Creativity 101

Your Turn – #1

2018.09.02

The Creative Soul

 

See the source image

 

One could not write a series on creativity without challenging the reader to be…well, creative.  So one each Sunday in September I will post a challenge to you using just four things.  Today’s challenge involves a rubber band (or more), a pencil, a piece of paper (white or colored) and your imagination.  I will also be doing the challenges and next Sunday will post a picture of what I created.  I hope you will post pictures of your creations in the comments.

Secret of Life

Secret of Life

Pentecost 196

 

“The root of joy, as of duty, is to put all one’s powers towards some great end.”  Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. has given us the secret to a great life.  Despite your religious leanings, whatever traditions you follow, or your ethnic upbringing, we all want a life with joy and success.  Living a life that reaps goodness for others will give you that very thing.  Our focus for the past one hundred and ninety-five days has been making the “ordinary time” of Pentecost into something more, something extraordinary.  To do this, we reviewed ways to give to others, to give back, to give to ourselves.  In short, we have been talking about how to practice altruism.

 

During this series of Pentecost 2016, we have discussed over two hundred-plus ways to be altruistic, to do good for another.  I have given you websites that allowed you to give to charitable organizations simply by clicking with your mouse.  We have shared ways to practice benevolence as well as things to contribute.  We’ve shared organizations and companies that use their earnings to give to others in times of need and we’ve exchanged tips for better personal living.  We have also illustrated how doing positive things for others also helps us and the importance of remembering to be kind to ourselves.  Albert Einstein believed “Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile.”  Considered a man of science and not of spirituality or religion, it is interesting the importance he placed on altruism.

 

The purpose of this blog is to invite thoughts into our head, to expand our thinking and, hopefully, improve our living.  Doing that also means improving our world and creating better and greater opportunities for us and others.  Your comments and suggestions for topics have certainly done that for me and this demonstrates the way in which altruism works:  positive action begets more positive action.

 

Altruism is the core of most of the world’s religions.  The selfless concern for others is a traditional value of most of the world’s civilizations, regardless of the era or location.  “The happiest people I know are people who don’t even think about being happy. They just think about being good neighbors, good people. And then happiness sort of sneaks in the back window while they are busy doing good.”  Rabbi Harold Kushner explains how we often are subconsciously being altruistic without realizing it.

 

Dr. Sherrie Bourg Carter reported for Psychology Today in 2014 that altruism is not a one-way street.  It can be of benefit to the giver as well as to the recipient.  She reported scientific data that recognizes that doing something positive for another also does good for the person doing the giving in the release of endorphins.  “The positive energy that you feel from doing a good deed can act on your body in much the same way that exercise does, releasing endorphins that make you feel good naturally.” 

 

Dr. Carter also took note of how helping others allows us to be grateful for our own lives.  No one has everything and it can easily seem tempting to envy others.  Helping those less fortunate can serve to remind us of the good things in our own lives.  Such acts of goodness also help us keep our lives in focus.  Dr. Carter advises such actions can distract “you from your own problems – focusing on someone else can actually pull you away from your own self-preoccupation and your own problems. In fact, studies have found that when people with medical conditions (e.g., cancer, chronic pain) “counsel” other patients with those same conditions, the “counselors” often experience less depression, distress, and disability.”  Those that volunteer tend to live longer with a better physical well-being than non-volunteers.

 

This is the time of year when many are rereading “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens.  His story of Ebenezer Scrooge delights many but it is the moral of the story that we should really give our attention.  DR. Stephen Post of Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine conducted over fifty studies regarding altruism and its affect.  In a paper published earlier this year, Post describes the biological underpinnings of stress — and how altruism can be the antidote.

 

In an article entitle “The Science of Good Deeds” the website WebMD discussed Dr. Post and his findings regarding the connection between altruism and personal health.  “This connection was discovered inadvertently in 1956, when a team of Cornell University researchers began following 427 married women with children. They assumed that the housewives with more children would be under greater stress and die earlier than women with few children.  Surprisingly, they found that numbers of children, education, class, and work status did not affect longevity,” writes Post. After following these women for 30 years, researchers found that 52% of those who did not volunteer had experienced a major illness — compared with 36% who did volunteer.

 

“Two large studies found that older adults who volunteered reaped benefits in their health and well-being. Those who volunteered were living longer than non-volunteers. Another large study found a 44% reduction in early death among those who volunteered a lot — a greater effect than exercising four times a week, Post reports.  In the 1990s, one famous study examined personal essays written by nuns in the 1930s. Researchers found that nuns who expressed the most positive emotions were living about 10 years longer than those who expressed the fewest such emotions.”

 

The secret to living and living well is really not a secret at all.  We have spent this entire season of Pentecost discussing it.  Joe Klock summarizes it for us:  “Success, happiness, peace of mind and fulfillment – the most priceless of human treasures – are available to all among us, without exception, who make things happen – who make ‘good’ things happen – in the world around them.”  Happy last day of Pentecost!

 

Energy

Energy

Pentecost 77

 

Nikola Tesla once said:  “If you want to find the secrets of the universe, think in terms of energy, frequency, and vibration.”  Centuries earlier Socrates had said “The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.”  Apparently, all we have to do to find world peace is to create it within ourselves.  Can it really be that simple?

 

Get a group of highly successful people together and you will discover that they see the world through the eyes of their interests.  Mathematicians believe “everything is numbers” as the opening of a popular television program called “Numb3rs” once said in its title sequence.  Artists claims that they “create” very little; they simple release that which was already inside the medium and give it a way out. 

 

Albert Einstein once spoke about his passion – energy.  “Everything is energy and that is all there is to it.  Match the frequency of the reality you want and you cannot help but get that reality.  It can be no other way.  This is not philosophy.  This is physics.”  Match the energy of peace to someone else with the same energy.  Match the energy of knowing where your next meal will come from and it will become your reality.  Match the energy of acceptance to the same energy in others and soon no one will be discriminated against. 

 

Could it really be that simple?  For instance, say someone is a diabetic.  Could their health problems become nothing if they simply stopped eating an unhealthy diet and reduced their unhealthy glucose levels?  Well, yeah, according to modern medicine.  That is exactly what someone with Type II Diabetes needs to do.   Is the answer to many people’s fear of becoming old and infirmed simply to keep moving?  The septuagenarians-p[us still running marathons would agree that it is.

 

When we spend our time in useless rants we should ask ourselves what energy it is that we are spreading.  When we waste our gift of gab in demeaning tirades that offer no real solutions or answers we are wasting energy.  When we post on Facebook those humble brags about how exhausted we are leading our busy lives full of employment, travel, and extravagant vacations, we could be clicking on several charity sites raising money to help find cures for real problems.

 

Please do not misunderstand.  We all get tired of traveling and even the best vacation will have its ups and downs.  Certainly there is nothing wrong discussing these things.  All too often, though, we post on Facebook to brag, not to discuss.  Political candidates do the same thing in countless speeches that offer no real solutions nor clearly state what they actually are going to accomplish if elected.  That type of energy is nothing but fog, designed to hide the real motive or energy which created it.

 

When we match our efforts – i.e., energy – with our goals, we can accomplish great things.  Nothing good ever came about without some good energy put into it.  We need to stop thinking about how to build image and start building life – not just for us but for our neighbors and yes, even our enemies.  Aristotle claimed “The energy of the mind is the essence of life.”   When we make the energy of our mind something positive, good must follow and the ordinary will become extraordinary.

 

 

Why?

Why?

Pentecost 12

 

I never expected the type of comments I have gotten from this series.  Apparently doing good is not very popular.  Someone even pointed to the Republican candidate for President as an indication I should not have written this series.  I can understand their thinking, I suppose, since the candidate does very little except loudly belittle others and that is not considered doing good, except for himself.  Still, I am going to continue.  Call me a Pollyanna or someone who believes in the innate goodness of man.  That’s perfectly acceptable to me because I do… believe in the innate goodness of mankind.

 

Science backs me up on that belief as well.  Over fifty scientific studies have revealed that goodness, whether we are giving or receiving, helps us live longer and live healthier.  In 19456 a research team from Cornell University followed four hundred and twenty married women who had children.  Their assumption was that women with more children would die at an earlier age than those with less children because more children meant more stress.  They did not prove their hypothesis.  Instead they discovered that the number of children, socio-economic status, education levels, and employment status did not affect longevity at all.  After following these women for over thirty years one thing did stand out:  fifty-two percent of the women who did not volunteer or do good on a regular basis suffered a major illness.  Of those that did not volunteer regularly, only thirty-six percent suffered a major illness or terminal condition.

 

Two other studies backed up this discovery that volunteers lived longer than non-volunteers.  Yet another study showed a reduction of forty-four percent among those that volunteered a great deal which was greater and more positive results than those who exercised at least four times each week.

 

One way that volunteering can help you live longer is that it alleviates stress.  Stress causes a variety of negative things in our bodies but volunteering seems to combat that and helps us withstand stress in a more positive fashion.  Doing altruistic things helps us release positive hormones in our brains which in turn do good things for our bodies.  In summary, doing good not only helps the recipient but also the giver.  Voltaire once said “Every man is guilty of all the good he didn’t do.”  We only get one chance to live today.  We need to make it count.  And don’t go do something just to toot your own horn or seem to be better than you are.  The truth will come out.  Generosity comes from a giving, loving heart, not from a desire to be noticed.  Albert Einstein said it best:  “Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile.”

The World Tree

The World Tree

Pentecost 175

What do Indo-European, Siberian, and American Indian religions have in common?  What do the mythologies of Hungary, Turkey, Mongolia, Germany, Finland, the Slavic nations, Scandinavia, China, and India have in common?  Better yet, what is the significance of the order of mammals to which mankind belongs to the first two questions?

The answer to all three questions is …a tree.  I’m not referring to the more modern definition of a tree which is used in computer science, a tree being a way to organize abstract data.  I mean a tree as in botany – the climbing kind of tree that offers shade and can be climbed, offering a delight afternoon of fun for youngsters and a source of refuge when needed.  Trees are plants, plants that have an extended stem, known as a trunk, which supports branches and leaves.  Trees are perennial plants, which means they have a life cycle greater than two years.

In the northern hemisphere we are at the end of the autumn leaves color tour.  On trees all over, and especially in the northeastern United States of America, leaves have given way to yellow, red, and brown hues before they fall to the ground.  Technically, chlorophyll breaks down as the amount of sunlight decreases and photosynthesis ceases.  This causes the bright green of the tree’s leaves to fade to yellow, gold, and then orange.  Glucose, another part of the tree’s nutritional system, can become left in the leaves and this causes them to appear red or purple.

Now imagine you know nothing of the science of trees.  All you know is that the leaves suddenly turn into a palette of earth colors.  No wonder the concept of a tree, a world tree, features in so many religions and mythologies.  This large, colossal tree supported the sky and linked the earth to the heavens.  With its roots going so deep into the ground, it also joined the Underworld to the rest of creation.

For the Mayans, the tree was symbolic.  Its strong trunk represented the inner strength of mankind, of each of us.  The branches spread out in all four directions of the compass, something which greatly appealed to and was noticed by these ancient and brilliant astronomers of the new World.  A tree’s branches were also symbolic of the connection between human beings and their gods.

We all have roots; we all have a past. Different species of trees have different types of roots.  Some go very deep; some are quite shallow, growing along the top of the ground.  Some seem very strong while others are gnarly and, well, unattractive.  Sometimes our own past is not so pretty.  That past, however, gives us roots and, if we let it, can nourish is just as the roots of a tree gives it sustenance.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe once remarked:  “In nature we never see anything isolated, but everything in connection with something else which is before it, beside it, under it and over it.”  One can also pick a culture and find a mythology about trees.  They do much more than simply tower over other plants.  They stand as natural monuments to life itself.

“A human being is a part of the whole, called by us, “Universe,” a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest — a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. Nobody is able to achieve this completely, but the striving for such achievement is in itself a part of the liberation and a foundation for inner security.”  Albert Einstein recognized our need to explain the world with myths and the importance of science in helping us achieve a sense of humanity.

We are indeed all part of a world tree, a family tree of mankind.  Lord Tennyson summarized it most succinctly:  “I am a part of all that I have met.”  Lest you think such thoughts are only ancient history, let me leave you with a quote from someone in this century, Ellen DeGeneres.  “The truth is, we are all one connected thing.”  We are indeed connected.  Like trees in a forest, we may stand independently but we comprise together one large entity, the family of mankind.  That is not a false story, something dreamed up on a cold winter’s night.  It is fact.  It is science.  It is…life, our life.  We are both tree and gardener, a part of the arbor and the arborist.  Nurture the tree within you today and respect the ones standing next to you in this large garden we call our home, our planet earth.

Spirits to Faith

Spirits to Faith

Pentecost 70

In the beginning the sky flashed and the air thundered. The rivers flowed and then one day were dry even though the clouds continued to drop moisture in various forms. Science explains all these phenomena but before we had the science, we had the experience. After the experience came the supposition and for ancient man, the mythologies of the world.

In a world whose population numbers roughly six billion people, over fifty percent practice Abrahamic monotheism of one type or another. Abraham, a single male being, has served as the father to three religions – Judaism, Islam, and Christianity.

From Mesopotamia to Rome, the myths of ancient cultures to the earliest of pagan religions of the northern landscapes of the planet were polytheistic. These polytheistic societies used their deities to explain the elements in life over which they had no absolute control. Things like earthquakes and storms were the handiwork of angry gods.

After nearly ten thousand years, polytheism evolved into monotheism. The cultures of Greece and Rom with their assimilated mythologies became the foundation of a monotheistic belief. As science evolved and facts became known, the need for many deities was reduced.

We still have many cultures and continents to explore in our discussion of mythologies. The fabric of mankind is vibrant with the mythological stories which weave together to form the tapestry of mankind. During August, though, we will take a slight break from the stories to explore the mythologies and the names of the one god of the Abrahamic faiths. The focus of many became one deity with over eighty-six names that can be related to the multiple gods and goddesses of the Greeks and the Romans. While the Greeks built temples for worship and connected their mortal living and dying to the deities, it was the Roman culture that integrated such beliefs and worship into all facets of their personal and public living.

Perhaps now would be a good time to think about the mythology of your own story. What are those facets of the past that most appeal to you? What carries greater meaning for you – trending fads or traditional beliefs?

Albert Einstein once said: “Everyone should be respected as an individual but no one idolized.” Our lives reflect the answers to those questions. Just as many things go into the twenty-four hours of each day that we live, so did many aspects of mythology coalesce to create the one deity with many names, many believers, and many facets. It is important to ponder just what we hold most dear and what provides us with our inspiration for our movements and interactions with our fellow beings. What name do you assign to that which you venerate?

Superstition, Supposition, and Sparkle

Superstition, Supposition, and Sparkle

Easter 49

Philosophy has been studied, debated, argued, and discounted then believed for over two and a half thousand years. During the upcoming season of Pentecost we will delve into the earliest stories of man, the mythologies that have shaped the world we know, the world we fear, and the lives we lead.

The twentieth century saw not only world wars but also great advances in science. For years, science had depended upon the discoveries and truths of Isaac Newton. The twentieth century had barely be born when a German Jewish physicist introduced scientific theories that were incompatible with the accepted knowledge based upon Newton’s ideas. Hume and Locke had introduced thinking that mankind had just accepted certain scientific principles as truth without being able to prove them. Einstein challenged scholars in mathematics and the sciences as well as the field of philosophy.

Einstein challenged both the knowledge and how it had been learned. “The whole of science is nothing more than a refinement of everyday thinking.” Accepting Newton’s science as certainty had led the world into the Industrial Revolution. For Einstein to suggest and then prove much of it incorrect asked not only what knowledge had been gained but just exactly what knowledge itself was. Einstein, the genius who had never excelled at school seemed to discount all earlier ways of acquiring knowledge: “Only daring speculation can lead us further, and not accumulation of facts.”

Karl Popper was another Austrian and he spent a great deal of his life as a professor of logic and scientific method in England. Popper realized that, although some theories seemed to work, they were still simply products of the human mind and as such, were subject to being incorrect. “Science is perhaps the only human activity in which errors are systematically criticized and, in time, corrected.” Popper encouraged advancements; they might not could prove everything but some things could be disproven. “All we can do is search for the falsity content of our best theory.”

Benjamin Franklin once said: “I didn’t fail the test; I just found one hundred ways to do it wrong.” The history of philosophy has been a series of advances and failures but it should never be discounted because of those failures. Mahatma Gandhi often spoke of the wisdom found in failure: “My imperfections and failures are as much a blessing from God as my successes and my talents and I lay them both at his feet.”

Perhaps one of the greatest contributions Americans made to twentieth century philosophy was their attitude about failure. After immigrating to the USA, Einstein was quoted as saying “Failure is success in progress.” Other Americans have agreed. American automobile maker and magnate Henry Ford defined failure as “Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.”

Ancient philosophers believed that in answering their questions, they would duscover the secrets to success. What we have learned since then is that there is much more that we do not know than was ever imagined. We have also come to the realization that not everything will ever be fully known since much will never be scientifically proven.

The real quest now is not only the continuation of gaining knowledge but is acquiring patience and respect for all as well. We need to continue to strive for success without experiencing a fear of failure that binds our living. We need to realize that true success comes from living in kindness and effort, not in trying to make everything the same. As Winston Churchill said, “Success is the ability to go from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm.”

In the past forty-nine days we have skimmed the very top of the wave that is philosophy, the wave of the quest for knowledge that has allowed man to advance and enter the twenty-first century with creature comforts here on earth on in space. Philosophy has propelled man forward and, at times, been the basis for governments and nations. Its value, though, remains not in what we know but in what is left to learn.

Tomorrow is Pentecost, the fiftieth day after Easter. The French Voltaire one said: “Superstition sets the whole world in flames; philosophy quenches them.” We have spent the last forty-nine days learning how we learn. During Pentecost we will delve into our earliest stories of life and see where our questions first arose. The stories of our cultures, the stories woven around the earliest of beliefs of creation are the mythologies of mankind. We will delve into these during the season of Pentecost and connect our past to our present.

Often discounted as the ramblings of heathens, the mythologies of mankind are simply the histories of cultures. The method of deliver, storytelling, had many benefits for early man and continues to provide a path of literacy for us in the modern world. We will revisit some of the earliest myths of man and continue to the more modern ones. A most recent mythological parable is the book entitled “Jabbok” by Kee Sloan. Sloan, an Alabama bishop in the Episcopal Church describes the story he peened: “It’s funny to think about what a book might accomplish. It’s a story, a blend of fact and fiction, about the relationship between an old man who’s lost his faith and a young boy who grows up to answer a call to ordained ministry. It’s a story about hope restored and the struggle of being honest in our faith.”

All mythologies contain elements of faith, whether they are religious faiths, spiritual faiths, or simple basic faiths in living. They tell our story, our dreams, our failures, and our hopes. Like Sloan’s book, they blend truth and fiction, and sometimes fantasy, as we continue to explore the world in which we live. AS writer Brandon Sanderson explains: ““The purpose of a storyteller is not to tell you how to think, but to give you questions to think upon.”  I hope you will join me as we explore the stories of the world, the myths of man and his being, during the days Pentecost. Who knows what we will learn, what stories might give us renewed life and cause to sparkle in our being?