolence.Who can doubt, that, in the course of time and things, the fruits of such a plan would richly repay any temporary advantages, which might be lost by a steady adherence to it?

Whatever is said about the rightness or wrongness of Mr. Assange’s disclosures via Wikileaks, we now have over 200,000 more specific reasons to realize that we have a long way to go before we live up to the standard set by President Washington.

So where do we start? Schools are a good place. Children, like nations, interact, form friendships, develop trading partners, experience conflict and so on, so the microcosm they live in provides a complete and relatively safe representation of what they will likely encounter later in life and on a larger scale.

The workplace is another field of tremendous opportunity. Pettiness only thrives in soil devoid of magnanimity. Pettiness needn’t be stamped out, rather, it must be displaced by a culture of peace, harmony, good faith and justice. Most importantly, there must be consistent representation of magnanimity by those in leadership positions.

What can you do to be more magnanimous? The more you are, the more those around you will be sorted out naturally (and without the need for judgment) as to who is with you and who is against you. It is that simple. A true friend responds favorably to your magnanimity, while those who are repelled by it are better off left to their own devices at whatever distant orbital they end up occupying in your atmosphere.

Let your life be one that is led by exalted justice and benevolence as you aim to achieve useful and noble objects. Anything less is not worthy of you. Anything less is not consistent with who you are at the core of your being.

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Manessische Liederhandschrift, Image by Wikipedia

“Though the practice of chivalry fell even more sadly short of its theoretic standard than practice generally falls below theory, it remains one of the most precious monuments of the moral history of our race, as a remarkable instance of a concerted and organized attempt by a most disorganized and distracted society, to raise up and carry into practice a moral ideal greatly in advance of its social condition and institutions; so much so as to have been completely frustrated in the main object, yet never entirely inefficacious, and which has left a most sensible, and for the most part a highly valuable impress on the ideas and feelings of all subsequent times.” ~ John Stuart Mill

 

I once inadvertently upset a young woman by holding the door open for her. She took offence to my gesture, interpreting it as a chauvinistic power play rather than a gesture of respect. I wrote it off as a poorly executed sign of the times, where young women are eager to assert themselves in a show of equality. I must admit, though, that I continue to hold the door open for women of all ages to this day.

The incident did stick with me over the years (hence this post!), and I think that part of the tension that surrounded the young lady’s heart in the matter is rooted in a misunderstanding of equality. Equality is not sameness. Men and women are different from one another and I believe that it is healthier to respect those differences than to smother them through political correctness.

There is no doubt in my mind that there are women who are smarter, stronger and wittier than me. Stereotypes based purely on anatomical differences are foolhardy. Women are no more the “lesser of the species” than they are from a different planet.

Men and women, when comfortable in their own skins, complement one another wonderfully. They exist along a spectrum – from “girly-girl” to “manly-man” with significant overlap in the middle. That said, some of the most masculine men I’ve known possessed a surprisingly sensitive side while some of the most feminine women have proven to be the toughest and meanest creatures I’ve known.

Whether you believe that men and women are the product of evolutionary forces or the crowning achievement of a divinely designed world, it is clear that we’re both here for a reason. A friend of mine in high school used to joke about women being “obsolete fertile vessels” when he read about test tube babies and oddly enough the young lady who was most offended by his poking ended up marrying him several years later. Obsolete? I highly doubt it. Pigs will fly first.

We need one another. The line, “You complete me,” made famous by the movie “Jerry Maguire” (or was it Austin Powers?) is a great way to look at it. We are two parts of a whole, not opposites, and our differences are what makes the union so powerful, meaningful and creative.

The principles of chivalry also apply to generational differences, in fact, many of the principles of chivalry can and should be exemplified and taught to children at a very young age. Giving up a seat for an adult or not talking balk, for instance, are perfect symbols to children of how the different sexes can and should relate later in life. Respect is a fundamental building block of chivalry.

There are many implications to the continued practice of chivalry that I hope to investigate further with you in future posts and I hope that you take no offense to me holding the door open for you as you take steps to develop a deeper understanding of the topic.

Good day!

 

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I take the time every night to review my day, to tie up any loose ends and to set the stage for the day to come. Some days end like a neatly wrapped package at Christmastime. Others end like a pile of fall leaves, tumultuous and disorderly with little hope of settling into order.

No matter how your day unfolds, take time to access the quiet place in your heart that no man, woman or circumstance can ruffle. Each one has this place available to him or herself, though the failure to visit it regularly allows the weeds and the bushes to obscure the path that leads to the gate of the garden of tranquility.

The golden scissors of forgiveness, thanksgiving and appreciation keep the way clear. Some days you may need to be more specific or persistent than others as you maintain the garden path, and last evening I found this poem (written by the author of Anne of Green Gables) to be particularly helpful as I sought to organize my thoughts, soften my heart and mind and come to rest.

I hope that you enjoy it this morning and I highly encourage you to read it once again before settling in for the evening.

November Evening ~ Lucy Maud Montgomery

Come, for the dusk is our own; let us fare forth together,
With a quiet delight in our hearts for the ripe, still, autumn weather,
Through the rustling valley and wood and over the crisping meadow,
Under a high-sprung sky, winnowed of mist and shadow.

Sharp is the frosty air, and through the far hill-gaps showing
Lucent sunset lakes of crocus and green are glowing;
‘Tis the hour to walk at will in a wayward, unfettered roaming,
Caring for naught save the charm, elusive and swift, of the gloaming.

Watchful and stirless the fields as if not unkindly holding
Harvested joys in their clasp, and to their broad bosoms folding
Baby hopes of a Spring, trusted to motherly keeping,
Thus to be cherished and happed through the long months of their sleeping.

Silent the woods are and gray; but the firs than ever are greener,
Nipped by the frost till the tang of their loosened balsam is keener;
And one little wind in their boughs, eerily swaying and swinging,
Very soft and low, like a wandering minstrel is singing.

Beautiful is the year, but not as the springlike maiden
Garlanded with her hopes rather the woman laden
With wealth of joy and grief, worthily won through living,
Wearing her sorrow now like a garment of praise and thanksgiving.

Gently the dark comes down over the wild, fair places,
The whispering glens in the hills, the open, starry spaces;
Rich with the gifts of the night, sated with questing and dreaming,
We turn to the dearest of paths where the star of the homelight is gleaming.

Have a brilliant day!

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A friend forwarded a fantastic link to me the other day and I thought you would enjoy it as you think about how to handle the remaining weeks you have to live.

The average person in the Western world now lives to the ripe old age of roughly 75 years in a body that properly cared for could live much longer. Look more closely and you see that you have 900 months or 3,600 weeks to do what you are going to do while on earth.

If you haven’t heard of thevisualMD, they produce fascinating educational videos on topics such like health and wellbeing. This particular video gives you a good feel for what they do and for what you can learn in just a few short minutes:

http://www.thevisualmd.com/health_centers/wellness/the_9_visual_rules_of_wellness_preview/return_to_the_path_of_good_health

My readers and subscribers in the USA will no doubt be enjoying some version of Thanksgiving today. Thanksgiving to me is a time for appreciation, celebration and remembrance.

The freedoms and security we enjoy now came at a great cost to many over the years. As is so often the case in history, great nations were subdued as a new order was established, disenfranchising some while empowering others. It’s not pretty, but it happened and I have no doubt that it will continue to happen in the future unless there is a fundamental shift in human consciousness.

How that would happen I am not sure, but the possibility of its occurrence is something that I am not entirely willing to write off. I’ve received a number of links to the increasingly popular “flash mobs” that are popping up in public spaces around the country, where planned but unannounced musical or dance performances are put on to the delight and amazement of an unsuspecting crowd. It’s funny to see how significant an effect a small catalyst like that can have on people. They are inspirational!

Inspiration needn’t be contrived or practice to be effective. In fact, every conversation you have, every glance you give one of your fellow human beings, every word that comes out of your mouth can either inspire or discourage those within view and earshot.

As you celebrate this Thanksgiving, make an effort to give thanks for the blessings you’ve received in your life. Share your appreciation of others…don’t be shy. Emphasize that which you wish to grow in others and take note of but don’t dwell on that which is destructive or abrasive. All things come to pass and as with the Abominable Snowman, once the teeth are gone you might find a helpful and enjoyable person underneath the grizzly facade.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

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