23 January 2018      

Good day, and welcome to this week!  It's an extraordinary week once again,
as we continue to travel through our solar system at some 1.6 million miles
per day--we've come a long way since yesterday, haven't we?

Living Our Sadnesses
Rainer Maria Rilke

Expecting the Best
Alan Loy McGinnis

My Declaration of Independence
tom walsh

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It is not a great thing to be humble when you are brought low; but to be humble when you are praised is a great and rare attainment.

St. Bernard

You don't choose your family.  They are God's
gift to you, as you are to them.

Desmond Tutu

If seeds in the black earth can turn into such beautiful roses, what might not the heart of the human become in its long journey toward the stars?

Gilbert Keith Chesterton

  

Living Our Sadnesses
Rainer Maria Rilke

I want to talk to you again awhile, dear Mr. Kappus, although I can say almost nothing that is helpful, hardly anything useful.  You have had many and great sadnesses, which passed.  And you say that even this passing was hard for you and put you out of sorts.  But, please, consider whether these great sadness have not rather gone right through the center of yourself?  Whether much in you has not altered, whether you have not somewhere, at some point of your being, undergone a change while you were sad?  Only those sadnesses are dangerous and bad which one carries about among people in order to drown them out; like sicknesses that are superficially and foolishly treated, they simply withdraw and after a little pause break out again the more dreadfully, and accumulate within one and are life, are unlived, spurned, lost life, of which one may die.

Were it possible for us to see further than our knowledge reaches, and yet a little way beyond the outworks of our divining, perhaps we would endure our sadnesses with greater confidence than our joys.  For they are the moments when something new has entered into us, something unknown; our feelings grow mute in shy perplexity, everything in us withdraws, a stillness comes, and the new, which no one knows, stands in the midst of it and is silent.

I believe that almost all our sadnesses are moments of tension that we find paralyzing because we no longer hear our surprised feelings living.  Because we are alone with the alien thing that has entered into our self; because everything intimate and accustomed is for an instant taken away; because we stand in the middle of a transition where we cannot remain standing.  For this reason the sadness too passes:  the new thing in us, the added thing, has entered into our heart, has gone into its inmost chamber and is not even there any more,--is already in our blood.  And we do not learn what it was.  We could easily be made to believe that nothing has happened, and yet we have changed, as a house changes into which a guest has entered.  We cannot say who has come, perhaps we shall never know, but many signs indicate that the future enters into us in this way in order to transform itself in us long before it happens.

And this is why it is so important to be lonely and attentive when one is sad:  because the apparently uneventful and stark moment at which our future sets foot in us is so much closer to life than that other noisy and fortuitous point of time at which it happens to us from the outside.

The more still, more patient and more open we are when we are sad, so much the deeper and so much the more unswervingly does the new go into us, so much the better do we make it ours, so much the more will it be our destiny, and when on some later day it "happens" (that is, steps forth out of us to others), we shall feel in our inmost selves akin and near to it.

And that is necessary.  It is necessary--and toward this our development will move gradually--that nothing strange should befall us, but only that which has long belonged to us.  We have already had to rethink so many of our concepts of motion, we will also gradually learn to realize that that which we call destiny goes forth from within people, not from without into them.  Only because so many have not absorbed their destinies and transmuted them within themselves while they were living in them, have they not recognized what has gone forth out of them; it was so strange to them that, in their bewildered fright, they thought it must only just then have entered into them, for they swear never before to have found anything like it in themselves.  As people were long mistaken about the motion of the sun, so they are even yet mistaken about the motion of that which is to come.  The future stands firm, dear Mr. Kappus, but we move in infinite space.

How should it not be difficult for us?

more on sadness

   

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Expecting the Best (an excerpt)
Alan Loy McGinnis

When we elect a positive view of people, lots of buried talent begins to surface.  Elbert Hubbard said, "There is something that is much more scarce, something finer far, something rarer than ability.  It is the ability to recognize ability."  Average people have a way of accomplishing extraordinary things for teachers and leaders who are patient enough to wait until ability becomes apparent.

The history books are full of stories of gifted persons whose talents were overlooked by a procession of people until someone believed in them.  Einstein was four years old before he could speak and seven before he could read.  Isaac Newton did poorly in grade school.  A newspaper editor fired Walt Disney because he had "no good ideas."  Leo Tolstoy flunked out of college, and Werner von Braun failed ninth-grade algebra.  Haydn gave up ever making a musician of Beethoven, who seemed a slow and plodding young man with no apparent talent--except a belief in music.

There is a lesson in such stories:  different people develop at different rates, and the best motivators are always on the lookout for hidden capacities.

One chief executive officer, when asked, "What are you in business for?" replied, "I am in the business of growing people--people who are stronger, more autonomous, more self-reliant, more competent.  We make and sell at a profit things that people want to buy so we can pay for all this."  

It is not by accident that his employees, who probably would grumble about working eight hours a day for mere food and shelter, cheerfully work 10 and 12 hours a day for a leader who keeps such goals clearly before them.

A Climate in Which to Grow

We can render the people around us a great service if we can provide an environment in which they not only can discover their gifts but also develop them.  Theodore Roosevelt wrote, "There are two kinds of success.  One is the very rare kind that comes to the person who has the power to do what no one else has the power to do.  That is genius.  But the average person who wins what we call success is not a genius.  This is a person who has merely the ordinary qualities that he or she shares with ones fellows, but who has developed those ordinary qualities to a more than ordinary degree."

People need an atmosphere in which they can specialize, hone their skills, and discover their distinctiveness.  The biographies of the great are sprinkled with accounts of how some teacher or some kindly employer looked closely enough to see a spark no one else saw and for periods, at least, believed in their ability to perfect that gift when no one else did.  The Taft family, for example, was evidently good at pushing their children to cut their own swath and to find a specialty of which to be proud.  When Martha Taft was in elementary school in Cincinnati, she was asked to introduce herself.  She said, "My name is Martha Bowers Taft.  My great-grandfather was President of the United States.  My grandfather was United States Senator.  My daddy is ambassador to Ireland.  And I am a Brownie."

The Nature of the Human Spirit

It is quite important to understand that the attitude with which we approach people will be largely fashioned by what we believe about the nature of the human race.  Douglas McGregor, a pioneer in the field of industrial psychology, became more optimistic about human nature the more he studied it.  Attacking what he called "Theory X"--the authoritarian view of management which assumes that people are morons who need to be told what to do--he advanced "Theory Y," the theory which treats people as individuals and respects their human rights.  Abraham Maslow's research corroborated McGregor's theories of management.  A psychologist at Brandies University, Maslow was particularly interested in peak experiences--what he called the "higher ceilings of human nature."  The more research he did on these phenomena, the more convinced he was that people have much greater potential than we give them credit for.  "There's more of the transcendent, the altruistic, the idealistic in many more people than I had ever expected," he wrote.

In graduate school I was exposed to some very bleak theories on the nature of humankind and read philosophers who saw homo sapiens as quite depraved.  But the longer I talk to people in my counseling chambers--especially when they are under hypnosis or tell me their dreams--the more I am convinced that human nature has often been sold short.  I see the worst sides of thousands of people, yet I believe more than ever in the possibilities of the human spirit.

One reason I can be more tolerant than most is that as a therapist I have the advantage of information about my patients that most people are not privy to.  And I discover that we rarely if ever see the totality of another in ordinary social intercourse.  When an individual appears mean and lazy, we are only seeing one part of the person, elicited by a particular set of circumstances on a particular day, and we do well to wait a while before concluding that what we see is the whole person.

When People Change

Some pessimists would say that no one changes, that the leopard never changes its spots.  But in fact everyone is changing every day, either for better or for worse.  Here is a young CPA sitting in my office, asking about his mother, who is a patient at our clinic.  As he talks about himself I learn that his career is soaring, that he has recently become a partner in one of the big eight accounting firms.  "Most people would have a hard time believing that I spent almost four years whacked out on drugs," he says, "but it's true."  He goes on to explain how that ended because of the woman he fell in love with almost nine years ago, and as he sits here in my office, healthy, alert, and successful, I realize what foolish cynicism it is to say that people never change.

Of course
they change, and we can influence, to some extent at least, how they change.
   

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This focus on money and power may do wonders in the marketplace, but
it creates a tremendous crisis in our society.  People who have spent all
day learning how to sell themselves and to manipulate others are in no
position to form lasting friendships or intimate relationships. . . .  Many
Americans hunger for a different kind of society--one based on principles
of caring, ethical and spiritual sensitivity, and communal solidarity.  Their
need for meaning is just as intense as their need for economic security.

Michael Lerner

   

 

My Declaration of Independence

When, in the course of my lifetime I find it important to define just where I fit in in this world, I start to realize the incredible number of people, organizations, and businesses that want me to be simply a walking, talking, spending automaton, and I realize how important it is to declare my independence from the forces in the world that seek to downplay and even denigrate my individuality and beautiful uniqueness.  With these forces that threaten my ability to be myself firmly in place, I find it necessary to declare my independence from these very forces through a firm declaration of what I am and what I am not.

1.  I am not simply a potential customer with cash and credit cards, able to purchase anything I want whenever I want.  I make purchases based on my perceived needs, yet I must stay independent from the advertisers and marketers who seek to create artificial needs in my mind.

2.  I am not simply a member of a demographic group.  I am not a Gen-X'er, nor am I a member of a certain age, ethnic, or geographical group.  I am a unique individual whose uniqueness is one of the most important aspects of who I am.

3.  I am able to think for myself, and I am able to recognize when people are trying to manipulate me into thinking as they wish me to think.  It is very important to me to recognize the logic that others are using to determine whether they are being honest and truthful or whether they are using false logic and/or facts to try to affect my thoughts and opinions.

4.  I am a member of several communities, but none of these communities defines who I am as a human being.  I am independent of such superficial definitions, for I know that it is impossible to define or categorize any human being based on any superficial criteria such as the town I live in, the language I speak, or my nationality.

5.  I am not defined by my work or my chosen profession.  Once I allow myself to be so defined, I am subject to many preconceived notions, prejudices, and biases on the parts of others who are unable to see past their own ideas of what people who are so defined are actually like.

6.  I am created equal to all other human beings on this planet in the eyes of God.  Other human beings may be better writers, athletes, or teachers, or they may earn more money or enjoy more fame, but those factors in no way makes anyone "better" than I.  I will not be devalued or looked down upon based on any other people's definitions of success.

7.  I am important, and I can affect other people's lives to varying degrees.  I can encourage and motivate, inspire and lift up, but I also can discourage and harm if I am not careful.  I will not be convinced that I and my opinions and thoughts "don't matter."

As the technological age advances and marketing techniques and strategies become more invasive and insidious, it's important for me always to remind myself of my own value and individuality.  If I'm unable to do so, I face the danger of having my thoughts begin to conform to the ideas of who I am that are put forth by people who do not know me and who never will meet me and get to know me.

I am independent, yet I am a part of an interdependent culture that covers the entire world.  I am responsible to myself, and only in fulfilling that responsibility to myself will I be able to fulfill my responsibilities to the rest of the world.  Those who seek to put me into a niche and keep me there are not harming just me if I allow them to convince me that they're right; rather, they're harming the entire world by causing me to keep down my beautiful uniqueness, for then I will be unable to share it and my gifts with others who just may need to have them shared.

I am I, and I am happy and proud of that fact.  I make mistakes, and I hurt people; I do good things and I help others.  I am human, I am unique, and I have many gifts.  Only I can define who I am, through my thoughts and actions and prayers.  I am not open to definition from others.

   

   
More on self.

   

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Chances for heroic giving are rare, yet every day there are opportunities to give a part of yourself to someone who needs it.  It may be no more than a kind word or a letter written at the right time.  The important thing about any gift is the amount of yourself you put into it.

Arline Boucher and John Tehan

  

I am discovering that many people want, above all else, to live life fully.  But sometimes the past prohibits our living and enjoying life to the utmost in the present.

A school teacher entered his room a few minutes early and noticed a meal worm laboriously crawling along the floor.  It had somehow been injured.  The back part of the worm was dead and dried up, but still attached to the front, living part by just a thin thread.

As the teacher studied the strange sight of the poor worm pulling its dead half across the floor, a little girl ran in and noticed it there.  Picking it up, she said, "Oh, Oscar, when are you going to lose that dead part so you can really live?"

What a marvelous question for all of us!  When are you going to lose that dead part so you can really live?  When are you going to let go of past pain so you can live fully?  When are you going to drop the baggage of needless guilt so you can experience life?  When are you going to let go of that past resentment so you can know peace?

Have you been dragging something that is dead and gone around with you?  Are you ready to "lose that dead part so you can really live"?

Steve Goodier

   

  

In order to be utterly happy the only thing necessary is to refrain from
comparing this moment with other moments in the past, which I
often did not fully enjoy because I was comparing them
with other moments of the future.

Andre Gide

    

  

   

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