The Measure of a Man

The Measure of a Man

Pentecost 61

 

I have a friend who collects measuring tapes.  Actually, he just has quite a few of them.  This collection is not historical nor is there any special meaning attached to them other than being devices for measuring.  My friend is a statistician and his profession of measuring things is more than a vocation, it is a manner of living.

 

The measuring tape has an interesting history.  While the earliest of beings probably measured things, the Greeks are the culture that history denotes as giving us a standard of sorts for measuring.  They utilized what they had on hand or rather, on body.  Since most people had a standard body, it was the body that was the first measuring tool.  A foot was considered a standard measurement although the feet of the ancient Greeks were not the same size as the feet of modern man.  An inch was not one-twelfth of a foot as it is today but was the width of a person’s thumb.

 

Tracing the feet of twelve people you know will illustrate why mankind sought a more uniform measuring system.  Records note that a man was extradited to the penal colony of Australia in 1839 for stealing a tape measure.  Charles White was transported to New South Wales after having been tried at the Oxford Court of Sessions.   The ship known as “Portsea” sailed on 24 July 1838 from Plymouth, bound for New South Wales with the tape measure thief aboard.

 

The accuracy of this story is in doubt, especially since the first patent for a spring-loaded tape measure was not issued until 1868 and given to Connecticut A. J. Fellows.  The Romans had developed a leather strap with measurement lines on it and there are documents that indicate it was kept rolled up.  A British museum claims to have the actual tape measure stolen by Charles White although no indication is given as to whether it returns to its original roll with assistance or without as Fellows’ tape measure would do.

 

Just the mere hint at this historical conundrum is something we might not expect from the lowly tape measure.  We use such devices every day and yet, often they are overlooked.  My friend likes to know what is what, he says, and gives this as the reason for having such a collection.  He is quick to note that he assigns no judgment to his measuring; he simply “likes to know the truth of things”.

 

If we think about how the Greeks measured, using a foot and the width of a thumb, then it is easy to understand diversity of things.  A person wanting a table for eating would expect it to be thirty inches from floor to table top as this is a standard height for dining tables.  Chairs usually have a seat cushion which is twenty-four inches from the floor.   Using my friend’s thumb as a measuring tool compared to my own would result in a difference of two tables that is almost a foot – a modern-day foot in difference of height!  His chair cushion would be as high as my table.  If someone purchased his chair to go with my table, the result would be comical and not very comfortable.

 

It is easy to see why we need measuring tools and yet, should we have such for measuring each other?  What are the standards we use in arriving at an opinion or in determining who matters and should receive attention, assistance, allocations?  What is the measure of a person?  Martin Luther King, Jr believed “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

 

The actor Sidney Poitier wrote a book entitled “The Measure of a Man: A Spiritual Autobiography”.  In it he gave us some profound measuring tools.  “You don’t have to become something you’re not to be better than you were.”  He encouraged people to view themselves for who they wanted to be and then make that vision a reality.  “We’re all somewhat courageous, and we’re all considerably cowardly. We’re all imperfect, and life is simply a perpetual, unending struggle against those imperfections.”

 

My friend’s collection of measuring tapes includes a few that a battered and two that no longer wind themselves back up.  Once I asked why he did not simply get rid of those and he replied:  “Their function is still there; they still measure up.”  I love that perfection is not a standard of measurement for my friend.  I love that he sees the value and not only the outside covering.  The true measure of a man or woman is how he/she makes others feel and where his/her heart is.  Whether tall or short, rich or poor, we all can contribute and make this world a better place.  As long as we are helping each other, we will always have measure and that will tell us how to move forward in our living.
 

A New Day

A New Day

Pentecost 60

 

Today history will be written.  New myths will be created.  Today we will not spend time in rehashing old living.  Today is for living the here and now.  It is, after all, the only door to the future.  Bold words, huh?  Perhaps they are also a little bit scary.  Today is a new page in the story of your life, the story that you yourself will write.

 

The Greeks lived with their gods and goddesses.  They did not keep them on some high mountain, objects to be worshipped only.  Their deities often posed as humans or animals. They interacted with mankind and mankind interacted with them.  Their names became common words, not whispered only in hallowed halls.  This interaction gave them life and gave their stories heartbeats that continue to be heard today, pulses that keep the myths alive.

 

Today is a blank canvass.  Your story is yours to write.  Interact with the world and live.  Be the hero or heroine of your own wonderful, magical myth, the story of you today.  How do you start?  Share a smile.  Give a hug.  Hold the door open for someone, not just the elderly or the infirmed.  “One of the secrets in life is that all that is really worth doing is what we do for others.”  Lewis Carroll knew that each day we fall down the rabbit hole called life.  He became the legend known as the author of many poems and the children’s classic, “Alice in Wonderland”.   Charles Lutwidge Dodgson famously penned:  “I can’t go back to yesterday because I was a different person then.”  The person he could not go back to was being Charles Dodgson, a different person than the person he was now – now he was Lewis Carroll.

 

“Insist on yourself; never imitate. Your own gift you can present every moment with the cumulative force of a whole life’s cultivation; but of the adopted talent of another you have only an extemporaneous half possession. That which each can do best, none but his Maker can teach him.”  Ralph Waldo Emerson knew the value of the individual when he wrote that.

 

Today write your own story.  Maybe one day we will read about your story; maybe not.  What matters is that you live the life you want.  This is your day to become what you desire.  Today should not be spent boasting about how you are better than another.  Live that claim; show us.  Your story may not be written or read but it will be experienced.  Your presence contributes to the life of all those with whom you walk and talk and eat and breathe.  No one has ever lived that did not impact the life of another being.  Today is your gift, given to you so that you can make this ordinary time into something extraordinary.  Today is your chance to live and write a new chapter in your story.

Believe in You

Believe in You

Pentecost 59

 

“We have this need for some larger-than-life creature.”  It may seem a bit ironic that one of the leading authors of a book on a giant, human-like mythological creature that may be real is actually an expert on much smaller animals.  Robert Michael Pyle studies moths and butterflies and writes about them but in 1995 he also penned a book about the supposed primate known, among other names, as Yeti, Bigfoot, or Sasquatch.

 

The giants in the American Indian folklore are as varied as the different tribes themselves.  It is important to remember that although they are grouped together much like the term European, the designation of American Indian applies to many tribes, most of which are now extinct.  Many millions of Americans over the past two hundred years could and should claim American Indian ancestry.  The story of Bigfoot is the story of their ancestral mythical creature.

 

The Bigfoot phenomenon is proof that there is a real place for mythologies in the present day.  The past several years saw people viewing a popular television program, “Finding Bigfoot” which aired on the Animal Planet network as well as being replayed via internet formats.  A group of four traveled the world, speaking and exploring the myths about a large, here-to-fore undocumented bipedal primate thought to be a link between the great apes and Homo sapiens.   One member of this group was a female naturalist and botanist but the other three were educated men in other disciplines.  To date, the three men have yet to convince their female scientist companion of the existence of the myth known as Bigfoot although she has dedicated several years of her life to searching for something she claims not to believe exists.

 

Even the more popular terms are modern additions to the myth.   A photograph allegedly taken by Eric Shipton was published with Shipton describing the footprint as one from a Yeti, a mythological creature much like a giant snowman said to inhabit the mountains of Nepal.  Several years another set of footprints was photographed in California and published in a local newspaper.  This time the animal was described as “Bigfoot” and a legend dating back to the earliest settlers in North America had been reborn.  The interest in such photographs is proof of the opening quote of today’s post.

 

The Lummi tribe called their giant ape/man mythological character Ts’emekwes and the descriptions of the character’s preferred diet and activities varied within the tribal culture.   Children were warned of the stiyaha or kwi-kwiyai who were said to roam at night and steal children.  There were also stories of the skoocooms, a giant race which lived on Mount St. Helens and were cannibalistic.  The skoocooms were given supernatural powers and status.  A Canadian reporter also reported on such stories and he used a term from the Halkomalem and named the creature “sasq’ets” or Sasquatch.   Rather than to be feared, though, some tribes translated this name to mean “benign-faced one.”

 

Mythologies of such giant creatures can be found on six of the seven continents and if mankind had been able to survive on Antarctica for thousands of years, there would probably be some from there as well.  We do seem to need to believe in something larger than life, as our mythologies bear witness.  What if there was proof of these creatures?  What if they really did exist and perhaps still do?

 

The Paiute Indians, an American Indian tribe from the regions between the Sierra Nevada and the Rocky Mountains also had folklore of such a character.  Their legends tell of a tribe of red-haired giants called Sai’i.  After one such giant gave birth to a disfigured child who was shunned by the tribe, The Paiute believed the Great Spirit of All made their land and living conditions barren and desolate as punishment.  Enemies were then able to conquer the tribe and kill all but two – Paiute and his wife and their skin turned brown from living in such harsh conditions.

 

In 1911 miners working Nevada’s Lovelock Cave discussed not the guano or bat droppings for which they were searching but bones they claimed were from giants.  Nearby reddish hair was found and many believed the remains were those of the Sai’i or Si-Te-Cah as they were also called.  However, some like Adrienne Mayor in her book “Legends of the First Americans” believe these bones and others found nearby are simply untrained eyes not realizing what they are seeing.   A tall man could have bones that would seem large and hair pigment is not stable and often changes color based upon the conditions in which it is found.  Even black hair can turn reddish or orange given the right mineral composition in the soil in which it is found.

 

What the mythologies of the world tell us is that mankind needs to believe in something. In ‘The Magic of Thinking Big”, David Schwartz writes:  “Believe it can be done. When you believe something can be done, really believe, your mind will find the ways to do it. Believing a solution paves the way to solution.”

 

Maybe you believe in the yeti or Sasquatch and maybe you believe in the disproof of them.  We create giants in our own minds every day – those problems that seem insurmountable or the dreams that seem impossible.  The only Bigfoot that matters is that one foot that takes a big step towards progress, towards peace, a step taken with hope.  The dawn of a new day requires us to take a step forward.  If we believe in ourselves, that step will have purpose and accomplishment.  The longest journey really does begin with a single step.

 

The best thing to believe in is you.  Let yourself be your creature to believe in today.  Walk away from fear and into your bright future, a future in which you believe you can do anything.  The reality is you can do whatever you set your mind to doing.  Turn your fears into lessons and steps toward success.  Believe in yourself.  You are amazing!

Pokémon Part Deux

Pokémon Part Deux

Pentecost 58

 

Yesterday’s post elicited some interesting comments.  Apparently the most heavily downloaded game in recent history is not supposed to be criticized.  Someone even asked me how I dared to compare people spending time playing a game with people spending time trying to achieve world peace.  Allow me to explain my thought process, please.

 

Henry Hazlitt, one of the economist’s quoted yesterday stated that when we are able to see that for which we spend money and our time, then we feel it is profitable.  “The Broken Window Fallacy is enduring because of the difficulty of seeing what the shopkeeper would have done. We can see the gain that goes to the glass shop. We can see the new pane of glass in the front of the store. However, we cannot see what the shopkeeper would have done with the money if he had been allowed to keep it, precisely because he wasn’t allowed to keep it.” 

 

I also reference environmental activist David Suzuki and his describing the same thing with an example of a corporation polluting a river instead of a broken window.  Once the river is polluted, Suzuki explains that a costly program will be implemented and residents will purchase bottled water because the naturally flowing water they had depended upon is now polluted.  While the grocery owner will appreciate the increase in sales of bottled water and some people might be hired to work the cleanup program, overall quality of life has suffered and the individual has lost money in his/her pocket because of the need to purchase the bottled water.   

 

Hazlitt summarized that we never get to see what positive things might have been wrought with the money that was instead spent on repairing the broken window.  Suzuki also posited that we would never know what programs might have used that cleanup money if the pollution had not occurred.  Economic winners are always easier to track than the losers and Hazlitt proved there will always be losers in such a thought process.

 

In offered the opinion that world peace offers a much quicker and clearer path toward economic prosperity and general well-being.  Monies spent on the destruction and subsequent injuries could be spent on finding cures for naturally-occurring illnesses.  Instead of fighting each other, the economies of said countries could grow with stability and increased growth which would provide more trade opportunities, increased production and escalated job growth and prospects.

 

So what, are you thinking, does this have to do with Pokémon Go?  This latest reality-based mobile game is said to get kids off the couch and out into the real world.  After all, the more you move around, the more opportunities you have to score points.  Like the broken window fallacy, though, we fail to see the real picture.  While these players are moving around capturing and accruing points, other things are left undone, other sights unseen, other responsibilities left undone.

 

I proposed that what we really need is a Peace Go game.  We need to recognize the points the world accrues when we do find a cure for a disease like cancer.  Forty years ago people died from AIDS but today, people are living with it longer than anyone ever dreamed possible.  Two years ago, an ice challenge dared people to pour ice cold water over themselves.  Those who failed to take the dare paid ten dollars and many paid rather than get soaked in freezing water.  Yesterday it was announce that those monies have resulted in medical breakthroughs.  I know of no one who died from the ice bucket challenge but today many have a better chance to live because of it.

 

I suggested that we need to start awarding points to those who see opportunity in ordinary living and create extraordinary living for others.  We need to expand our definition of a hero to include the teacher who teaches a child how to say thank you, to the stay-at-home mother who teaches courtesy to her children, to the father who works a dull job but provides for his family.  We need to realize that we all are players in the reality game application called life.  The only way to really win that game is to create and support peace.  Otherwise we are all losers. 

 

World peace may seem like an ideal but if it happens, it will be a tangible reality that benefits everyone and everything.  It will not give power to just one person or group.  No one ethnicity or culture will be supreme.  What we will have will be a winning strategy for life, foe making every day extraordinary, every life having value and opportunity, of mankind coexisting together and with his/her natural environment.  Our points will not be on a scorecard but in the faces of all we encounter.  In the game of life, we need to change our goals from beating others to wining together.

Pokémon Go

Pokémon Go

Pentecost 57

 

Decades ago I read an essay that stated world peace was a pipe dream, an impossible hope.  The argument was that because most industrialized nations had a war-based economy, peace was a deterrent to their continued success.  In a private conversation with the sitting Argentinian president U.S. President George W. Bush reportedly said something very similar, the quote being “Nothing stimulates an economy like war.”

 

Economist Henry Hazlitt published what he called the “broken window fallacy” in 194r in his book “Economics in One Lesson”.  Hazlitt gave the example of a boy throwing a rock through a storekeeper’s front window.  The broken window would cost the storekeeper an expense to repair.  Let’s posit that expense would be three hundred dollars.  The glazer would need supplies to make the new window so he also would spend roughly three hundred dollars with his suppliers who would need to refurbish their stock, etc.  The original three hundred dollars spent by the store keeper would be imitated in each link on the supply chain also spending three hundred with their dealers, providing income and jobs for all involved. 

 

Hazlitt summarized his broken window fallacy and the resulting conclusions, both incorrect and correct.    “The logical conclusion from all this would be … that the little hoodlum who threw the brick, far from being a public menace, was a public benefactor.  The Broken Window Fallacy is enduring because of the difficulty of seeing what the shopkeeper would have done. We can see the gain that goes to the glass shop. We can see the new pane of glass in the front of the store. However, we cannot see what the shopkeeper would have done with the money if he had been allowed to keep it, precisely because he wasn’t allowed to keep it.”  In other words, we never get to see what positive things might have been wrought with that same three hundred dollars.

 

Environmental activist David Suzuki uses an example of a corporation polluting a river instead of a broken window.  Once the river is polluted, Suzuki explains that a costly program will be implemented and residents will purchase bottled water because the naturally flowing water they had depended upon is now polluted.  While the grocery owner will appreciate the increase in sales of bottled water and some people might be hired to work the cleanup program, overall quality of life has suffered and the individual has lost money in his/her pocket because of the need to purchase the bottled water.   Again, we would never know what programs might have used that cleanup money if the pollution had not occurred.  Economic winners are always easier to track than the losers and Hazlitt proved there will always be losers in such a thought process.

Economist Mike Moffat explains the fallacy in a war-based economy using refrigerators.  He asks us to imagine an army dropping refrigerators on the enemy instead of bombs.    To obtain these refrigerators, they could, Mike proposed, do one of two things.  Each citizen would be asked to pay one hundred dollars to purchase said appliance.  That means, the citizen would lose instantly one hundred dollars of their disposable income, income they might have used to purchase life-essential items.  The other option would be for the government to come into each home and remove the privately-owned refrigerator from each citizen’s house. 

 

Moffat correctly assumed neither would be a satisfactory solution to the general population.  Yet, Moffat explained, an increase in taxes to pay for war does steal money from your disposable income.  The destruction of war not only takes away someone’s appliances, it destroys their entire environment and often, their families, either directly or indirectly.  No war has ever been fought without destruction and death.  War has come to be seen as an economic tool and yet, like the broken window, it is not.

 

Peace offers a much quicker and clearer path toward economic prosperity and general well-being.  Monies spent on the destruction and subsequent injuries could be spent on finding cures for naturally-occurring illnesses.  Instead of fighting each other, the economies of said countries could grow with stability and increased growth which would provide more trade opportunities, increased production and escalated job growth and prospects.

 

So what, are you thinking, does this have to do with Pokémon Go?  Pokémon Go is the latest RMG – reality-based mobile game.  It is a multi-player, individually played game in which imaginary characters are seen in the real world and battled then captured.  Confused?  Let me explain.  Players use smart devices to view their surroundings.  The game application then superimposes the Pokémon characters into the viewed environment.  For example, you might see a character resting beside your garbage can at the end of your driveway.  There might be two sitting on the curb at the local library.  Some public places are designated for specific activities within the game.  While you compete in the overall points competition, the game is played solo.

 

Many have posited that this game is getting kids off the couch and out into the real world.  After all, the more you move around, the more opportunities you have to score points.  Like the broken window fallacy, though, we fail to see the real picture.  While these players are moving around capturing and accruing points, other things are left undone, other sights unseen, other responsibilities left undone.

 

What we need, I realized, is a Peace Go game.  We need to recognize the points the world accrues when we do find a cure for a disease like cancer.  Forty years ago people died from AIDS but today, people are living with it longer than anyone ever dreamed possible.  Two years ago, an ice challenge dared people to pour ice cold water over themselves.  Those who failed to take the dare paid ten dollars and many paid rather than get soaked in freezing water.  Yesterday it was announce that those monies have resulted in medical breakthroughs.  I know of no one who died from the ice bucket challenge but today many have a better chance to live because of it.

 

We need to start awarding points to those who see opportunity in ordinary living and create extraordinary living for others.  We need to expand our definition of a hero to include the teacher who teaches a child how to say thank you, to the stay-at-home mother who teaches courtesy to her children, to the father who works a dull job but provides for his family.  We need to realize that we all are players in the reality game application called life.  The only way to really win that game is to create and support peace.  Otherwise we are all losers. 

 

We move around our environment just like that storekeeper.  No one wants their home invaded or destroyed.  We not only play the game, we make the rules.  Will you create an effectively attractive strategy for winning today?  Will you be the window breaker or someone who helps build opportunities for us all?

To Be

To Be

Pentecost 57

 

The rhetoric of the current presidential election ongoing in the United States of America has traveled far and wide around the world.  It presents a picture of humanity as bleak as any insult uttered by those who claim to be enemies of progress, education, and freedom.  In summary, this rhetoric advertises just how ridiculous some people can present themselves to be.

 

The image we project is often a mask.  We tend to fear letting others too close to who we really are and thus, by hiding, push people away instead of creating community.  One of the newest Chief Justices of the United States Supreme Court, Chief Justice Sonia Sotomayor spoke of the need to create community and how one can do that.  “As you discover what strength you can draw from your community in this world from which it stands apart, look outward as well as inward.  Build bridges instead of walls.”

 

History has no record of who built the first bridge.  Most likely it was a natural phenomenon such as a tee falling across a stream.  The first suspension bridge built in the United States was built at Niagara Falls over one hundred and fifty years ago.  However, in 1859 the first iron bridge was built.  It was constructed over Dunlap’s Creek in Brownville, Pennsylvania.  Certainly other bridges had been built.  Connecticut boasts the first covered bridges but even before those, wooden pathways across streams were prevalent.

 

The purpose for these bridges was simple.  In order for life to advance, mankind needed bridges to take one across the hurdles encountered.  As we live our lives, as we exist in this the twenty-first century, we seem to have forgotten that we still need those bridges.  This time, though, we need bridges to cross cultural divides, to bring together the communities of the world, to celebrate our diversity. 

 

Tom Peters explains:  “Community organizing is all about building grassroots support.  It’s about identifying the people around you with whom you can create a common passionate cause and it’s about ignoring the conventional wisdom of company politics and instead playing the game by very different rules.”  In other words, we need to cross those socioeconomic divides and join others who believe as we do.  Then we need to move forward in a positive motion instead of trying to knock down the other side.

 

Instead of throwing stones at each other, we need to use those stones to build bridges.  Then we can walk across those very bridges towards a better tomorrow, a brighter and more productive future. 

 

Only the cowardly among us will resort to hurtful rhetoric and employ the tactics of bullies to present their case.  Isaac Newton once remarked that “We build too many walls and not enough bridges.”  IF we are to be, we must build bridges and connect ourselves to the rest of the world.  It is only by joining together that we will honor the past and bridge the present to the future. 

 

 

 

 

Service

Service

Pentecost 56

 

Often we think of those in “service” as those serving in the military or priesthood.  Ask someone to define the word “service” and they will probably say something akin to “work done by someone for somebody else” or “an action done for another”.  Then it might surprise you that synonyms for the word “service” seldom include either definition.  These synonyms include words like facility, package, deal, examination, provision, etc.  In other words the synonyms are the locations or manners in which a service is performed but not really the action itself.

 

We all are “in service” and if we are not, we should be.  Twenty years ago I heard someone giving a lecture on civics.  The speaker was questioned as to the best way to know who would make a good leader, who someone should vote for in an election.  The location of this talk was in a country that had not held elections in a number of years so it was understandable that some of the population might not understand the process and wanted to be advised on the best possible outcome.  The speaker’s answer surprised many:  “I want a candidate to tell me what they have done for others, not what they have done for themselves or are promising to do for me.”

 

Recent events have brought that lecture to mind as it seems that many people are more concerned about their own personal agenda than that of the world.  There is no truth in that statement “What’s good for me will be good for you.”  We are all unique creatures and come with our own set of desires and needs.  There is no “One size fits all” policy that will work for everything in this life.  Having everyone the same nationality, believing in the same customs and religions, wearing the same clothes, etc clearly does not work.  Why you might ask?  Because if it did, no one would have ever traveled and we would all be living insular lives.

 

This blog series is about the Ordinary Time becoming extraordinary.  Pentecost is a period in several religious calendars in which there are no special days, no celebratory feasts.  Hence, it is called the Ordinary Time.  However, just because there are no official feasts and festivities does not mean we cannot celebrate life and make each day something extraordinary.  How do we do that?  We do it by being of service someone else.

 

A year or so ago I heard a speaker say that they were a leader.  Their interest in leading was not for the betterment of others, though.  By this person’s own admission, they volunteered to improve their own self-image.  This is not really being a leader, in my humble opinion.  This is feeding one’s ego.  They are not being of service to another but simply promoting themselves.  We all have value but the greatest value comes when we forget to promote our own agenda and work for something that benefits us all.

 

Two great Eastern spiritualists explained this better than I ever could.  “Our prime purpose in this life is to help others”, believed the Dalai Lama.  “And if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them.”  The speaker I heard did lead and I think for more altruistic reasons than even he realized.  People benefitted from his volunteer work and no one was hurt.  Mahatma Gandhi also realized the power of service.  “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” 

 

Want to take the boredom out of everyday living?  Volunteer.  Help a neighbor.  Help a stranger.  Go to VolunteerMatch.org and see what is available and needed in your community.  Small acts, multiplied by the service of many, can and will transform the world.