"One ought, everyday at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture and speak a few reasonable words." --Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Leggo yo' Ego

“Whoever does not detach himself from the ego never attains the Absolute and never deciphers life.” 
--Constantin Brancusi

I just have a very brief but (I think) very thought-provoking little morsel for you today on Ego. Hopefully it'll  inspire you to think about abandoning yours...just a little. :)

EGO = Edge God Out

The Six Components of Ego:
  1. I am what I have
  2. I am what I do
  3. I am what other people think of me (reputation)
  4. I am separate from everyone else
  5. I am separate from what’s missing in my life
  6. I am separate from God
What happens when any one of these things goes missing? You still are who you’ve always been. “The ego is not master in its own house.” --Sigmund Freud

The Ego is not worth defending. Abandon it and be free. Empty yourself of Ego and you will find good things rushing in. Give them away and find more. "He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it." --Matthew 10:39

Try it. It works.

Monday, May 30, 2011

In Honor of Memorial Day

             America the Beautiful
                                  Words by Katharine Lee Bates,
                                        Words by Samuel Ward

O beautiful for spacious skies,                                                  O beautiful for pilgrim feet
For amber waves of grain,                                                            Whose stern impassioned stress
For purple mountain majesties                                               A thoroughfare of freedom beat
Above the fruited plain!                                                                Across the wilderness!
America! America!                                                                           America! America!
God shed his grace on thee                                                          God mend thine every flaw,
And crown thy good with brotherhood                              Confirm thy soul in self-control,
From sea to shining sea!                                                              Thy liberty in law!

O beautiful for heroes proved                                                  O beautiful for patriot dream    
In liberating strife.                                                                        That sees beyond the years
Who more than self their country loved                         Thine alabaster cities gleam
And mercy more than life!                                                        Undimmed by human tears!
America! America!                                                                         America! America!
May God thy gold refine                                                              God shed his grace on thee
Till all success be nobleness                                                   And crown thy good with brotherhood
And every gain divine!                                                                From sea to shining sea!

O beautiful for halcyon skies,                                                O beautiful for pilgrims feet,
For amber waves of grain,                                                         Whose stem impassioned stress
For purple mountain majesties                                            A thoroughfare for freedom beat
Above the enameled plain!                                                       Across the wilderness!
America! America!                                                                        America! America!
God shed his grace on thee                                                        God shed his grace on thee
Till souls wax fair as earth and air                                  Till paths be wrought through wilds of thought
And music-hearted sea!                                                             By pilgrim foot and knee!

O beautiful for glory-tale                                                          O beautiful for patriot dream
Of liberating strife                                                                         That sees beyond the years
When once and twice, for man’s avail                             Thine alabaster cities gleam                  

Men lavished precious life!                                                     Undimmed by human tears!      

America! America!                                                                       America! America!
God shed his grace on thee                                                       God shed his grace on thee                  

Till selfish gain no longer stain                                         Till nobler men keep once again           
The banner of the free!                                                                Thy whiter jubilee!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

C.S. Lewis Sunday - Cattle or Sons?

In order to post the following C.S. Lewis quote, a quick explanation is in order. For those who may not already know, C.S. Lewis wrote a book from the perspective of several tempting devils, entitled The Screwtape Letters. You may, at first, think this is abominable, but in actuality, it is very enlightening to get the story from the other side of the war for your soul. The following is a quote from that 'other side' where "Our Father" means Satan and "The Enemy" means God. You'll see what I mean. Oh, and I made one of the phrases into a link to a previous Savvy and Sage blog post that deals directly with that subject, if you're interested. Enjoy!
"Now it may surprise you to learn that in His [the Enemy's] efforts to get permanent possession of a soul, He relies on the troughs even more than on the peaks; some of His special favorites have gone through longer and deeper troughs than anyone else. The reason is this. To us a human is primarily food; our aim is the absorption of its will into ours, the increase of our own area of selfhood at its expense. But the obedience which the Enemy demands of men is quite a different thing. One must face the fact that all the talk about His love for men, and His service being perfect freedom, is not (as one would gladly believe) mere propaganda, but an appalling truth. He really does want to fill the universe with a lot of loathsome little replicas of Himself--creatures whose life, on its miniature scale, will be qualitatively like His own, not because He has absorbed them but because their wills freely conform to His. We want cattle who can finally become food; He wants servants who can finally become sons. We want to suck in, He wants to give out. We are empty and would be filled; He is full and flows over. Our war aim is a world in which Our Father Below has drawn all other beings into himself: the Enemy wants a world full of beings united to Him but still distinct."
 --C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters

Friday, May 27, 2011

Fortune Cookie Friday - Fortune Enhancer?

I recently happened across the following little comic and had to share it for Fortune Cookie Friday! I think it especially enhances the hilarity of today's fortune, even though it turns it into what most would consider a less than fortunate fortune. Haha! Enjoy!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Perception is Everything

"Change your thoughts and you change your world." --Norman Vincent Peale

I've been thinking about something the past few days. I don't know how organized my thoughts are on the subject, but I want to briefly try to express them, so bear with me.

I've been homeschooling my 9 year old son this year and as part of his 4th grade curriculum he is currently reading Pollyanna, by Eleanor H. Porter. You may not have read the book, but you most likely have seen the old Disney movie version of it with Hayley Mills; which by the way, is VERY faithful to the book.

I know I've recently posted a story about happiness being something you decide ahead of time (here), but Pollyanna offers a whole new layer with her "Glad Game". At several points in the story, little Pollyanna has so much to complain about but she instead chooses to be glad and look on the bright side of every situation. Her beloved parents both passed away and although she finds it difficult, she's glad that they did so that they could be together in heaven and she could live with and learn to love her Aunt Polly. Her grumpy aunt puts her in the shabbiest, bare, hot room of her opulent house and Pollyanna is just glad that there's no mirror to reflect the abundant freckles on her face. Aunt Polly tries to punish her for her childish behavior on numerous occasions and Pollyanna finds something to be glad about every time. She's glad when it's sunny, she's glad when it rains. She's glad that her little attic room is hot so that she could discover the coolness of the night and the abundant stars when she climbs out her window to sleep on the cool tin roof.

Pollyanna's sunny disposition spreads wherever she goes. She cheers up an old, heart-sick woman, makes friends with a grumpy old man, and even her Aunt Polly eventually succumbs to the indefatigable sunshine in Pollyanna's soul. In short, she changes her entire world and the lives of everyone around her simply by making up her mind to find something to be glad about all the time!

Can a simple decision REALLY make such a difference in the world? Is gratitude and perception REALLY that important? Could it be that the old adage, "When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change" is one of the foremost secrets of life? Pollyanna really is on to something!

Here's a good video I found on the subject by Wayne Dyer. Food for thought...

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Wiseguy Wednesday 6 - State Trooper

I've often wondered if police officers get annoyed about everyone driving like saints everywhere they go...I mean, it would drive ME crazy. That's why I always try to speed just a little around them. I haven't been pulled over for it yet...

"Driving through New Jersey on Interstate 80 en route from Pennsylvania to New York, I came upon a group of cars that were abnormally traveling exactly at the 55 m.p.h. speed limit. In the middle of the group was a state police cruiser that everyone was reluctant to pass.

"After several minutes the officer's voice rang out over his roof-mounted loudspeaker. 'For heaven's sake, move!' he commanded. 'I am a Pennsylvania state trooper!'"
--Amitabh V.W. Mittal

Monday, May 23, 2011

Twooo Wuv

My super-friend, Laura posted some thoughts about Love on her blog today. So, I figured since my day is totally swamped, I'll piggy-back off her thoughts in the form of a couple questions. 

What is REAL romantic love to you? And how would you describe it to a skeptic?

The following is my answer. Feel free to post yours in the comments below.

...REAL love has a third party present...God. God is that "thing" that makes a lasting, unified relationship.

Everything that touches us, me and you,
takes us together like a violin's bow,
which draws ONE voice out of two separate stings.
Upon what instrument are we two spanned?
And what musician holds us in his hand?
--Rainer Maria Rilke, "Love Song", German poet, 1875-1926

For this kind of love, it requires TWO people clinging together and inexorably reaching for the Third. 

What do YOU think?

(If you're interested in my friend's thoughts, you can click here to read them).

Sunday, May 22, 2011

C.S. Lewis Sunday - Enemy-Occupied Territory

I love this idea of Christianity and have thought of it often. Next time you don't feel like going to church, think of this quote and go listen-in to the secret wireless from our friends! Enjoy!
"One of the things that surprised me when I first read the New Testament seriously was that it talked so much about a Dark Power in the universe--a mighty evil spirit who was held to be the Power behind death and disease, and sin. The difference is that Christianity thinks this Dark Power was created by God, and was good when he was created, and went wrong. Christianity agrees with Dualism that this universe is at war. But it does not think this is a war between independent powers. It thinks it is a civil war, a rebellion, and that we are living in a part of the universe occupied by the rebel. 

"Enemy-occupied territory--that is what this world is. Christianity is the story of how the rightful king has landed, you might say landed in disguise and is calling us all to take part in a great campaign of sabotage. When you go to church you are really listening-in to the secret wireless from our friends: that is why the enemy is so anxious to prevent us from going. He does it by playing on our conceit and laziness and intellectual snobbery."
--C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Calvin and Hobbes: Super Genius

It's that time again for the awesomeness which is Calvin and Hobbes! Love the punch line on this one! Bill Watterson is a genius at pointing out the intelligent stupidity common in all humanity. Enjoy!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Fortune Cookie Friday - Money, money, money!

Oh joy! A money fortune. This kind of fortune is such a mixed bag for me. One one hand, it's exactly what I want to see and fills me with a tiny adrenaline rush; on the other hand, I hate myself for getting excited. You see, I'm not actually a fan of money. I know it has its uses, and I definitely enjoy being able to buy things I need or want for myself or others, but I would love it if we could just do away with it. I hate trading my talents for it. That awkward "How much will you charge me?" for this or that. Ugh! And I hate how people get all wrapped up in it and miss EVERYTHING in life! The pride, the jealousy, the greed, the value assessment on a person's time/talent/abilities, the way people think it makes you happy, powerful, better than others. Blah. Wouldn't it be nice to be free of such garbage? Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know what you're thinking. NO! You can't have my "financial prosperity" just because I don't like it! Oh...I hate my hypocritical self! ;)

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Daffodil Principle

"Do the difficult things while they are easy and do the great things while they are small. A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.
--Lao Tzu
Always, when I think about this wonderful quote from Lao Tzu, a simple story from my bookshelf comes to mind that I will share today. I'm not exactly sure if it is a true story (although I'd like to think it is), but I sure have given it a lot of thought through the years since I discovered it. As I have tried to apply the principle in my life, I have found that it is absolutely imperative to constantly be living in the present. You MUST NOT think about the future or you will get overwhelmed by the largeness of your tasks. And you MUST NOT look back and glory in how far you've come or it will go to your head; or even worse, you'll think what you've done is 'good enough' and quit. This is very difficult for me, but something that I am constantly working on. I hope you'll enjoy! 


The Daffodil Principle
By: Jaroldeen Asplund Edwards

Several times my daughter had telephoned to say, "Mother, you must come see the daffodils before they are over."

I wanted to go, but it was a two-hour drive from Laguna to Lake Arrowhead. "I'll come next Tuesday", I promised a little reluctantly, on her third call.

Next Tuesday dawned cold and rainy. Still, I had promised, and so I drove there.

When I finally walked into Carolyn's house and hugged and greeted my grandchildren, I said, "Forget the daffodils, Carolyn! The road is invisible in the clouds and fog, and there is nothing in the world except you and these children that I want to see bad enough to drive another inch."

My daughter smiled calmly and said, "We drive in this all the time, Mother."

"Well, you won't get me back on the road until it clears, and then I'm heading for home," I assured her.

"I was hoping you'd take me over to the garage to pick up my car."

"How far will we have to drive?"

"Just a few blocks", Carolyn said. "I'll drive. I'm used to this."

After several minutes, I had to ask, "Where are we going? This isn't the way to the garage."

"We're going to my garage the long way," Carolyn smiled, "by way of the daffodils." I sternly told Carolyn to please turn around.

"Mother, I promise. You will never forgive yourself if you miss this experience."

After about twenty minutes, we turned onto a small gravel road and I saw a small church. On the far side of the church I saw a hand-lettered sign that read "Daffodil Garden."

We got out of the car and each took a child's hand, and I followed Carolyn down the path. We turned a corner of the path and I looked up and gasped.

Before me lay the most glorious sight. It looked as though someone had taken a great vat of gold and poured it over the mountain peak and slopes.

The flowers were planted in majestic, swirling patterns -- great ribbons and swaths of deep orange, white, lemon yellow, salmon pink, saffron, and butter yellow.

Each different-colored variety was planted as a group so that it swirled and flowed like it's own river with its own unique hue.

There were five acres of flowers. "But who has done this?" I asked Carolyn.

"It's just one woman," Carolyn answered. "She lives on the property. That's her home." 

Carolyn pointed to a well kept A-frame house that looked small and modest in the midst of all that glory. We walked up to the house and on the patio, we saw a poster. "

Answers to the Questions I Know You Are Going To Ask" was the headline. We saw:

The first answer was a simple one. "50,000 bulbs," it read. The second answer was, "one bulb at a time, two hands, two feet and very little brain." The third answer was, "Began in 1958."

There it was, The Daffodil Principle. For me, that moment was a life changing experience.  

I thought of this woman whom I had never met, who more than forty years before, had begun one bulb at a time to bring her vision of beauty and joy to an obscure mountain top. Still, planting one bulb at a time, year after year had changed the world in which she lived. She had created something of indescribable beauty and inspiration.

The principle her daffodil garden taught is one of the greatest principles of celebration. That is, learning to move toward our goals and desires one step at a time -- often just one baby-step at a time -- and learning to love the doing, learning to use the accumulation of time.

When we multiply tiny pieces of time with small increments of daily effort, we too will find we can accomplish magnificent things. We can change the world.

"It makes me sad in a way," I admitted to Carolyn. "What might I have accomplished if I had thought of a wonderful goal thirty-five or forty years ago and had worked away at it "one bulb at a time" through all those years. Just think what I might have been able to achieve!"

My daughter summed up the message of the day in her usual direct way. "Start tomorrow," she said.
It's so pointless to think of the lost hours of yesterdays. The way to make learning a lesson of celebration instead of a cause for regret is to only ask, "How can I put this to use today?"

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Wiseguy Wednesday 5 - Picture Project

"My 12-year-old daughter asked me, "Mom, do you have a baby picture of yourself? I need it for a school project." I gave her one without thinking to ask what the project was.

"A few days later I was in her classroom for a parent-teacher meeting when I noticed my face pinned to a mural the students had created. The title of the project was "The Oldest thing in my house."
--Aimee Kent

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Scrambled Eggs

“Forgiveness is the fragrance the violet sheds upon the heel that crushed it.”
--Mark Twain

Do you have memories that are triggered by certain tasks? If you’re anything like me, you do. I still remember a girl from High School that had luxuriously long armpit hairs every time I shave my armpits (hairy armpits are not my thing). I’ve never seen that girl since I graduated, but I still think of her every day almost 20 years later. I think she might be horrified to know this.

Well, this morning as I made some scrambled eggs for breakfast, I was reminded of another experience from my teen years that has haunted me in connection with egg making all these years.

Every morning before school, I attended a Seminary class with many of my classmates. I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed this start to my school day all four years of High School! But halfway through my Senior year, there was a teacher change that I did not enjoy. Up until then, I had always had dynamic, energetic teachers that I admired very much. They were so talented at presenting the material and making it fun for teenagers that it got in my mind that I was somehow entitled to fabulous teachers.

So, in walks this new teacher that had obviously never taught teenagers a day in his life. He struggled as he presented the material. He seemed disorganized, nervous, awkward, and his class was a total snooze-fest, which doesn’t mix well with teenagers at 6am. But did I just go with the flow and sleep through it? Oh, no! Let’s not forget that I was under the impression that I deserved awesome, perfected teachers!

After a few weeks of enduring his teaching, I just decided I wasn’t going to take it anymore and I started to lay into him every chance I got. When he was being boring, I pointed out my bleary eyed classmates and openly blamed him. I became rude, condescending, belligerent, and insubordinate at the drop of a hat in hopes of running him out of there. The worst part is, I think my bad example spread. Pretty soon everyone was attacking the poor guy, and that’s when it got really bad. The day we walked into class to the presence of our favorite Seminary teacher, my teenaged self felt triumphant. Mission Accomplished!

Or not…

The favorite teacher was there only for the day on a problem-solving mission and spent most of the class time talking to us about what exactly it was that bothered us about the new teacher. We let it all hang out, and I’ll never forget the stricken look on my favorite teacher’s face as we defamed the name of the new teacher.

Then the next day the boring teacher returned. Only this time, he suggested we skip class time and go play some volleyball and make some breakfast. The usual seminary fare was either scones, pancakes, or donuts, but the new teacher wanted to make eggs. Was there no end to this guy’s weirdness? Eggs? C’mon! But he insisted. And I refused.

“No, I’m really picky about my eggs,” I said as we walked toward the kitchen. “It’s okay, I’ll just play some volleyball and skip breakfast.”

“Well, I can accommodate your pickiness, you know,” he replied. “How exactly would YOU cook your eggs?”

I went on describing to him the great lengths I go to make acceptable eggs for myself. I only cook 2 eggs at a time, I don’t scrape the nasty crusty stuff that forms on the sides of the pan, the eggs must be stirred constantly so they don’t get any brown spots, and a plate must be ready beforehand because the eggs must be removed immediately from the pan when they are done. I still to this day will not eat eggs unless they are done just this way.

“Done,” he said.

“No, no, no,” I balked. “You have a whole class to feed, don’t worry about me and my super pickiness.”

“No, I want to make the eggs for you…the way you like them,” he countered. “Will you stand next to me and make sure I do it right?”

I could see he wasn't going to give up. “Whatever,” I replied with an eye-roll, as we entered the kitchen.

He then proceeded to make my eggs – first – while everyone stood around, waiting. And he did it just right with a smile on his face, like he enjoyed pleasing me. Even my stone-cold teenaged heart couldn’t resist a little, reserved thaw.

I melted a bit that day, but the full thaw happened over time. I will never again make eggs without the remembrance of his selfless, Christ-like act of Forgiveness and Love to an ungrateful teenager. While I never much appreciated his lack-luster teaching in the classroom, I realize now he managed to become the most effective teacher I ever had. I will never fail to be inspired by him.

So, if by some small miracle you’re reading this, Brother Bryant, I sincerely apologize for being so horrible to you and beg your forgiveness. If you taught me now, you would find a wholly changed student, due in part to you and your awesome egg making skills.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Happiness is Decided Ahead of Time

"Most people are about as happy as they make their minds up to be."
--Abraham Lincoln

A 92-year-old, petite, well-poised and proud man, who is fully dressed each morning by eight o'clock, with his hair fashionably combed and shaved perfectly, even though he is legally blind, moved to a nursing home today.

His wife of 70 years recently passed away, making the move necessary. After many hours of waiting patiently in the lobby of the nursing home, he smiled sweetly when told his room was ready.

As he maneuvered his walker to the elevator, I provided a visual description of his tiny room, including the eyelet sheets that had been hung on his window. 

“I love it,” he stated with the enthusiasm of an eight-year-old having just been presented with a new puppy.
“Mr. Jones, you haven't seen the room; just wait.” 

“That doesn't have anything to do with it,” he replied. “Happiness is something you decide on ahead of time.”

“Whether I like my room or not doesn't depend on how the furniture is arranged...it's how I arrange my mind. I already decided to love it, so I do.”

Sunday, May 15, 2011

C.S. Lewis Sunday - Love is More than Kindness

Continuing on the theme of my Calvin and Hobbes cartoon yesterday (here), I am excited to share my #1 most favorite C.S. Lewis quote. I've always thought the prevalent idea of God's supposed "unconditional love" was flawed. This quote points out exactly what is wrong with the idea. God may love us no matter what, but His love is not always what people think of when they say "unconditional." God loves us, so sometimes he WANTS us to suffer so that we can learn. God's Love is more than kindness. 
"There is kindness in Love; but Love and kindness are NOT coterminous, and when kindness is separated from other elements of Love, it involves a certain fundamental indifference to its object, and even something like contempt of it. Kindness consents very readily to the removal of its object—we have all met people whose kindness to animals is constantly leading them to kill animals lest they should suffer. Kindness, merely as such, cares not whether its object becomes good or bad, provided only that it escapes suffering. As Scripture points out, it is bastards who are spoiled: the legitimate sons, who are to carry on the family tradition, are punished (Hebrews 12:8). It is for people whom we care nothing about that we demand happiness on any terms; with our friends, our lovers, our children, we are exacting and would rather see them suffer much than be happy in contemptible and estranging modes. If God is Love, He is, by definition something more than mere kindness. And it appears, from all the records, that though He has often rebuked us and condemned us, He has never regarded us with contempt. He has paid us the intolerable compliment of loving us, in the deepest, most tragic, most inexorable sense." 
--C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Calvin and Hobbes: Somebody's Out to Get Me

I would like to dedicate today's Calvin and Hobbes Cartoon to my Aunt Ella who is fond of quoting Alfalfa when he says, "Then the clouds opened up and God said, 'I hate you Alfalfa!'" 

Ah, but let's not forget, according to the Bible, it is legitimate sons/daughters that are dogged at every turn; those that are spoiled with a life devoid of real difficulties are considered "bastards" (Hebrews 12:6-8). Somebody IS out to get you! Be glad God loves you enough to open up the clouds and hate yer stinkin' guts! Haha! 

Friday, May 13, 2011

Never Let Trials Defeat You

"You miss 100% of the shots you never take." --Wayne Gretzky

A month or so ago, my 11 year old son had an audition. He is in his first year of learning to play the Tuba and wanted to try out for the Middle School Honor Band in our area. This is a feat not often attempted by 6th graders because they are so new to their instruments. But with the help of the world’s greatest private instructor, my son set the goal and worked hard to achieve it by faithfully practicing for an hour every night.

There were many hard days, but when he’d hit a wall, I wouldn’t let him quit. I’d encourage him to go to his room for a scream and a cry and come back to it in a few hours. This went on for 2 or 3 months as he learned all his scales and audition literature.

The week of the audition, he doubled his practice to 2 hours a night and was starting to feel confident.

Then it happened.

On the eve of audition, his mouthpiece broke. He practiced on his backup mouthpiece, but it was slightly different and seemed to erase weeks of work in his tone and ability to reach the high notes. He was understandably frustrated and had to go to his room to blow off steam many times that night.

On the morning of the audition, after a few unsuccessful attempts at a 2 octave scale, he set the Tuba down and informed me that he wasn’t going to audition. “It’s just too much,” he said. “Why bother auditioning if I’m just going to fail? I’m not going to make it with this stupid mouthpiece; I’m not!”

I panicked and regret to say that I was a little too blunt in my reply at first. But after a few harsh words about quitters and losers, I rallied and started talking to him about overcoming trials.

No one has ever achieved their goals without a severe trial that tempted them to quit. But winners don’t quit! Trials are God’s way of weeding out the morons. If you really want it, you’ll just show up and do your best, regardless of the result.

We went anyway, and he played an excellent audition. It was enough for first chair in the top band. He is the Principal Middle School Tubist in the county, and he almost didn’t even show up to claim his prize!

Never let a trial defeat you! It is just that…a TRIAL to prove how much you want it. Don’t fail the test. Don’t despair. Just show up and play on any old mouthpiece!

Fortune Cookie Friday - Rewards!

Gee, I can't imagine what I did to deserve it, but hey...who doesn't love awards and prizes? I'll take it! But before I start preparing my acceptance speech, maybe I ought to consider that maybe this one is for one of my readers. If you receive a "high prize or award soon" be sure to share it in the comments! I'd love to congratulate you and share in your good fortune!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Wiseguy Wednesday 4 - Little Mailman

Mrs. Smith was preparing dinner when little Brad came into the kitchen. "What has mama's darling been doing all day?"
"I've been playing mailman," replied Brad.
"Mailman?" asked the mother. "How could you do that when you had no letters?"
"I had a whole bunch of letters," said Brad. "I found them in that old trunk up in the attic, all tied up with ribbon. I put one in every mailbox on the street."
--H.B. McClung

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Don't Pay Too Much for Whistles

I'd like to share my favorite Ben Franklin story today. I often think of this story and try to remind myself the true value of things before I make choices.

The Whistle
Ben Franklin

In my opinion we might all draw more good from [this world] than we do, and suffer less evil, if we would take care not to give too much for whistles. For to me it seems that most of the unhappy people we meet with are become so by neglect of that caution.

You ask what I mean? You love stories, and will excuse my telling one myself. 

When I was a child of seven years old, my friends, on a holiday, filled my pocket with coppers. I went directly to a shop where they sold toys for children; and being charmed with the sound of the whistle, that I met by the way in the hands of another boy, I voluntarily offered and gave all my money for one. I then came home, and went whistling all over the house, much pleased with my whistle, but disturbing all the family. My brothers, and sisters, and cousins, understanding the bargain I had made, told me I had given four times as much for it as it was worth; put me in mind what good things I might have bought with the rest of the money; and laughed at me so much for my folly, that I cried with vexation; and the reflection gave me more chagrin than the whistle gave me pleasure.

This, however, was afterwards of use to me, the impression continuing on my mind; so that often when I was tempted to buy some unnecessary thing, I said to myself, “Don’t give too much for the whistle”; and I saved my money.

As I grew up, came into the world, and observed the actions of men, I thought I met with many, who gave too much for the whistle.

When I saw [one] fond of popularity, constantly employing himself in political bustles, neglecting his own affairs, and ruining them by that neglect, “He pays, indeed,” said I, “too much for his whistle.”

If I knew a miser, who gave up every kind of comfortable living, all the pleasure of doing good to others, all the esteem of his fellow-citizens, and the joys of benevolent friendship, for the sake of accumulating wealth, “Poor man,” said I, “you pay too much for your whistle.”

When I met with a man of pleasure, sacrificing every laudable improvement of the mind, or of his fortune, to mere corporeal sensations, and ruining his health in their pursuit, “Mistaken man,” said I, “you are providing pain for yourself, instead of pleasure; you give too much for your whistle.”

If I see one fond of appearance, or fine clothes, fine houses, fine furniture, fine equipages, all above his fortune, for which he contracts debts, and ends his career in prison, “Alas,” say I, “he has paid dear, very dear, for his whistle.”

In short, I conceive that great part of the miseries of mankind are brought upon them by the false estimates they have made of the value of things, and by their giving too much for their whistles.

How high a value do you place on Honesty, Integrity, Modesty, Humility, etc.? As Ben points out, when you choose something over these great virtues, you are in essence showing what you think they're worth. What price would you be willing to sell them for? Convenience, to save or gain some money or time, Popularity, etc.? Is your everlasting character worth so little? Don't pay too much for whistles!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Desiderata: "Desired Things"

I'm posting a very sage poem today. It was written in 1927 by American writer Max Ehrmann (1872-1945) and is entitled Desiderata, which means "Desired Things" in Latin. It was largely unknown in the author's lifetime but became widely known after a St. Paul's Church in Baltimore, Maryland included it as a hymn in a compilation of devotional materials sometime around 1959. You can go up to youtube and listen to it set to music, but I thought the music detracted too much from the message, so I decided not to post it. 

I'll make my favorite parts bold. Feel free to share your favorite part(s) in the comments. Enjoy!


Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.

As far as possible without surrender
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
they are vexatious to the spirit.

If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain or bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs;
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.

Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.

And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy.
--Max Ehrmann

Sunday, May 8, 2011

C.S. Lewis Sunday - Free Will

This is why Communism/Socialism will NEVER work...
"God created things which had free will. That means creatures which can go either wrong or right. Some people think they can imagine a creature which was free but had no possibility of going wrong; I cannot. If a thing is free to be good it is also free to be bad. And free will is what has made evil possible. Why, then, did God give them free will? Because free will, though it makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having. A world of automata--of creatures that worked like machines--would hardly be worth creating. The happiness which God designs for His higher creatures is the happiness of being freely, voluntarily united to Him and each other in an ecstasy of love and delight compared with which the most rapturous love between a man and a woman on this earth is mere milk and water. And for that they must be free."
--C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Friday, May 6, 2011

Fortune Cookie Friday - Someone Else's Fortune

Um...I have no patience (let alone an “infinite capacity” for it), so this is clearly not MY fortune. I can only conclude that it was meant for one of my readers. Congratulations Mr./Ms. Patient Person, your reward is apparently on its way! And good luck with that “sooner or later” thing. Good thing you’re patient! ;)

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Tag, You're It!

"The more laws and restrictions there are,
the more people are impoverished.
The sharper men's weapons,
the more trouble in the land.
The more artful and crafty the plan,
the stranger the outcome.
The more authoritarian a system,
the more outlaws appear.
Yet, if I take no action, people are reformed.
If I enjoy peace, people become honest.
If I do nothing, people become rich.
If I do not impose myself upon people,
they become themselves.
--Lao Tsu
Tao Te Ching, 57th verse
Do you remember when you played Tag as a kid? Did you ever play with kids so bent on being in charge and/or winning that they kept making rules? Maybe you were that kid--I know I was a couple times. It starts out relatively harmless but before you know it, no one can even play the game!

No running outside the lines. No moving once you’re tagged. If you run in a circle, you’re automatically out, etc. The rules can get pretty outlandish!

Then it dawns on you. If everyone obeys all these ridiculous rules, no one can even move! So, first you try cheating a little here and there, but even that isn’t very fun. Any time you make a move someone shouts, “That doesn’t count, you cheated!”

Before you know it, everyone is reminiscing about the good-old, original game of Tag. You know, when the game was actually enjoyable. And finally there’s a collective decision to drop all the new rules and get back to playing and having fun.

I think that’s the point of the quote. An overabundance of rules and/or controls set up to shield yourself or others from problems can seriously limit enjoyment, increase resentment, and even create criminals and cheating. But when you let things be, no one has to resent the imposed limitations; no one feels the need to cheat; everyone is free to be themselves.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think we need to eliminate rules all together. Take the Tag analogy for example, if there were NO rules, there wouldn’t even BE a game! And I’m certainly not suggesting that the ONLY reason there are criminals and cheaters is because of the overabundance of rules. Some people cheat and raise mayhem from the get-go.

But sometimes don’t you think we’d all be better off if we all just went back to the good-old, original game?

Maybe every problem we encounter doesn’t need an immediate solution. Maybe somebody doesn’t have to pay every time something goes wrong. Maybe we can just enjoy life instead of trying so hard to mold the game to our benefit. In the end, isn’t the possibility of being tagged and taking turns being ‘it’ what makes the game fun?

Let it be. “The problem is not that there are problems. The problem is expecting otherwise and thinking that having problems is a problem." --Theodore Rubin

Related Posts:
C.S. Lewis Sunday - Resistance: The Measure of Strength
The Freedom Paradox 
C.S. Lewis Sunday – Morality and Peace
C.S. Lewis Sunday - Fuel