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Posts Tagged ‘Literature’

“Do not anticipate trouble or worry about what may never happen.  Keep in the sunlight.” ~Benjamin Franklin

Talking somebody down from the wall of worry is not an easy task. To do so you must deftly skirt accusations like “you just don’t understand” and “you’re not hearing me” while reassuring, distracting and refocusing attention on what can be done here and now.

Troubles are fed by the attention you pay to them. Wise is the person who understands the scope of his problems without succumbing to the temptation to fixate on them. Problems are resolved with solutions, not worries.

“Drag your thoughts away from your troubles… by the ears, by the heels, or any other way you can manage it.” ~ Mark Twain

One of the silliest things you can worry about are those things which you have no control over or any means of influencing. They are what they are and stressing about them will only drain the very battery you will draw upon to handle the challenges that pass through your sphere of influence.

If you have a list of worries, take the time to cross out those about which you can do nothing. Next to those crossed out write something you can handle or influence as things are now. You can either spend time worrying or moving in a productive direction. The choice is yours.

“You can’t wring your hands and roll up your sleeves at the same time.” ~ Pat Schroeder

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How far that little candle throws his beams!
So shines a good deed in a naughty world.
~ William Shakespeare, “Merchant of Venice”

Anyone who performs a good deed in the world the way it now is runs the risk of casting pearls before swine. You needn’t look far to see that goodness and virtue are often devoured as soon as they are delivered. Apologies met with disdain instead of forgiveness, gestures of kindness trampled upon rather than reciprocated and revelations of the heart misinterpreted and unrequited happen with alarming and potentially discouraging frequency.

While you cannot control the actions of others, you can make a difference in this naughty world by carrying yourself with dignity, that is, by refusing to sink to the lowest common denominator. John E. Southard offered helpful advice in this regard when he said: “The only people with whom you should try to get even are those who have helped you.” That single piece of advice, properly heeded, would bring an end to the poisons of vengeance, cursing and retribution.

One of the strangest things I’ve witnessed is when people attack you for helping them. If the nature of your giving doesn’t line up with what they were expecting to get for themselves, there is a chance that they will turn and rend you. No matter how much you give to people there is always the risk that they will refuse to seal the blessings with thankfulness. Blessings thus unsealed quickly leak away.

I can no other answer make, but, thanks, and thanks. ~ William Shakespeare

Giving thanks is the least expensive, yet most effective form of life insurance. It is not hard to do once you’re in the habit and thanks can be given in a million different ways. Henry Ward Beecher instructed: “The unthankful heart…knows no mercies…” and every student of life who seeks a life well-lived is wise to invest heavily in the attitude of thanksgiving.

Where to start? Why, exactly where you are! You needn’t have one single additional blessing to engage in giving thanks, here and now. Even if the only thing for which you can be thankful is that you still have life in you, you have an adequate starting point. If you lack the ability to be thankful for what you have, you’re unlikely to have the capacity to be thankful for what you’re going to receive.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend and invest wisely in the world around you. Do so on the basis that you place no expectation on the return and you will discover an inner sanctuary that nourishes, comforts and reassures.

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Shallow men believe in luck. Strong men believe in cause and effect. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

One of the presenters I was privileged to watch this weekend at our annual Energetix Lyceum described the methylation pathways of our body. Methylation acts as an on/off switch that allows the body to learn how to deal with the environment and it controls the body’s ability to detoxify.

With the industrial revolution came explosive growth in the production of new substances that have proven over time to be toxic to all living creatures on earth, including you and me. Plastics, preservatives, food colorings, synthetic fabrics, personal electronic devices and so on have made the achievement and maintenance health an increasingly difficult proposition.

I am certain that in all things there is causality. Cause and effect governs the movement from past to present and conditions the movement from present to future. What people call “luck,” as in “I had a lucky day” or “I stumbled upon the solution by dumb luck” is really another way to say “I am not too clear about the cause of this effect, but I am pleased by its occurrence.”

Similarly, the idea of “bad luck” is nothing more than an admission of the same, followed by displeasure with the outcome. In my view, professing to have good luck or bad luck is a convenient and generally acceptable way to shirk responsibility in and or for any given matter.

Those who profess to have good luck are either unwilling to accept responsibility for the investments they’ve made that have constrained to a positive outcome or they are unwilling to recognize and thank others for the seeds they’ve planted that resulted in a desirable harvest beyond themselves.

Likewise, those who claim to be the victims of bad luck are frequently avoiding the fact that they didn’t do the work required to tip the scales toward a positive outcome or they have failed to see the fact that the human race is deeply interconnected and that they more often than not are forced by the objective flow of cause and effect to harvest the less-than-perfect actions of their fellow human beings.

Luck – both good and bad – is not a random process. Like the methylation pathways in our bodies, luck is nothing more than the expression of cause and effect. Luck can appear to be random as cause and effect can be incredibly complex, with multiple agents affecting multiple processes that can link seemingly unrelated events and people.

We are all related in one way or another. Whether you read this blog in a Yurt in Costa Rica, the Presidential Suite at the Plaza Hotel in New York or a dorm room at university, your thoughts, words and actions eventually end up impacting people and events that would appear on the surface to have nothing to do with one another.

Health is also the product of cause and effect. You can no longer bank on having health throughout your life by virtue of having “good” genes. Even those with the strongest constitutions are finding themselves challenges by the mounting toxicity in our world. The point is that if you are concerned to have better luck, you must pay closer attention to causation.

The wise man handles both the good in life as well as the bad with equanimity. After a string of “good luck” he doesn’t take the good things in life for granted, rest on his laurels or forget to continue to plant seeds of inspiration, encouragement and refinement. Similarly, after a bad day or worse a bad week he doesn’t resign himself to blame, complaint or dismay.

The understanding of cause and effect is the basis for a generative life. Without this foundation it is easy to fall prey to the many substandard explanations for why life is the way it is at any given point in time.

The decisions you make in your life affect more than you could ever imagine. Think big when you think. Think of others when you think. And most importantly, think when you’re supposed to think, for luck never made a man wise.

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I think that we may safely trust a good deal more than we do. We may waive just so much care of ourselves as we honestly bestow elsewhere. ~ Henry David Thoreau

Who do you trust? I mean, who do you really trust, with your life? My guess is that you have a short list and that your list is populated by a few people with whom and for whom you have deep feeling. No doubt these precious few have proven trustworthy over time and in most cases the trust is mutual.

Yesterday we considered the fact that mot people live their lives consumed by care for themselves. This self-obsession is an unfortunate side-effect of the Renaissance ideals of individualism and self-determination having been left unchecked and imbalanced by the failure to honestly bestow care upon others.

Shakespeare wrote that we should “Love all, trust a few, [and] do wrong to no one.” Even in a perfect world devoid of deceit I imagine that trust would be earned and not presumed. True love is not blind and even in a world where love reigned supreme there would be room for errors and omissions due to inexperience or a lack of sufficient perspective.

Even in a world more perfect than our own, this natural margin for error would necessitate that we trust, but verify. In my observation, if you have has been wronged a time or two you become naturally more suspicious of those around you. Fail to do so and you are labeled “gullible” and made a target by those who would seek to take unfair advantage of your blindness to the facts.

Taking it another step, you may have decided to stop trusting people altogether on the theory that abstinence is the best for of prevention. The motto “Trust no one and you’ll never be duped, taken advantage of or double-crossed” replaces “Love all, trust a few, do wrong to no one” and the world becomes a cold, litigious, and inexplicably lonely place. Sound familiar?

One of my favorite sayings was born of the brilliant mind of Ralph Waldo Emerson. He penned: “Trust men and they will be true to you; treat them greatly and they will show themselves great.” I invest copious amounts of trust in those around me. My hope and my expectation is that they will, over time, show themselves great. Is that too much to ask?

I’ve found that investing trust just beyond the point where the recipient trusts him or herself creates a refiner’s fire. The individual either steps up to the plate and delivers a strong return on investment or he or she cuts and runs. When someone trusts you there is a natural pressure that builds up, the pressure to perform. Trust, in this sense, has an incredible ability to separate the wheat from the chaff.

Trust liberally, but verify and you will find that the world around you begins to take on a new shape. Friends who favor only fair-weather will blow away with the high pressure system that dominates your personal atmosphere while those who will stand with you no matter how things look, feel or appear, will be friends that you can trust; that you can really trust.

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Image by Gregg Hake

 

My youngest son, who is now four years old, learned to pronounce the letter “l” properly this weekend. I daresay that I will miss the “w” that typically stood in the place of a properly pronounced hard “l”, but hey, “wife” goes on. He spent the entire weekend searching for words that began with or contained the newly mastered letter and it was such a thrill to behold that his brother, mother and I proposed a toast in his honor (he wuvved it).

One of my greatest delights in life is when I have the privilege to witness the personal victory of another. No matter how big or small, life’s accomplishments are worthy of notice and celebration. It is on this basis and only on this basis that education becomes and remains something to be looked forward to rather than dreaded or shunned.

The process of education is taking on a whole new meaning to me as my sons begin to interface with the education system in the United States, a system that has its roots in and retains much of its shape from the transition between America’s distant past as an agrarian society and its more recent past as an industrial nation.

Loud clanging bells still mark the hour, preparing students for beginning and end of shift bells in shops, factories and manufacturing centers around the country that are increasingly hard to find. The industrial-era influence continues to shape the architecture of most schools with an austere aesthetic. Sure, computers are plugged into the “wired” schools of our advanced era, but in my view it is generally lipstick on an outmoded jig.

What is needed is a new template, one that takes the realities of our current era into account. For starters, our students need to move around more and eat better. No matter how many facts we fill their minds with, a child who leaves the educational system with a diploma and a diagnosis of obesity is at a disadvantage. Many schools, particularly on the West Coast, are revamping their cafeterias and meal programs with the help of passionate innovators like Jamie Oliver. It’s a good start, but we need more!

With regard to my two previous posts on the future of our country and of the freedom we have enjoyed over the last two centuries, we are in desperate need of programs and tools that help educate the future electorate that walk the halls of our educational institutions. What good is a specialization in this, that or the other if you do not understand what role you have in maintaining the delicate balance between anarchy and tyranny made possible by a Constitutional republic?

In my previous post Civic Virtue and the Rise and Fall of Empires I quoted Benjamin Franklin on the necessity of forming and training our youth in wisdom and virtue. There is no greater challenge faced by educators today. Unless we get this right no effort expended or dollar spent to put the American educational system back in the game will have any meaning.

Education is a tremendously inspiring and engaging process when delivered correctly. The future of the world rests in the hands of an educated and virtuous electorate and we must do all within our power to create a system that meets today’s needs and answers today’s challenges.

As an aside, if we fail on this point we had all better start practice saying: “Wong Wive the King!” No pressure!

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Longfellow, Image by Wikipedia

“He that respects himself is safe from others; he wears a coat of mail that none can pierce.” ~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

 

I am surrounded by people who aspire to excellence. They push themselves, dream big and take risks. They questions assumptions, test their limitations and welcome correction. They learn to use pressure to advantage, relax in discomfort and deal with awkwardness when moving from one chapter to the next in life.

One of the perils of personal development lurks in the no-man’s land between what you were and what you are becoming. You are constantly changing and as with walking, your progress is marked by an oscillation between balance and imbalance.

Most people don’t have a problem with the times of balance; it is the periods of imbalance that catch them off-guard. I’ve seen many people on the cusp of an important breakthrough in their lives come unglued or more often than not subtly undermine their own progress through self-doubt, reaction to pressure and fear of both success and failure.

When you are in the middle of a transition you are least stable. Practitioners of the martial arts Aikido are taught how to walk in a way that minimizes the natural instability between steps. Likewise, people who are effective when it comes to personal development learn to function in a way that they mitigate the risks of the instability, vulnerability and insecurity that often accompanies life changes.

One of the best ways to remain stable is to maintain your self-respect. Have confidence in the foundation of success you’re moving from and continue to move forward, without giving away your self-respect. Don’t revert to old habits that may have slowed or stunted your growth and development in the past; just keep moving.

Marcus Aurelius offered the timeless suggestion that you: “Never esteem anything as of advantage to you that will make you break your word or lose your self-respect.” Stay loose, remain flexible and and be wiling to look former limitations squarely in the eye and say: “thus far and no further.”

When it comes to excellence, don’t be afraid to take a stand. Even if your refusal to accept mediocrity attracts the jeers of those who despise you for bringing pressure on the status quo, there are those out there who will support you in your efforts to achieve the great goals you’ve set for yourself.

You were born to reveal excellence. Your life can be meaningful, purposeful and influential if you so choose. None can pierce the coat of mail that comes from a healthy and well-founded self-respect, so get out there and shine!

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Harvest Moon, Image by Wikipedia

On Fields O’er which the Reaper’s Hand has Passed by Henry David Thoreau

On fields o’er which the reaper’s hand has pass’d
Lit by the harvest moon and autumn sun,
My thoughts like stubble floating in the wind
And of such fineness as October airs,
There after harvest could I glean my life
A richer harvest reaping without toil,
And weaving gorgeous fancies at my will
In subtler webs than finest summer haze.

What is it in your life, in this world or beyond that calls forth your finest thoughts? Is it stories of great men or women who overcame the enormous gravity of mediocrity? Or perhaps the simplest revelation of nature’s many beauties? Is it time alone with Bach’s heavenly Suite for Solo Cello in G Major – Prelude or maybe time shared with friends while savoring Caciocavallo Podolico, the only cheese in Italy which is not, and cannot by definition be, industrially-produced?

Our lives are filled with influences that will, if allowed, produce mediocre thoughts. The trouble with mediocre thoughts is that they tend to generate mediocre actions. There is an old alchemical principle worth noting here: “As above, so below.” Your thoughts are higher than your actions in the sense that thought precedes action. Finer thought, therefore, generates finer action.

Some actions may come with little forethought, as with habitual or instinctive reactions, but living a reasoned life – especially in today’s day and age – requires the ability to think finely in coarse situations.

Excellence is nothing more than the finest thing in the room. It is a relative thing and as such excellence is available to everyone in any situation. You can hold an external standard in mind to assist you in your quest for finer thoughts, but ultimately it comes down to you. It matters not what another would do were he or she in your boots, what would, better yet, what should you do?

When conversation turns south, do you fly along unquestioningly like a migrating goose? When your spirits are low, do you allow thoughts of desperation, impotence or perhaps despair to corrupt your mind? When a friend asks: “Are you feeling well?” does your mind turn easily from rosy, productive thoughts to lesser things that may not even be true of you in that moment?

If so, you have some work to do. Your mind is a remarkable instrument that, properly used, can rise to produce precious and wonderful thoughts that are perfect for the occasion. Think about your life and ask yourself when you did your most creative, constructive, salient thinking. If it was only in the past, why? What changed?

If it is now, well, kudos! You’re on the right track. Your mind – if you’ll pardon the cliché – is a terrible thing to waste. Exercise it rightly, feed it well, reveal excellence where you would normally settle for mediocrity and your world – our world – will change for the better.

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