Saturday, December 30, 2006

Receiving What We Send

My life partner and I were talking this morning about the phenomenon of receiving back from others what we send. If we send out negative vibrations, it should not surprise us to receive them back from others. Being kind and friendly to others encourages them to reply in kind. I have heard people say they can't find anyone to date. But sometimes when you watch them in action, their words and body language suggest a barrier no one would dare approach. I remember going to a business mixer several years ago and being disappointed not to meet anyone. When I attended the same function recently, I had a much different response. I realized that I was the one who changed and this time did not wait for others to approach me but approached them in an interested manner changing the whole tone of our interaction.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Whence Natural Law?

I have wondered for a while about natural law. Wikipedia describes it as "the principle that some things are as they are because that is how they are." Well, that may be, but who gets to decide what the natural law is? Does one find it written on the side of a tree somewhere? The theologian Thomas Aquinas in the thirteenth century stated that the rational nature of human beings defines natural law. I don't remember everyone getting together to agree on what natural law consists of. In reality governments and religions have been the ones to proclaim natural law. The whole discussion seems rather academic until we get to particulars such as contraception being against the natural law since everyone knows that sex is for procreation and without the option of procreation, sex is "disordered." That has been a source of controversy for some time. The whole matter remains a puzzlement to me. Anybody have any ideas?

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Creating Positive Energy

Many years ago when I was studying physics, I learned that energy is never lost in the universe. It is possible to change energy from one form to another but not possible to create or destroy it. It was a bit difficult for me to understand. It seemed to me that machines as well as people could run out of energy. The reality is that they just run out of fuel until they are resupplied. If we can't create energy, we can at least change it from positive to negative energy or from negative to positive energy. Through our efforts we can make our immediate emotional environment toxic for those who come near us or energizing for them instead. What do you want to share with others?

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Love the Ones You're With

One of my life partner's favorite sayings is, "If you can't be with the ones you love, love the ones you're with." Not all of us can be with the ones we love at Christmas for various reasons. Rather than just keeping to ourselves and staying lonely under these circumstances, we can share some of ourselves with those around us. There are always many small ways we can add to the joy or at least lessen the burden of those we meet on a daily basis. Sometimes a kind word or a very minor favor reminds that person that he or she is worthy of at least some slight consideration even on the part of a stranger. It costs us very little, enhances someone else's life and also makes us feel better. Merry Christmas.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Learning from Giving

I talked with someone recently who decided to do something different this Christmas. She looked for people who seemed to be struggling with what they could afford to buy their children as gifts. She had with her a supply of twenty dollar bills which she offered to people she thought could one. The idea seemed simple enough. Putting it into practice was not so easy. You take the risk of offending someone by offering them money, suggesting that they could use it. Even people of limited means are sensitive to how people perceive them. In order not to make them feel belittled, she had to convince them that it was more for her than for them. I have also read about how someone bought a stranger lunch for no particular reason. Most of us donate money to charities or to a church. Such giving is usually anonymous and we never get to meet the one we are helping. The experience is quite different up close and personal.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

What Christmas present do we give to ourselves?

This is the time of year when we tend to be preoccupied with what to give as presents to people we care for. What would they like? What would show how we feel about them? What would make them feel good? I wonder how many of us stop to think what kind of gift we could give ourselves. I know I never did it until just now. There are a few things we could consider: permission to set time aside to enjoy ourselves, a small treat we have constantly put off, getting rid of the things or obligations which keep us from getting on with what is important to us. If you think about it, you should be able to make a good list for yourself. Then choose a few of the things you would like most. Best of all it doesn't cost anything.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

What Do We Expect of Ourselves?

In yesterday's post, I wrote about what others expect of us and how that tends to shape our actions. Probably at least as important are the expectations we have of ourselves. From what we have been told by our parents, what we have heard from others about ourselves and what we have learned from experience, we have ideas about what our capabilities are. We think we know what we can do and what we can't. We could be right or wrong. We might reach beyond our capabilities or be trapped by what we see as out limitations. Our expectations are only ideas we have about ourselves. We don't know our capabilities until we take the risk and stretch ourselves a little. Even then, we might have the capacity to learn skills we don't have at present. We sell ourselves short if we stop at the limits we think we have. Taking a chance is often risky but is the only way we can find out out true abilities.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The Stigma of Ordinary People

When I was first studying psychology, I was introduced to a book called Stigma by Erving Goffman. In the book, Goffman wrote about how people who were different had a stigma or sign of their being different. People came to expect them to act in accord with their perception of how they should act in their capacity as a "different" person. This label applies to race, sexual orientation, physical and mental disabilities and other forms of differentness. It occurred to me recently that all of us have stigmas of our own. Through our experience with others they form an expectation of how we should react and they are put off when we don't act the way they expect us to. This makes it hard to step out of our shells and to be creative rather than predictable. It would be good for us to remember that when we active in a different way, people don't necessarily think we are crazy. It's just that we are not doing what they expect.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Renewing Old Friendships

I went to a Christmas party last night attended by former colleagues. Even though I have not worked with them for the past two years, they still invite my life partner and me to their annual party. After leaving other jobs, I have tended to move on and lose touch with those I worked with on a daily basis. Even though I do not see people from this practice frequently, I do keep in touch from time to time. Although I suppose it would become overwhelming to try keeping in touch with everyone with whom I have worked over the years, it is nice to keep up contacts and maintain some continuity with who and where I have been in the past. It gives me some guideposts to judge my progress and direction as my life develops.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Autonomy versus Solidarity

I am still reading Barack Obama's book. I ran across his discussion of the conflict in our thinking between autonomy and solidarity. We all want individual freedom: the ability to make and follow through wih our decisions without anyone keeping us from doing so. We also have a need for solidarity: a feeling of belongingness which makes us feel supported by others. As with so many other values, these two often conflict. Balancing them and finding a way to have a measure of both is one of our life challenges. As with other areas of our lives, nothing is ever easy.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Dogma versus Common Sense

Batrack Obama in his book, The Audacity of Hope, talks about the tension between dogma and common sense. In some ways it is easier to act in response to dogma, what we are told to believe by an authority we have come to respect, or whose respect we have inherited from our parents. It doesn't involve much thinking on our part and has usually stood the test of time. However, times change and the wisdom of dogma might not still be relevant. Common sense takes some work on our part. We need to trust our perceptions, testing them to be sure they are valid. Commonsense conclusions can fly in the face of dearly held dogmas, setting up a conflict within us. It is not comfortable, but we are more likely to act courageously if we stop to examine our beliefs to see how sensible they are.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Living Comfortably on a Powder Keg

We have come to a point in our American culture where we cling to narrowly defined extreme positions, seeing those who hold opposite opinions as the enemy. Where will that get us? Nowhere. If unchecked, our acrimony might be the destruction of our civilization. If we continue to fight with each other, we will waste our energy fighting while the world passes us by as irrelevant. It is time we start listening to each other even if what we hear makes us uncomfortable. We can gently share our discomfort with each other, inviting understanding rather than attacking our fellow citizens as enemies. This would be a radical change for our society, but one which is well worth attempting and may also be our salvation as a country.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

What You Hear When You Close Your Mouth

Most of us want to be heard. What we have to say is important, at least to us. When we are looking for the chance to get in our two cents, we are often focusing on finding the opportunity and hear little of what others have to say. We want to have others hear us and accept what we have to say. I learned quite a while ago that it is possible to be considered a great conversationalist without saying anything of substance. All we have to do is listen politely to what others say and ask questions about what they are saying to let them know we are listening. Sometimes we find that others already agree with us and we don't need to spend any time convincing them of our point of view. Sometimes others are able to say more clearly what we are trying to express. Even if we disagree, knowing someone else's position gives us a bridge to communicate with them and state what we have to say in a way they can understand.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Treeless in Seattle

I read this morning about how the Seattle airport had cleared its decks of Christmas trees in response to a Rabbi being upset that there were no Jewish holiday symbols on display. It reminded me of Aesop's fable about the father, son and donkey. I also wondered what it would be like if no public displays of belief or tradition were allowed. No parades of statues through the streets of North Boston on Friday nights in the summer. No Ganandigan festival. No Reconquista celebration in Vigo, Spain. It would be a barren world with nothing to celebrate. Rather than making room for everyone to display their traditions, we would have dull, secular lives unsullied by anyone's cherished beliefs. There must be a better way. Would it not be better to know about each others' traditions rather than confining them where they are not visible?

Friday, December 08, 2006

Cooperation vs. Appeasement

I have been reading lately about the difference of opinion about whether to seek cooperation with countries such as Iran and Syria or to isolate ourselves from them as a way to avoid appeasing them. When I was pondering this, the final scene from the movie Dr. Strangelove came to my mind: a cowboy character riding an atomic bomb to his doom and to that of all who lay below. I thought that we can ride our arrogance to destruction or swallow our pride and talk with those who make us uncomfortable and even afraid. It is a humbling choice but one worth pondering.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Wars and Rumors of Wars

Today is the anniversary of Pearl Harbor. I was not around then but did arrive on the scence in the middle of World War II. I came close to being drafted for the Vietnam War on several occasions but did not see it as having the same noble purpose as the war at the time of my birth. It seems to me that we are teetering on the verge of another world war focused in the middle east although no one I know has referred to it that way. World War I was seen at the time as the last great war, but it does not seem we have learned too many lessons from it other than how to fight more efficiently. We still do not seem to have learned to listen to each other very well. Sometimes I wonder what it will take for us to make this a priority in our world.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The Death of a Friend

The Christmas season is usually a happy and a peaceful one for me. This year a friend died, disturbing my tranquility. He had been vibrant for years and always a joy to visit although I didn't see him that often. He showed us all his secret places in New England and added great joy and interest to our trips. He had been in poor health for a number of years and died as a result of complications of surgery to reset his hip. A duel is taking place within me between the happy memories and the sadness of his death. Christmas is set in the middle of winter when the earth is still and seemingly lifeless (at least where I live.) Still I know that the earth will spring to life in a few months. I need to remind myself that Michael's memory and spirit will also return when I need to think about him as I proceed through life's daily challenges.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Learning As You Go Along

I was thinking recently how much effort it took as a child to learn certain things like walking or tying shoes although I did not think about the effort then any more than anyone else did. Once I thought I was close to learning everything I needed to know. Now I realize that life is a process of endless learning. There are always minor things to learn such as how to print out part of an e-mail in the new version of Outlook. As I was growing up, there was no such thing as Microsoft Outlook. Many of the things I learn these days are not of great importance but do make life (and work) a little easier. Maybe the point is just to give my mind something to do to keep it sharp.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Accentuate the Positive

There is an old Johnny Mercer song which starts, "Accentuate the positive. Eliminate the negative." There are plenty of positive and negative things in our lives each day. We have a choice of which to dwell on. Dwelling on the positive tends to make our day go better. Dwelling on the negative has the opposite result. We tend to get what we emphasize and focus on. I have wondered why this is so but so far have not figured it out. I guess it is enough to accept it as fact. It seems to work in my life. Maybe when we look for the positive, we are more likely to find it. When we look for the negative, there it is waiting for us. We can choose whatever we want and at the end of the day have the results of our choices to comfort or bother us.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

White Wall Tires

This morning I was enjoying what will probably be the last of my breakfasts on the porch for a while unless I switch to frozen eggs. I was enjoying my French toast and coffee when a fancy car passed sporting white wall tires. I couldn't remember the last time I had seen them on anything other than an antique car. I was reminded of Alexander Pope's adage, "Be not the first by whom the new are tried, nor yet the last to lay the old aside." I thought of old customs which were once the rage but now passe. It is amazing to me the things we come to think we must have when in fact they are just fads which will eventually fade. Sometimes it is hard to think past what is in vogue and remember what is really important.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

How To Be Your Own Best Critic

It seems like we would be in a good position to be our own critics. After all, we are the only ones inside our skins on a twenty-four hour basis. Yet we are often blind to our rough spots and don't see what we need to fix or change. Maybe we don't want to see it. Some people act like porcupines and don't let anyone else close enough to share their opinions, especially of us. However there is a way we can learn to view ourselves critically. If we listen to what we criticize about others, and think about what we are saying, we might well find that we criticize in others the very things we would do well to change in ourselves. It's something to ponder.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Counting on Feedback

How much time do we waste fretting about why people act in ways which inconvenience us? Don't they know what we want them to do? How could they be so callous? People don't always do things to inconvenience us. Sometimes they do things they think we would like, but just don't know us well enough. How often do we tell people what we think, and how often do we expect them to guess our thoughts? We tend to forget people are not mindreaders. If we think something, we expect others to be aware of it. It doesn't work that way. It is important to let others know what we think. But we will get farther if we first listen to how others receive information. Then we will know how to approach them and they will be more receptive to what we have to say.

Monday, November 27, 2006

The Agnostic's Prayer

I was reading last week that choosing faith or choosing athiesm was noble and respectible while choosing agnosticism was wishy-washy and unrespectible. In some ways this statement seemed to make sense. With the first two options, at least one chose something definite. If you choose athiesm or faith, at least you know where you stand and can get on with the rest of your life in accordance with your beliefs. But is agnosticism really a cop out? Agnosticism means admitting you don't know about God. You then have the choice of saying you don't care either and proceed with a life of indifference. You can also say you don't know but would like to find out and spend at least part of your life answering the questions you have about God and living according to what you discover. Maybe that is not such a bad alternative.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Where My Gratitude Lies

I didn't write yesterday. I was busy being grateful. Hopefully you have your own gratitude list. Here is mine. I am grateful that my life partner has survived cancer for over a year after her initial diagnosis. I feel able to stop worrying about her now. I am grateful for my own health. I have not taken the best care of my body, but it is working well despite my lack of attendance to its needs at times. I plan to show my gratitude by working to take better care of it in the future. I am grateful for my prosperity. I learned some time ago that prosperity is a matter of attitude rather than one of have money. I am able to look back over the last ten years and see how far I have come with my new attitude. I am grateful that my children have all been able to say goodbye to their grandmother and let her go in peace as I was able to do with my father a few years ago. I have learned that once unfinished business has been buried with someone it is very difficult to dig it up and finally resolve it. I am grateful that I was able to find a free internet broadcast of WQXR, a radio station which brought me joy and peace many years ago when I lived in New York.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Protection from the Truth

I have noticed that we sometimes keep things from people which we know to be true. We do this to protect them at times. We imagine that if it were us, we would not like to hear it. How do we decide whether to tell someone the truth? I remember three criteria which I heard once and which applies to anything we might say. Ask yourself, "Is it true, is it kind and is it purposeful." If what you have to say does not meet all three criteria, keep it to yourself. The hardest part for me is the third. How do I know whether what I have to say serves a purpose for my audience. Sometimes I have to listen first to get a sense of how something might be received. I can go from past experience of how a person reacts. Sometimes I just have to guess.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Tradition and Innovation

When you look at TV ads, you see attempts to find new ways to get people's attention and sell things. When you think about this time of year, you tend to think of family customs. Is innovation or tradition more important? It's probably not a fair question. Tradition gives us a sense of how we connect with our ancestors and our culture. Innovation keeps life interesting. Sometimes I think the challenge is to find a balance between to two and a way to keep our lives in perspective.

In Pursuit of Perfection

I have always been somewhat mystified by people who avidly pursue perfection. Do they really want to be perfect or are they more interested in being perceived as such? I have had many reminders throughout my life that I am not perfect. I have tried to accept them gracefully and go on about my business. The motto of my college was, "Let each become all he (or she) is capable of becoming." Nothing was mentioned about perfection. While I see it as a challenge to improve whatever talents we may find ourselves possessing, perfection is an elusive goal and its pursuit destined to end in frustration. On the other hand, there is an old monastic saying, "It's a great life if you weaken just a little."

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Facing Reality

Did you ever come to your senses and realize you were living in a fantasy world? I did this morning. I have been doing some walking and swimming (side stroke) and occasionally thinking about what I eat. Today I went to the gym for a real workout and I found myself huffing and puffing. I was not in the shape I fantasized being in. I found it interesting to find how easy it was to delude myself that I was in good shape and have a lot of work to do to achieve the fitness I would like to have. I wonder what else I need to know about myself.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Dodging the Roadblocks

Sometimes I roll on in life without thinking of the obstacles. I can set goals and work toward them without a second thought. My biggest roadblock is the need for perseverence. The goals I set are often not reachable quickly. They require that I work steadily for a long time and not become discouraged. What is hardest for me is not having clear signs that I am getting any closer to my goal. I notice this particularly in writing. I have learned that finishing a writing project is not necessarily a clear sign of success. Now that I have set my sights on breaking into the publishing industry, it is harder to see if I am getting any closer to my goal. My challenge is to find the perseverence to keep going when there are no mileposts along my way.

Monday, November 13, 2006

The Balance Between Idealism and Commerce

I have been wrestling lately with how to have my writing published.
I originally thought that if I had good ideas, publishing would not be that hard. In my efforts to find an agent and a publisher, I have come to realize that publishing is a business, something I naively ignoried before. Publishing seems to be more about selling books and making money than about disseminating ideas and enriching people's lives. Not that the two are necessarily incompatible, but commerce seems to be the priority for publishing houses. I guess this should not have come as a surprise to me. The challenge I see for myself is how to make my writing challenging to people's thinking as well as being commercially successful without focusing entirely on commerce. This does not seem easy, at least for me, but others have done it and I will try to understand how they have.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Proud of Our Country

It's been a long time since I have felt proud of our country. In the past we have been champions of the downtrodden and come to the aid of a world in crisis. More recently, we have created a crisis or at least worsened it by our withdrawing from the world community on many fronts. In the recent election, we seem to have begun to realize the error of our ways. We have a chance to work together again, hopefully in a thoughtful and constructive way to again make the world a little better place to live. I hope we follow through with the opportunity.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Humility and Accomplishment

There seem to be many people these days who spend most of their time announcing how great they are and very little of it doing anything great. Maybe it is just the end of the campaign season. Hidden in the back pages of the newspaper or sometimes only relayed by word of mouth are the accomplisments of those who go about sharing their talents with others without making a big deal about it. I am impressed by the humility of these people. They don't seem to need recognition and are often uncomfortable when their efforts are noticed. They are content to share what they have with others and do what they can to make others' lives a little better. Thank God for them.

Mortality and Living

I ran across a line in Anne Rivers Siddons' Up Island yesterday. It stated that you can't really live until you come to terms with your mortality. Realizing that we will not live forever gives our lives a context. We do not have forever and what we accomplish in the limited time we have will be our legacy to those who follow. Unless it grabs you by the throat, mortality is easy to ignore. When we feel well, we tend to think we will have all the time in the world. An interesting mental exercise would be to decide what we would do today if it were the last day of our lives.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

The Slippery Truth

I was reading an article in the religion section of the newspaper this morning about how the truth is not relative and that it can be found in the words of Jesus as contained in the bible. There is nothing ambiguous about it. Unfortunately people have fought for years about what Jesus meant and how to interpret his words. Others have been just as insistent that Mumammed spoke the only truth. Still others believe their various interpretations of God, none more worthy than the other. Some also think truth lies on another plane, like science. Unfortunately, there does not seem to be one exposition of the truth that we can all agree on and follow together. We are left to follow our own conscience under the guidance of God as we understand Him or Her. Our challenge is to do this in a way which brings us together rather than pitting us against each other.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Ready, Fire, Aim

The title of this blog came from a description of how the brains of people with ADHD work. Actions or words emerge before they have a chance to be considered for their potential consequences. I thought of the efforts of Pope Benedict and John Kerry to backtrack and undo the consequences of what they had said. It seems to me an effort not unlike dealing with the tar baby. The harder you try, the more deeply you get into a mess. It seems there are many people spouting off with little thought to the consequences of their statements. Others speak considering only what they might have to gain without considering the effect on their audience. The answer to this dilemma seems to me to be listening first. If we know what is in the minds of our audience, we will have a better idea of how to approach them in an understanding way and make the point we want to without inviting a firestorm.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Communication for the Rest of Us

After I wrote yesterday's blog about communication difficulties in families beset by mental illness, I realized that they did not have exclusive rights to this problem. The rest of us have many thoughts during the day, only a few of which we share with others. Then we expect them to understand the context of what we are saying as if they were privy to the rest of our thoughts. We expect them to be mindreaders and we become annoyed when they don't know what we are talking about. I think one mistake many of us make is to start talking without knowing the other person's state of mind, receptivity to what we have to say or understanding the context of our thoughts. I remember once a description of our lives as imagining ourselves being the main character in a play while others in our lives have supporting roles. What we forget is that others have the same fantasy and we are seen as supporting characters in their drama.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

What Mental Illness Does to a Family

I heard recently of a woman on her deathbed who even after ten
years did not want to see her daughter. Or at least that is what her family decided she wanted or needed. Her daughter had publicly struggled with mental illness for years and had come to terms with it. The woman had her own struggles but kept them locked away. The shame of mental illness has fractured this family so that they were all at odds to know how to relate to each other, much less how to support each other. Many years ago Erving Goffman wrote a book about stigma, a brand people carry reminding them and everyone else what this person should expect, how he or she should act and how everyone else should treat him or her. Isn't it time we look past the stigma and see the person whom it brands? Families might then be able to repair the cracks and fissures caused by mental illness.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Considering the Other Possibilities

I watched a movie recently called "Run, Lola, Run." It replayed the plot several times, leading to different outcomes if one or two things happened in a different way. We sometimes think of our lives as scripted and preordained. However, one step in a different direction could lead to a whole series of experiences we never would have had if we had taken another path. I think we sometimes forget that we have so many choices in life. We can't go back and redo our lives but we always have choices from wherever we stand at the moment.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Dancing on a Dreary Day

The weather has turned cold and blustery lately with rain most days. It could be depressing if I took my cues from the weather. However I have also discovered that I can create my own climate inside myself despite what is going on around me. It also helps to invite someone into my environment to share whatever we can create together.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

One Year Post Breast Cancer

One year ago today my life partner was diagnosed with breast cancer. Both of our lives ground to a halt, at least temporarily. We have both discovered that there is life after cancer and that such an ordeal has made us appreciate it more on a daily basis. We have also come to appreciate each other more fully. It is easy to take for granted a person who is there for you day after day. When that person's life is at stake, you have to stop to consider what that person means to you, what it would be without him or her and what you need to do to make each day together the best it can be.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The Joy of Silence

I wrote a little about the monastery yesterday. One thing I remember well is frequent periods of silence when I was able to listen to God and to my own thoughts. There does not appear to be much room for silence in today's world. Radios, TV's, horns, traffic and other assorted noises crowd our awareness. I particularly noticed this in a recent TV car commercial where there was not even space for a pause. Each new claim was overlapped on the previous one, leaving me breathless just listening to it. Have you ever tried creating some silence in your life by turning everything off and being some place where noise does not intrude on your consciousness? It is a good way to find the core of yourself and get in touch with who you are without all the distractions. Try it some time.

Monday, October 23, 2006

The Monastery

Last night I watched the first show of a new series called The Monastery, in this case Benedictine monks who took in five men for the show to help them reassess their lives. It reminded me of the three and a half years I spent in a Passionist Monastery in the 1960's. Although things are different now, some of the basics are the same. These monks appear to be in a stable community. I entered around the time of the Second Vatican Council when the church was itself in a period of self-assessment. The show made me stop to think what I brought with me from my years in the monastery.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Positive and Negative Reactions

What do you do when things don't go the way you would like them to? You can become upset, complaining to anything who will listen about what you don't like. You can also try to understand why things went the way they did. Then you can suggest another way and why you think it makes sense. It's your choice.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Sex and Responsibility

Mr. Foley admitted sending sexually explicit e-mails to a teenage page. However he was alcoholic and was sexually abused himself as a teen. The priest whom he named admitted being nude in a sauna with him and giving him nude massages but did not do anything inappropriate. It seems that it is easy to create excuses for inappropriate behavior blaming someone else or something else about yourself. It has always been amazing to me that two people with very similar experiences can react so differently. One can learn from what he experienced and live a responsible life as a consequence. Another continues to repeat what has happened to him (or her) contunuing to perpetrate the abuse experienced in earlier life. Regardless of escuses, it seems to me that people ultimately are responsible for their actions and must live with the consequences.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Living Simply

It is amazing to me how many things we think we need in order to live properly. There was a time when people lived more simply and were thankful to have the resources to manage each day. If we turn on a television, listen to the radio or read a newspaper we are constantly bombarded with things we can't possibly live without. How much of our time, energy and money are spent pursuing amenities rather than the basics? I remember studying history and reading that most civilizations collapse from within. I took this to mean that they lost sight of their basic purpose for existing in the first place. At one time the United States stood for freedom, respect of individual lives and diversity. I don't want to think that we are heading in the same direction as ancient civilizations, but sometimes I wonder.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Impulsive vs.Compulsive

Sometimes we act on impulse. We do what comes to mind, acting on how we feel at the moment. We give little or no thought to the implications of our actions. Sometimes we pore over the fine points of what we would like to do, trying to make sure every detail is in place. We are so careful that we might not take any action at all. Neither way is much fun in the long run and leaves us unsatisfied. Satisfaction lies somewhere in the middle. Having a creative idea does not mean we must rush to enact it. Nor does it mean we have to analyze it to death. Paying attention to random thoughts passing through our minds helps us see ways of acting we had not previously considered. Giving them a little thought before acting helps insure that we will not regret our actions later.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Problems Don't Have Any Power

This seems unreasonable at first. It seems like problems have the power to stop us in our tracks. It certainly seemed like Columbus had a problem half way across the Atlantic Ocean on his first voyage. Most of the problems we face we create ourselves or let them become problems. Things are the way they are, but are only problems when we let ourselves think of situations that way. What if we thought of a situation as having a series of choices for us to make rather than as a problem? We might find out we are not as stuck as we think and just need to use our options rather than wasting our time being frustrated.

Monday, October 16, 2006

It's Your Choice

We are all surrounded by opinions, actions and situations which can enhance or detract from our lives. We have a choice of what gets our attention. We can dwell on bad news, failures or criticism of others and become more bitter in the process. We can also ignore these, give people the benefit of the doubt and think about what positive motivation people might have for their actions. If we are not sure, we can always find a non-threatening way to ask them what they are about.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Getting Out of the Comfort Zone

In a recent newspaper article, there was an account of Sinnathamby Thevanesan being interviewed about why he would return to his homeland of Sri Lanka to offer his help. He replied, "A comfort zone is not everything. You've got to explore and see what you can do for humanity." I was gratified to see that he could look beyond his own personal comfort and wellbeing as well as his safety to provide something for others. It seems easier to play it safe. But, at the end of the day, what do we have to show for it?

Friday, October 13, 2006

Time to Dance

I was writing a column this morning about dancing at the suggestion of my friend Judy. I didn't realize I had so much to say about it. Have you thought about how dancing or even seeing someone else dance brings your senses to life and helps you think in a different way? I have. Somehow I am on another plane in the presence of dancing. Even though I write quite a bit, I realize there are times when words fail me and I need another channel of communication.