"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

Thursday, June 30, 2011

True Wealth

Wealth is not the things we own–
A stately house upon a hill,
Paintings, rugs and tapestries,
Or servants taught to do one’s will.
In luxury, a man may dwell,
As lonely as in a prison cell.

Wealth is not a plenteous purse,
The bonds that one has stored away,
A boastful balance in a bank,
Or jeweled baubles that fools display.
The things that really gratify
Are things that money cannot buy.

Wealth is health, and a cheerful heart,
An ear that hears the robin’s song,
A mind content, some treasured friends,
And fragrant memories lingering on.
Living is an inward art–
All lasting wealth is in the heart!

--Alfred Grant Walton

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Wiseguy Wednesday - She broke WHAT?

My wife wanted to play the violin at our wedding reception, but right before, a string snapped. Her mother made the announce- ment to our guests:
"I'm sorry to say that Amy cannot perform today. Her G String broke."
--Bret Walker

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Look Up!

"Sorrow looks back. Worry looks around. Faith looks up! " 


If you put a buzzard in a pen that is 6 feet by 8 feet and is entirely open at the top, the bird, in spite of its ability to fly, will be an absolute prisoner. The reason is that a buzzard always begins a flight from the ground with a run of 10 to 12 feet. Without space to run, as is its habit, it will not even attempt to fly, but will remain a prisoner for life in a small jail with no top.


The ordinary bat that flies around at night - a remarkable nimble creature in the air - cannot take off from a level place.  If it is placed on the floor or flat ground, all it can do is shuffle about helplessly and, no doubt, painfully, until it reaches some slight elevation from which it can throw itself into the air. Then, at once, it takes off like a flash.


A bumblebee, if dropped into an open tumbler, will be there until it dies, unless it is taken out.  It never sees the means of escape at the top, but persists in trying to find some way out through the sides near the bottom. It will seek a way where none exists, until it completely destroys itself.  


In many ways, we are like the buzzard, the bat, and the bumblebee. We struggle about with all our problems and frustrations, never realizing that all we have to do is look up!  That's the answer; the escape route and the solution to any problem!

Just look up!

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Path to Wisdom: Moderation

“If you tighten the string too much, it will snap; if you leave it too slack, it will not play. To learn is to change. The path to enlightenment is in the middle way. It is the line between all opposite extremes.” 
Since I was fairly young, I have been intrigued by religions of the world; Buddhism in particular. It started out simply with an early childhood enchantment of the jovial, round-bellied statues found in Chinese restaurants. Then as I entered my early teen years I had a friend whose mother would say "I swear to Buddha" on a regular basis. I found this comical and added the phrase to my personal slang vocabulary for a few years (before I decided it was disrespectful and cut it out).

It was a combination of these two things that made my ears perk up when I was briefly taught about the Buddhist faith in a Geography or World History class somewhere along the line. What was taught in school was woefully inadequate to quench my curiosity, but my youth combined with the as of yet nonexistent internet did quench it for a time.

Through the years, I have been attracted to Buddha quotes and have done little bits of research along the way on many eastern religions and their teachings. While I find some of the mystical mumbo-jumbo abhorrent and don’t have any belief or attraction to the doctrine of reincarnation or idol worship, I have found them all to contain a great deal of universal truth in other aspects.

One of these universal truths can be found in the account of the beginnings of Buddhism. I don’t know how much anyone knows about it, but I will attempt to give a very brief and somewhat superficial history as follows.

Siddhartha Gautama was born into royalty in India somewhere between 400 BCE and 600 BCE. His father was King Ĺšuddhodana, who wished his son to become a great warrior king, like himself. So, he raised Siddhartha in a palace shielded from religious teachings and from all knowledge of human suffering.

But at age 29, Siddhartha felt a longing to leave the palace to visit his subjects. His father was very much against the idea, but decided to indulge his son by arranging to have all the old and infirm hidden from his eyes during the visit. But despite his father’s wishes, Siddhartha managed to observe an old man while he was outside the palace and asked his charioteer why the man looked so strange. The charioteer answered by explaining to him about the process of ageing, which Siddhartha had been sheltered from up until that point.

Siddhartha was so intrigued by this that he arranged other visits to the city. In these subsequent visits, he encountered a diseased man, a decaying corpse, and an ascetic. These examples of suffering depressed him but awakened in him a sense of compassion. He initially strove to overcome ageing, sickness, and death by escaping the palace and living the life of an ascetic (a lifestyle characterized by abstinence from various sorts of worldly pleasures often with the aim of pursuing religious and spiritual goals).

After nearly starving himself to death by restricting his food intake to around a leaf or nut per day, he collapsed in a river while bathing and almost drowned; causing Siddhartha to reconsider his path. Then, he heard an old musician on a passing boat teaching his pupils about the strings on their lutes, “If you tighten the string too much, it will snap; if you leave it too slack, it will not play.”

He realized with these words that he had been following the wrong path. The extreme life of an ascetic did not bring full, lasting enlightenment or liberation any more than the opposite extreme of self-indulgence and ease in the palace had. Neither was the path of wisdom.

He immediately left his ascetic life of self-mortification and meditated at length about The Middle Way – the line between all opposite extremes. This lengthy meditation was the source of Siddhartha’s awakening. He thereafter became known as the “Buddha” which means “awakened one” or “the enlightened one” and he began traveling around teaching others how to obtain enlightenment through The Middle Way.

I am not a Buddhist, but I feel the truth in the middle way. I agree that pleasure-seeking and the accompanying blindness to suffering is NOT the way to wisdom or enlightenment. Without suffering, sickness, ageing and death, we would never know compassion. And I also agree that self-denial will not fully overcome these faults to bring wisdom or enlightenment. If you really stop to think about it, it's plain to see that all the good stuff - freedom, peace, health, intelligence, etc. - is never in the extreme, it's always somewhere in the middle.

In my religion, we say, “Moderation in all things.” And I sincerely believe being moderate is indeed the path to wisdom and a full life.

If you are more of a visual person, here is a depiction of Siddhartha's discovery of The Middle Way from the movie The Little Buddha. Yes, that's Keanu Reeves you see; he plays Siddhartha.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

C.S. Lewis Sunday - Purpose in Pain

"Everyone has noticed how hard it is to turn our thoughts to God when everything is going well with us. We 'have all we want' is a terrible saying when 'all' does not include God. We find God an interruption. As St. Augustine says somewhere, 'God wants to give us something, but cannot, because our hands are full -- there's nowhere for Him to put it.' Or as a friend of mine said, 'We regard God as an airman regards his parachute; it's there for emergencies but he hopes he'll never have to use it.' Now God, who has made us, knows what we are and that our happiness lies in Him. Yet we will not seek it in Him as long as he leaves us any other resort where it can even plausibly be looked for. While what we call 'our own life' remains agreeable we will not surrender it to Him. What then can God do in our interests but make 'our own life' less agreeable to us, and take away the plausible source of false happiness?"
--C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Wiseguy Wednesday - Naked

I think it is common among all humans to ponder whether they'd rather be hot or cold. Also common, the logical progression of thought that leads you straight to 'Cold'. Because, of course, you can always put more clothes on, but you can only take so many off. So, as temperatures rise to triple digits, I thought I would dedicate a Wiseguy Wednesday to the shedding of clothes. Enjoy!

"My school colors were clear. We used to say, 'I'm not naked, I'm in the band.'"
--Steven Wright

“Clothes make the man.  Naked people have little or no influence on society.” 
--Mark Twain

Sunday, June 19, 2011

C.S. Lewis Sunday - Strutting Little Idiots

"We must not think Pride is something God forbids because He is offended at it, or that Humility is something He demands as due to His own dignity--as if God Himself was proud. He is not in the least bit worried about his dignity. The point is, He wants you to know Him: wants to give you Himself. And He and you are two things of such a kind that if you really get into any kind of touch with Him you will, in fact, be humble--delightedly humble, feeling the infinite relief of having for once got rid of all the silly nonsense about your own dignity which has made you restless and unhappy all your life. He is trying to make you humble in order to make this moment possible: trying to take off a lot of silly, ugly, fancy-dress in which we have all got ourselves up and are strutting about like the little idiots we are. I wish I had got a bit further with humility myself: if I had, I could probably tell you more about the relief, the comfort of taking the fancy-dress off--getting rid of the false self, with all its 'Look at me' and 'Aren't I a good boy?' and all its posing and posturing.To get even near it, even for a moment, is like a drink of cold water to a man in a desert." 
--C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Calvin and Hobbes: Father's Day

In honor of Father's Day, I thought I'd introduce three of my favorite strips involving Calvin's Dad to the Savvy and Sage community. Enjoy! And Happy Father's Day!



Friday, June 17, 2011

Fortune Cookie Friday - ...In Bed!

I went to lunch at my favorite Thai place for my birthday a few days ago and got the following fortune:

I don't believe I've ever cracked open a more appropriate "In Bed" candidate! So many layers of hilarity! We laughed for a solid 5 minutes! ;)

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Wiseguy Wednesday - IQ Test

"There's a new telephone service that lets you test you IQ over the phone. It costs $3.95 a minute. If you make the call at all, you're a moron. If you're on the line for three minutes, you're a complete idiot."
--Jay Leno, The Tonight Show

Monday, June 13, 2011

It's a Great Big Universe

"It is well to remember that the entire universe, with one trifling exception, is composed of others."
--John Andrew Holmes

Maybe it’s just because it’s my birthday tomorrow and I’m trying to minimize the effect of my ego, but I wanted to share some perspective today.

Anyone who has spent any time looking up at the stars can not avoid observing the scale of the universe and how very small we are in comparison. It is debatable whether or not this feels good or bad, but I - for one - have found it encouraging to ponder the concept that I cannot possibly be the center of such vastness.  And while it does make me feel insignificant, I appreciate the lesson. I am grateful to be so small so that I may learn to forget myself. There are as many millions of other people in this world as there are whole galaxies in the firmament. What is my life but to love and serve others? That is the ONLY way I can make my life even remotely significant in the face of such vastness. And that is how it should be…I think. Enjoy!


This is a close up of one of the darkest regions of the photo above:

It all reminds me of my FAVORITE Animaniacs song:

Great...I'm gonna be singin' that one for the rest of the week! :)

Sunday, June 12, 2011

C.S. Lewis Sunday - Pride: Spiritual Cancer

"It is a terrible thing that the worst of all the vices [Pride] can smuggle itself into the very center of our religious life. But you can see why. The other, less bad, vices come from the devil working on us through our animal nature. But [Pride] does not come through our animal nature at all. It comes direct from Hell. It is purely spiritual: consequently it is far more subtle and deadly. For the same reason, Pride can often be used to beat down the simpler vices. Teachers, in fact, often appeal to a boy's Pride, or, as they call it, his self-respect, to make him behave decently: many a man has overcome cowardice, or lust, or ill-temper, by learning to think that they are beneath his dignity--that is, by Pride. The devil laughs. He is perfectly content to see you becoming chaste and brave and self-controlled provided, all the time, he is setting up in you the Dictatorship of Pride--just as he would be quite content to see your chilblains (click here for definition) cured if he was allowed, in return, to give you cancer. For Pride is spiritual cancer: it eats up the very possibility of love, or contentment, or even common sense."
--C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Friday, June 10, 2011

Fortune Cookie Friday - Success

This may just simply be a good candidate for the "In Bed" or "Except in Bed" categories, but why settle for simple when you can make a mountain out of a molehill? ;)

If you look up Success in the dictionary, all the definitions deal with outcome. The actual achievement of a goal. The end result of hard work and/or ingenuity. Being well thought of for some act. The attainment of a reward. It's all about culmination and what other people think about what you do. 

But what if the way you define success is different than the way someone else does? Does this make you less successful? No. We can't depend on others' opinions to measure success. "The person who seeks all their applause from outside, has their happiness in another's keeping." --Dale Carnegie 

And what about the other part of the definition: culmination? I know a lot of people who have never really "arrived" but that I consider successful. This leaves me to conclude that the known definitions for Success are flawed, or at least inadequate. 

So, what IS success, if not accomplishment or reward? 

To me, Success is like Happiness. It's a state of mind; an attitude. It can lead to achievement, but is not necessarily defined by it.

How would YOU define it?

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Two Wolves

"The greatest battles of life are fought out daily in the silent chambers of the soul."
--David O. McKay

 I've been thinking of the following story for several days now. I love it for 2 reasons. One, because I have Cherokee ancestry; and two, because I have recently been feeling a battle within myself like the one mentioned in the story. It has helped me to remember which wolf to feed, so I thought I'd share.

Two Wolves

One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a  
battle that goes on inside people.  He said, "My son,  
The battle is between two 'wolves' inside us all.  

One is Evil.  It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret,  
greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment  
Inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority and ego.

  The other is Good.  It is joy, peace, love, hope,  
serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence,  
empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith."  

The grandson thought about it for a minute  
and then asked his grandfather,  
"Which wolf wins?"  

The old Cherokee simply replied, "The one you feed."

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Wiseguy Wednesday - Stay-at-home Mom

The downside to retirement, I told my daughter, a stay-at-home mom with three young girls, is that you no longer feel euphoric about Fridays. "When you're retired, every day is Friday."

"I know what you mean," my daughter replied. "When you're a stay-at-home mom, every day is Monday."
 --Brenda Joullian

Sunday, June 5, 2011

C.S. Lewis Sunday - Pride Test

"How is it that people who are quite obviously eaten up with Pride can say they believe in God and appear to themselves very religious? I am afraid it means that they are worshiping an imaginary God. They theoretically admit themselves to be nothing in the presence of this phantom God, but are really all the time imagining how He approves of them and thinks them far better than ordinary people: that is, they pay a pennyworth of imaginary humility to Him and get out of it a pound's worth of Pride towards their fellow-men. I suppose it was of those people Christ was thinking when He said that some would preach about Him and cast out devils in His name, only to be told at the end of the world that He had never known them. And any of us may at any moment be in this death-trap. Luckily, we have a test. Whenever we find our religious life is making us feel that we are good--above all, that we are better than someone else--I think we may be sure that we are being acted on, not by God, but by the devil. The real test of being in the presence of God is, that you either forget about yourself altogether, or see yourself as a small, dirty object. It is better to forget about yourself altogether."
--C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Friday, June 3, 2011

Fortune Cookie Friday - Rocky Road

Wow! I don't think I've ever popped open a fortune so suited to me! I don't know the first THING about the glory of man, but while seeking the glory of God, my road has indeed been rocky; and will continue to be so. I've learned to be grateful for the rocks in my road and wouldn't have it any other way! L♥VE!

"The bubbling brook would lose its song if you removed the rocks."

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Let Go!

"People in general would rather die than forgive. It's THAT hard. If God said in plain language, 'I'm giving you a choice, forgive or die,' a lot of people would go ahead and order their coffin."
--Sue Monk Kidd,
The Secret Life of Bees, p. 277

When I was an early teen, a friend invited me for a day of recreational boating with her family. I was beside myself with excitement to spend a fun-filled Saturday out on the water with friends! I had never been on a boat outing, but I had heard the many virtues of water-skiing from my friends and I was dying to try it.

I made a lot of good memories that day, but something happened when I made my first attempt at water-skiing that has left a lasting impression upon my mind.

As I climbed down into the water, my friend and her family gave me a full tutorial, complete with a warning that the initial pull of the boat would be profound. But while I expected it to be a good firm yank, I still wasn’t quite prepared for how strong it actually was. When the boat finally took off, my 13-year-old body immediately flung out of the water, and I was violently slapped face down into the water and dragged for what seemed like a mile. All the while, I was screaming futilely amid mouthfuls of water: 


Eventually the boat did stop, to my half-drown relief. I basked in the intense elation of near escape from death for about 1 second before the murderous explosions of anger set in. As the boat turned to retrieve me, I was fanning the flames of my rage. How DARE they drag me around for their amusement! I might have drowned! I am going to give them a piece of my mind! They will PAY!

As soon as they were within earshot, I shouted, “WHY would you drag me around like that? You nearly KILLED me!”

Then came the haunting reply, “Why didn’t YOU let go?!”

All my burning flames of indignation were instantly exhausted like a small match thrown into a raging sea of my own foolishness. While I had been shouting “STOP!” they had been shouting, “LET GO!” And it never occurred to me that my safety had literally been in my own hands the entire time! I had clung to that handle as if my life depended on it, when in actuality all I had to do was release it.

Isn’t that just like life?

How many times have I held on to anger, resentment, sadness, and pain like I clung onto that water-skiing handle? How many times have I blamed someone or something else for my struggles and problems?

I’m irritable because someone cut me off in traffic. I have pain because of stress. I’m offended because someone didn’t act the way I thought they should. I’m angry because someone was hateful to me. I failed because I had a bad teacher. Come to think of it, NONE of the problems I experience are my fault! I am a victim and I’m entitled to my negative emotions!

“Stop! Stop! I’m drowning!”

Wait a minute…perhaps I haven’t stopped reacting long enough to realize that if someone or something else is responsible for everything that’s wrong in my life, then I have to wait around until that someone or something changes so that I can feel better.  

Why wait for the boat to stop? Just let go! Take back your life and respond instead with love, peace, joy, forgiveness, and/or kindness. Choose not to blame others. Choose not to be offended. Supplant revenge with release. 

Don’t forget YOU are holding the handle!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Wiseguy Wednesday 6 - Try a Tie

After the birth of my son, a woman from the records department stopped by my hospital room to get information for his birth certificate. "Father's date of birth?" she asked. When I told her, she said, "Do you realize that his birthday is exactly nine months before your son's birth?"

"No, I hadn't thought about it," I responded. "but now that you mention it, I have a daughter who turned two a couple days before the same date."

After she finished taking down all the data, she patted my hand and said, "Maybe you should start buying your husband a tie for his birthday."
--M.K. Pigott