Get

Get

Epiphany 14

 

“The secret to getting ahead is getting started.”  Mark twain said that and it applies to a great many things.  We are in the first twenty days of a new year and it is a good time to ask yourself what do you want or need to get?  What do you realistically think you can obtain and/or accomplish?  Would it make your world a better place or just make you feel better?

 

Those are tough questions.  I know I am not sure how to answer.  What I am certain of is that probably most of what I want would be a benefit to only me and not perhaps the world at large or even my neighbors close by.  We all have to start, though.  The clock is ticking and time waits for no one.  We need to get busy living and that means getting busy getting.

 

The above quote from Mark Twain is not complete.  The rest of the quote goes like this:  “The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.”  Known for his many books, Mark Twain began each one the same way – with a word, then a page.  A chapter was soon written and later the entire book.  We need to approach our life like that.

 

Pablo Picasso once said “I’m always doing things I can’t do.  That is how I get to do them.”  Too often we consider our success/fail ratio and decide the fail pendulum is too heavy and we give up before we even try.  We need to determine a goal and then go for it.  Recently I considered a new course of action.  I instantly thought of all the reasons I could not be successful in this venture rather then decide on why I could.  Picasso would have been very disappointed in me.

 

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most importantly, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”  Steve Jobs encountered a great amount of resistance but he persevered and helped change the world of technology.

 

Gandhi once remarked that “My life is my message.”  What will you get today that will be the first page of your life this year?  What will you get that will benefit the world?  We need to make our life our mission, not simply live it as though it is an intermission.  I wish you well in your living today and hope that whatever you get becomes your first step towards a better tomorrow.

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Yo, Status Quo

Yo, Status Quo

Epiphany 3

 

Yesterday we talked about the verb “act” and how action is the only way to make positive change.  At this time of year when organizations are beginning the new year with a new slate of officers and leaders, it is most important that we consider what happens when nothing happens, when no real action takes place.

 

First used in the sixteenth century and often spelled “io”, the term “yo!” gained popularity in twentieth century Philadelphia among Italian-Americans as a greeting.  It was, quite simply, a way to get someone’s attention.  Robert Louis Stevenson used the slang term in his trilogy about pirates in fact.  I use it today in much the same fashion, both to garnet attention and in speaking of those who would rob the future.

 

“In statu quo res erant ante bellum” was a phrase found in fourteenth century Latin and it was used diplomatically to refer to how things had been prior to the war.  Today it is often used to describe the current unpleasant state of affairs but situations not deemed worth the risk of changing.  If that sounds complicated, it both is and it isn’t.

 

Sometimes we accept the current situation even though we do not find it productive or palatable.  The effort involved to make necessary changes is risky as are all changes.  Fear overcomes our motivation to make the change and so, the status quo remains.

 

American economist and University of California president Clark Kerr once characterized the status quo as “The status quo is the only solution that cannot be vetoed”.  In fact it can be vetoes but not by a mere vote.  In order for the status quo to change, one must take action.

 

If the status quo was really the best course of action, then we would all still be using trees for our restroom facilities, cooking over open fires, and have only that communication that could be heard by yelling or via smoke signals.  You would not be reading this blog because the electricity which gives voice to the Internet would not exist.

 

At some point in time, someone decided to take a chance on change.  People took a chance on believing in their ideas and the result were the creature comforts of heat, indoor plumbing, refrigerated food preservation, and worldwide communication in the blink of an eye.  For the future to happen, we must move forward.

 

We cannot keep voting in the same ideas and the same people.  We must look beyond our comfort zone and take a leap of faith in order to move ourselves and the world forward.  We must look beyond someone’s bank account, the color of their skin or their garb and see their potential and what they can help others achieve.

 

Simply put, the status quo is the existing state of affairs.  Often the status quo is fine…for the time in which it first existed.  The thing is that time does not stand still.  It keeps ticking forward, propelling us toward our future.  Are you along for the ride or have you jumped off and are simply treading water while you go around in circles?  Treading water is a great way to stay afloat but you really are not going to be able to do much else and you certainly will not go forward to higher aspirations.  Former US President Ronald Reagan defined the status in this remark: “Status quo, you know, is Latin for ‘the mess we’re in’!”

 

First used as an advertising slogan for Apple, Rob Siltanen’s campaign slogan is a great mantra for this new year 2017 and season of Epiphany.  “Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

Bon Voyage

Bon Voyage

Pentecost 70

 

Traveling today?  Why not help someone else travel, put a smile on the face of a child affected with cancer, and quite likely make a positive change for the future of all children?  It really can be as simple as booking an airplane ticket.

 

Childhood Cancer is not fictitious.  It exists and affects children and their families every day.  So when someone asked if I had heard about Expedia’s virtual reality campaign for St. Jude’s Pediatric Research Center and Hospital, I was confused.  In March of this year, Expedia, the travel site that promises assistance in booking everything needed for business or pleasure travel, began a new campaign with St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital.  The goal was to raise awareness using a virtual reality experience that would benefit some St. Jude’s patients.

 

The “Dream Adventures” asked four patients to share their passion and ideal dream adventure.  One wanted to play with monkeys.  Another dreamed of running with horses.  The third wanted to go dig for dinosaur fossils while the fourth simply wanted to swim in the ocean.  Not only did the children get to experience living their dreams through virtual reality, media technology history was made.  Using 360-degree filming technology, the Expedia employees dispatched to live these dreams used projection mapping and live streaming technology to include the children with their experiences.  With a four-wall virtual reality installation at the hospital, the patients were able to direct the actions of the employee trekker and immerse themselves in the experience.

 

Expedia has long encouraged its customers to live their dreams.  This campaign also encourages customers to donate their Expedia travel points directly to the hospital.  These points will then be converted to monetary value and that monetary value donated directly to St. Jude’s.  Since no family is ever charged for services received, your travel points will be needed and put to good use.

 

So while you dream of your next trip, take a few minutes and book it through this travel website.  Encourage your place of business to do the same.  Wouldn’t it be great if while you were flying through the air, your points helped someone be able to live?

Dare to Dream

Dare to Dream

Pentecost 66

 

What is the deity of your dreams?  I love this question and no, I cannot claim ownership.  It is a really good question, though.  Hopefully, if you belong to an organized religion or participate in a spiritual belief or practice, your “dream” god is fairly close to the deity of your preferred spirituality or religion.  What is your ideal life?  Are you living it?  What can you do to make your current living closer to your dream living?  Can you be the avenue for someone else’s dream to come true?

 

Dreams are an often studied and still unknown entity for mankind.  We often use the term to imply ideal but is what we dream really our ideal?  Many believe that what we envision and what we dream influence how we live and what we do.  What we worship and what we believe, that which is our Kadosh or Holy One, is an integral part of our consciousness and our subconscious or unconscious.  Or is it the other way around?  Is dreaming is believing?  Is the story and subsequent belief of a religious deity just a dream or can it be a reality?  Instead of thinking in terms of religion versus spirituality, should it be beliefs versus our dreams? 

 

“Elohe Yakob”, translates as the God of Jacob.  When Christians and even some Jews think of their one deity as only that, then that deity or God becomes an antiquated idea that has no place in the twenty-first century.  When we create false expectations, then our faith cannot measure up.  Perhaps this is why so many have left both faiths.  Perhaps trying to bring the words of the Quran into the twenty-first century is why some have mistakenly chosen to follow radical imams.  The faiths are not antiquated and they do have value and a place in our modern times.  We must allow them to become a part of our dreams, though, without destroying what they describe, the essence of the dreams within the beliefs.

 

All too often we confuse the words “dream” and “ideal”.  My dream appearance might be one thing but my ideal appearance is going to include a weight that is healthiest for me and, trust me, that is not the trendy fashion size of the year which is something like a negative size ten.  All too often we create false expectation of our deity and then lose faith when our life is not ideal.

 

Many are unhappy and feel they have nothing to offer because of a disconnect between their reality and their dreams.   I have an imperfect life.  We all do, quite honestly.  Even in the best of times, life presents challenges.  One of those challenges is to do what you can for someone else.  Living is not for the weak-kneed or lazy.  There are days that it takes courage and great effort.  It is worth both, however.  What if you could make someone’s dream come true in your everyday living?

 

St. Jude’s Research Center and Hospital provides medical care and sponsors medical breakthroughs in many childhood illnesses.  For the children and families there, the dream is life itself.  You can support St. Jude/s with a monthly donation of about twenty dollars, US dollars that is but you can also do more.  When shopping for that “dream” outfit, shop at a store that also supports St. Jude.  From K-Mart to Ann Taylor, Home Goods to William Sonoma, Dollar General to Jared Jewelers, American Airlines to Zappos…the list is quite inclusive.  Follow your dream and help a child at the same time.

 

The Make-a-Wish Foundation makes children’s dreams come true.  This nonprofit is based on the belief that having one’s dream come true can be life-changing.  Thousands of Make-a-Wish volunteers grant the wish or dream of a child with a life-threatening disease every thirty-seven minutes.  There are countless ways you can help but again, by just being selective in your own daily living, you can also support these dreams.  California Pizza, Colgate, Dave & Buster’s, Marquis’ Spas, Things Remembered…this list also goes on and on.

 

Sometimes the dreams are about everyday living.  Dove dish detergent donates thousands of bottles of detergent to clean waterfowl affected by oil spills.  Tide detergent has washing trailers that go to areas affected by natural and manmade disasters and offers free laundry services to the displaced and those that are victims.  Sometimes a dream is something as simple as a clean shirt.

 

We all purchase items.  By daring to dream we strive to make those purchases align with our dreams.  By making smart purchases, you can not only make your dreams come true, you can make those of someone else a reality.

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?

Kindness

Kindness

Pentecost 42/43

 

Discernment has become a really popular word these days.  You seldom hear people say “I’m gonna have to think about that.”  Instead nowadays they tend to say ‘I’m in the process of discerning how I feel or what I think.”  And that really makes me mad.  We have taken a great word, one considered to be a gift of the Holy Spirit for those who are of the Christian faith, and turned it upside down. 

 

I am currently doing a study on this topic and I freely admit that it is not one I enjoy.  Today the word has become a synonym for “thinking” or more often, “judgment”.  In its simplest meaning, the word refers to one having an understanding.  In its most convoluted definition, it means to sit in judgement on someone.  It is a subject that is indeed complicated.  Even in the earliest of scriptures it is confusing.  The book of Matthew advises “Judge Not” while in some of his writings and several other books of the Bible, Paul instructs one to “make a right judgement”.

 

Let’s take an example any reader of this blog can understand, without much “discernment” needed.  This is somewhere around my eight hundred and sixtieth blog to publish consecutively.  I do other things and have other responsibilities.  The numbering of these blogs is based upon how I organize them and like papers in an office, one occasionally gets misfiles.  In my case, that means misnumbered.  That is why in the title of today’s piece it has both the number 42 and the number 43.  If going by yesterday’s post, it is number 42 because yesterday’s was number 43.  If going by actuality, it is number 43 because I incorrectly numbered one a week ago and had two number 37’s.  Actually, neither of those is truly correct because technically today is the fifty-eighth day of Pentecost the way I number them.  I had two periods of silence out of respect for the innocent people killed by acts of terrorism and so the count is off.  By the way most religions count it, because Sundays are not considered as days of the season but as days of celebration or feast days, it is the fiftieth day of Pentecost which is really fitting since Pentecost means fifty. 

 

If you are still reading you are problem caught in the tangled web of numbering so let me discern it simply for you.  I messed up.  I made a mistake.  My numbering got off because I was being respectful to people who died in Orlando and Istanbul.  It also got off because I am human and ended up with two posts numbered “37”.  The numbering has absolutely nothing to do with my blog or the content of each post.  While I would dearly love more followers and readers to this blog, anyone reading just to gripe at the numbering can unfollow. 

 

In the light of the most recent attack in Dallas, I posted a picture on Facebook regarding the hope of one day having peace on the earth.  It seemed very innocuous.  I mean, who could possibly protest an innocent picture proposing peace?  The word innocuous is a combination of two words, language at its finest and also most complicated.  It dates back to the Latin word “nocere” from which we get the word innocent.  Since both innocuous and innocent mean not harmful or pure, people are sometimes surprised to learn that “nocere” means exactly the opposite.  It translates as harmful or causing injury.  It is the prefix “in” that changes the meaning and negates the original root word. 

 

Clearly this is a great example of our needing to pay attention and yet, why protest a picture advocating peace on earth?  What type of discernment ends up thinking peace on earth is wrong?  Is this just a sign of our modern times in which it seems that people’s number one hobby is judging others?  Apparently not because the writer John wrote in the Gospel of John, also in the Bible, chapter seven, verse twenty-four: “Stop judging by mere appearances and make a right judgement.”  In other words, don’t just judge by the appearance of things but by the reality of them.

 

I have received many wonderful comments from you the reader and I think all of you who labor through my miscounting and typos to read my humble words.  For those who have reposted, thank you.  For those who have asked questions, thank you.  For those who are challenging me to think further, thank you.  Your responses and reading are acts of kindness and support and they keep me going.  You overlook my human shortcomings to discern whether or not there is something you can take from the post. 

 

Not every post I write I like.  That may come as a surprise but my intent when I began was just to take the plunge, accept the challenge and post every day.  My first two months were not an overwhelming success or so I thought.  Then I heard from another more experienced blogger who thought I was doing great.  Their experience taught them a better discernment of what I was doing because I really knew nothing about it.  Then I realized that if I took my statistics and pretended they were a batting average for a major league baseball player, I’d be getting a better contract.  In other words, I was doing great. 

 

The RBI statistic in baseball stands for runs batted in when a player is at bat and is one of the biggest tools of discernment for determining a player’s worth or value to the team.  It is based upon one thousand hits but an RBI of less than fifty percent is expected.  What?  How many bosses are happy with less than fifty percent success?  Currently, in this 2016 baseball season, Jose Altuve has the highest RBI at .341.  He has hit fourteen homeruns and been responsible for fifty-one runs that were batted in at his time at the plate. 

 

The player from Venezuela is a member of the Houston Astros team.  In the last ten games, Jose Altuve has been responsible for five runs but the Astros are not looking to trade him.  Why?  Because they realize it is not just about the player but about who else is in the batting order, the weather, their opponent – a great many things factor into the RBI statistic. 

 

As we go about our daily living, the most extraordinary thing we can do is respond with kindness.  We all have to make decisions and discern things.  We should.  There is a great need to figure out what actions are correct and positive and will yield good results.  Killing innocent people is not a good discerning choice.  It solves nothing and just creates more havoc and chaos. 

 

Discerning with kindness is a more effective use of our thinking.  Peace on earth may seem like a silly pipe dream but what if it wasn’t?  What if we all went through today being kind and that in turn created a more peaceful environment? Instead of responding to my post with talk of devils in the world, my commenters had discerned the hope and faith in my post?  Why do we equate judging someone with high thinking skills?  Where has kindness gone?  Where in the recesses of our minds have we hidden it?

 

We should never stop trying to make things better or right so that all have an equal chance in life.  That requires us to think and decide.  Surely, though, we can do that with kindness and not delight in the negative nor emphasize the evil.  I am not going to close down my blog because I made a mistake.  I am not perfect.  I hope my readers discern my intentions and find their own ways to make an ordinary day extraordinary.  A really good start is to practice kindness.  It is as good as hitting a homerun out of the park!

Are You Good?

Are You Good?

Pentecost 29

 

If you ever watched the television sitcom “Friends”, you know that one of the hallmark phrases was the character Joey asking:  “How you doin’?”  Using the character’s Italian ethnicity, the phrase was a take-off on several phrases considered to be typical “New Yorker speak”.  Others include “You talkin’ ta me?” and the equally popular “Fogeddaboddit!”   Today the Wendy Williams daily show has claimed the phrase that made the character of Joey on Friends so recognizable as its own tagline but all New Yorkers know that they owned the saying long before television.

 

Foreign exchange students quickly learn that when someone in the United States asks “How are you?” or attempts to impersonate the Friends’ character Joey by asking “How you doin’?”, they really don’t want an honest answer.  These phrases are used more as a means of saying “Hello!” than as an honest inquiry into someone’s health, mental, emotional, or physical.

 

In many industrialized nations, it is seen as something of a lack in one’s character to have the time to ask how someone is doing in passing.  It is almost as if taking the time to show care and concern means one is lacking as a professional.  Long before Facebook created the ever popular moniker of “Friend”, industrialized nations had reduced the concept of friendship to passing acquaintance.  What if we all made an ordinary greeting into something else?  What if we all took one day to actually take the time to BE concerned about both our friends and acquaintances, maybe even strangers?

 

Many will say that “How you doin’?” serves to ask two questions and perhaps it does.  A popular greeting in English speaking countries is “How are you?” or “How are you doing?”  Technically, these are two very different questions.  The first is asking for a statement of one’s being or condition while that latter regards to condition of living or fortune.  The first is about presence while that latter explains that presence.

 

What is, though, there was a day to improve both?  There actually is.  In 2007 Sharyn Arison launched what is known as Good Deeds Day.  In 2007 seven thousand people in Israel took part in projects designed to improve conditions for others.  That number grew to twelve thousand the next year and twenty thousand in two years.  IN three years they had seventy thousand volunteers and that number doubled the next year with four countries participating.  In 2012 the idea of Good Deeds Day went global.  Fifty countries and a quarter of a million people strong participated.

 

This year one million and five hundred thousand people in seventy-five countries did something for others on Good Deeds Day.  Why?  “I believe that if people will think good, speak good and do good, the circles of goodness will grow in the world. Good Deeds Day has become the leading day of giving and this year individuals, school children, students, soldiers and employees from many businesses are joining in for the annual Good Deeds Day with the aim of doing a good deed for others,” says Shari Arison.

 

In two hundred and nine-four days it will be April 2, 2017 (give or take a few days because this post has been delayed due to our week vigil for the Orlando victims.)  On that day, the world will once again come together for Good Deeds Day.  People just like you will come together to do something nice for someone else.  Large or small, two people or two hundred people – the size of the project doesn’t matter.  The fact that someone is doing something does.

 

Former projects in the USA have included clothing donations, shoe donations, cleaning up local cemeteries, presenting a program at a nursing home, writing letter to and for the elderly…the list goes on.  There is something you can do.  For project ideas, go to www.good-deeds-day.org/projects.  The website will not only give you ideas, it will walk you through how to make that idea into a reality.  Turn this ordinary time into something extraordinary but planning to do good on April 2nd, 2017.  In fact, start practicing now and do something for someone else.  That way, next time someone asks “Are you good?” you can give a resounding “You bet I am!”