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Posts Tagged ‘World 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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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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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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“Life every man holds dear; but the dear man holds honor far more precious dear than life.” ~ William Shakespeare

I daresay this morning that virtually every unpleasant element aspect of the human condition came into being through the words and actions of men and women who held their lives more dear than their honor.

Is your honor in tact? Do you live life nobly? One way to check how you are doing in this department is to ask yourself at the end of the day – the end of every day – “Did I do my best today to assist others to their fulfillment?”

Take time today to help another. How? Be creative. Pay attention. Pay it forward. Pay homage to someone you’ve respected in secret.

Pay Attention

Look into the eyes of those with whom you converse. Stay focused. Multi-tasking is overrated, especially when one of the tasks is a conversation. Let others complete their sentences. Don’t interrupt. Hear them out.

Pay it Forward

Benjamin Franklin articulated this valuable concept in a letter he wrote to Benajmin Webb on April 22, 1784:

I do not pretend to give such a Sum; I only lend it to you. When you […] meet with another honest Man in similar Distress, you must pay me by lending this Sum to him; enjoining him to discharge the Debt by a like operation, when he shall be able, and shall meet with another opportunity. I hope it may thus go thro’ many hands, before it meets with a Knave that will stop its Progress. This is a trick of mine for doing a deal of good with a little money.

Ralph Waldo Emerson also described how to pay it forward in his 1841 essay Compensation: “In the order of nature we cannot render benefits to those from whom we receive them, or only seldom. But the benefit we receive must be rendered again, line for line, deed for deed, cent for cent, to somebody.”

Pay Homage

You have no doubt been witness to a “PDA” (Public Display of Affection), but when was the last time you were witness or even party to a “PDR” (Public Display of Respect)? Take time to publicly recognize those whom you hold in high esteem. Others may snicker or sneer, but the world is in desperate need of honor and genuine homage.

When honor becomes your central concern, one of the last things on your mind is how you feel about your life at any given point in time. In fact, honor and integrity banishes self-centeredness.

Have a wonderful Sunday and be not the Knave that stops the progress of a good deed.

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