Believing in the Impossible

Believing in the Impossible

Epiphany 16


“There is no man living that cannot do more than he thinks he can.”  Henry Ford was living proof of his quote and yesterday a man was elected to the presidency of the United States who proved that as well.  This will not be a political post.  It is about encouraging us all to stop outside of any box someone or we have placed ourselves in and try.  Attempt the impossible… because it just might happen.


There is really only way one to make the impossible happen and that is to believe it can.  You must believe in the possibility of the impossible becoming possible.  And no, I have not gone crazy or am trying to win a bet using the word possible or its variations as many times as I can in one sentence.  Lewis Carrol wrote of this in his “Alice in Wonderland.” 


“Alice laughed.  ‘There’s no use trying,’ she said. ‘One can’t believe impossible things.’  ‘I daresay you haven’t had much practice,’ said the Queen. ‘When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”


In his autobiography “The Crack-Up”, F. Scott Fitzgerald speaks of this.  “Before I go on with this short history, let me make a general observation– the test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.  One should, for example, be able to see that things are hopeless and yet be determined to make them otherwise. This philosophy fitted on to my early adult life, when I saw the improbable, the implausible, often the “impossible,” come true.”


Ah but the book is titled “The Crack-Up” you might be thinking.  Isn’t is crazy to believe the impossible to be possible?  After all, they are contradictory terms.  Yes they are.  Perhaps the true question of value is “Are those terms factual?”  In fact, is it even possible to define something as impossible?


Sigmund Freud once said “It is impossible to escape the impression that people commonly use false standards of measurement — that they seek power, success and wealth for themselves and admire them in others, and that they underestimate what is of true value in life.”  We might inquire of Dr. Freud by what standard of measurement would he define the impossible.


History is full of impossible things becoming possible.  Last year during this season of Epiphany we discussed people who had their own great epiphanies and invented new things, some of which would have been deemed impossible at one time.  They were people who attempted the impossible or unknown and not only made it possible but also known and popular, used in everyday life.


Believe that you are weak and you will be.  Believe that you are forever handicapped and you will never thrive.  Lee Wise wrote a really powerful sentence about this.  “Belief in what matters most holds the power of creating legacies that matter most in the long run.”  I believe in you and your power to live a life of intention, a life that will better the world … for you, for me, and for tomorrow. 



Epiphany 15


“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old, but building the new.”  Today, as the United States of America prepares to swear in its 45th President, change is in the air.  After eighteen months of a heated and often contentious debate, a man most felt least likely to win will swear an oath that will change the rest of his life and his family’s. 


Today, as in no other, the Constitution of the United States will take center stage.  It is perhaps one of only a handful of legal and governing documents to encourage change.  While most eyes will be on President-Elect Donald Trump and his entourage, no living person is really in the spotlight as the Constitution is.  The whole purpose of change, who can participate, how such change happens, and how such change is tallied and then made to happen is all dependent upon this one document, two hundred and thirty-nine years old with only twenty-seven amendments.


Tony Robbins once said “Change is inevitable; progress is optional.”  That single quote describes the feeling of many today.  Politics aside, what comes next will be dependent upon many people, people who in spite of all the pomp and circumstance will have the same power as the man being sworn in today, his cronies, and followers as those who opposed his campaign. 


One of the hallmarks of the US Constitution is the recognition it affords change.  Winston Churchill believed “To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often. “  It is something we all tend to resist, however.  Nothing in creation remains the same.  Nature is one large and unending cycle of change.  Anatole France recognized this.  “All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another.”


It seems contradictory to say we must die in order to live but there is a great deal of truth in that.  No one ever moved forward by constantly looking backwards.  We cannot embrace the future is we are stuck living in the past.  You will never see where the ocean might take you if you remain firmly planted on the shore.


It is not just those within the boundaries of the United States that will be watching this great change today.  Leaders all around the world will be watching, waiting, and wondering what will come next.  Often attributed to “anonymous”, our closing paragraph today actually comes from Presidential Medal of Freedom winner Reinhold Niebuhr.  It not only sums up the inauguration today o f a new world leader but offers a great roadmap as we encounter the inevitable changes of our own lives.


“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.  Living one day at a time; Enjoying one moment at a time; Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace; Taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it; Trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His Will; That I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with Him forever in the next.  Amen. ”



Epiphany 4


Someone asked me to explain the theme of this series for Epiphany 2017 in one word.  My response is the title – Action.   We will revisit verbs, those words in a sentence that denote action, later this year but for now, just know that I am asking you to take part in positive action.  Another reader apparently understood the theme but asked “Why?”


Last week four young people were arrested and indicted for their attack on a developmentally disabled classmate of one of the four.  The nation and particularly residents in Chicago were outraged.  I wondered why.  When a person can mock another human being and make their disability part of the reason and justification for mocking, a person who did so in the most public venue possible, news coverage at a press conference for the candidacy for the highest elected office in the country, why, I wondered, are people outraged when young people follow such an example.


Actions have consequences, even for winners.  “We are aware of an incident tonight involving Joey Porter,” the statement from Pittsburgh Steelers’ director of communications, Burt Lauten read. “We are still gathering information as it pertains to the situation, and we will have no further comment until we get more details.” Joey Porter is a former professional football player and current outside linebackers coach for the Steelers.  He ended the evening last night celebrating the win over the Miami Dolphins in their AFC wildcard play-off by being handcuffed and taken to jail.


Also happening last night were the Golden Globe awards awarded by the Foreign Press Corps, honoring those in the film and television world for their acting and actions.  Receiving a lifetime achievement award was Meryl Streep.  She briefly identified several in her profession and their varied ethnicities and their roles playing outside of those ethnicities.  She remarked about how we are all different and yet all the same.  She also mentioned the above-referenced incident of discrimination by then candidate now president-elect Donald Trump and his performance on the occasion of his mocking a reporter with cerebral palsy.  “There was nothing good about it, but it did its job,” she said. “It kind of broke my heart when I saw it, and I still can’t get it out my head because it wasn’t in a movie, it was in real life. That instinct to humiliate when it’s modeled by someone in a public platform, it filters down into everyone’s life because it gives permission for others to do the same. … Disrespect invites disrespect. Violence insights violence. When the powerful use their position to bully others we all lose.”


There are only twenty-four hours in a day but we need to use each of them for good and not waste them, letting them get lost in our own egos and fear.  We cannot do everything and instantly cure the world of all its ill but we can all do something.  Each of those little somethings will, much like the snowflakes we discussed over the weekend, come together to make something beautiful.


You effect change on this planet with each breath you take.  You matter and your presence makes an imprint on the lives of others.  Why do I encourage you to take positive action?  Julia Butterfly Hill has the answer:  “The question is not ‘Can you make a difference?’  You already do make a difference.  It’s just a matter of what kind of difference you want to make, during your life on this planet.”



Talk is … A Presidential Debate

Talk Is ….

Pentecost 127


“Talk is cheap.”  Some call that saying an idiom while others classify it as a proverb.  That brings to light a question.  What is the difference between an idiom and a proverb?  Most dictionaries define an idiom as a fixed distinctive expression whose meaning cannot be deduced from the combined meanings of its actual words or the manner of using speech that is comfortable to a specific person or group of persons.  A proverb has a much simpler definition: a short well-known saying that expresses an obvious truth and often offers advice.


Talk, however, can be confusing because while the definitions of an idiom and a proverb are not that similar, their synonyms are – phrase, saying, expression.  The phrase “talk is cheap” refers to the fact that it is easy to speak but much more difficult to defend what has been spoken or even to verify its truth.


The easiest way to make a story less ordinary and more extraordinary is by the use of hyperbole.  The word hyperbole comes from two Greek words “ὑπέρ” and “βάλλω” [or the English versions “huper” and “bailio”] and translates as “I throw above.”   It literally means an over exaggeration or magnification.  The American folk tales about a lumberman and his pet known as Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox are perfect examples of hyperbole.  Tonight’s American presidential debate will probably be another one.


This will not be a post favoring one candidate or the other.  I respect my readers too much to do that.  This blog is about living better and, alas, politics seldom is about that.  What this debate does offer, though, is a chance to be mindful of what we say and how we live what we say.  If our living does not match our talk, then we have lived in vain.


Many believe it is better to just be quiet.  That way, no one can claim you said something you may not have said and no one can protest what you might have said.  In other words, it is the easy way out.  The problem with staying silent all the time, however, is that the only thing heard is that of someone else and they may not be stating the truth.  That means only the lies will be heard, never the truth and/or the facts.


Shannon Adler disputes the idea that being silent is better than speaking out.  “When you give yourself permission to communicate what matters to you in every situation you will have peace despite rejection or disapproval. Putting a voice to your soul helps you to let go of the negative energy of fear and regret.” 


After all, that is the only way to truly listen.  It is good sometimes to be quiet.  And, after listening, we need to think about what has been said.  Reactive speech is sometimes not speech that has been thought about before being uttered.  One of my favorite bumper stickers gave a great warning – “Engage brain before putting mouth in gear!”


Tonight millions may or may not listen while two candidates and a moderator engage in a political debate.  Hopefully, there will be little hyperbole and much fact, more substance than ego.  For many this debate will seem like a waste of time but when we truly communicate with real thoughts and intentions to which we are deeply committed, then talk is never a waste of time.


“For millions of years, mankind lived just like the animals,” Stephen Hawkins believes.  “ Then something happened which unleashed the power of our imagination. We learned to talk and we learned to listen. Speech has allowed the communication of ideas, enabling human beings to work together to build the impossible. Mankind’s greatest achievements have come about by talking, and its greatest failures by not talking. It doesn’t have to be like this. Our greatest hopes could become reality in the future. With the technology at our disposal, the possibilities are unbounded. All we need to do is make sure we keep talking.”

Seeking the Goodness

Seeking the Goodness

Pentecost 97

It is the day after another incidence of workplace violence has been the featured story on the news outlets.  This time, the story was all too real for those reporting it.  This time, the story was not just a reporter and a videographer telling about an event.  This time they were the event.  Airing on an early morning local affiliate news program, while interviewing the representative from a local chamber of commerce, while discussing the hospitality of the area, a young female news reporter and her equally young cameraman, along with the female being interviewed, became the story, victims of a disgruntled coworker who felt his ethnicity had hindered his career.

In a totally unrelated story but also the victim of a verbal violent attack, another news reporter, this time a male veteran of television, was also attacked.  His right to assembly as well as the freedom of the press were trampled on and ridiculed by a candidate ostensibly running for the highest office within the government of the United States.  This time the attack was simply a matter of the candidate’s inflated sense of entitlement due to his ethnicity and his berating the reporter because of his ethnicity.

With such incidents in the news making headlines, it is hard to find the goodness that a supposedly religious nation, a nation founded in part as its early settlers sought religious freedom, should espouse and encourage.  The ancient names of the deity supposedly lauded seem to mock the reality of the modern world.  Jehovah Elohim Tsaba, “Lord God of Hosts”, seems to be an absentee deity for many.

Within the month of August we have been discussing the many and varied names of the monotheistic deity of the Abrahamic faiths.  While theologians can argue which came first of the three main Abrahamic religions, it cannot be denied their connection or their shared mythologies, their shared stories of belief in one god as opposed to the polytheisms of their ancestors.  BY the time August ends, we will have discussed over eight named for this one deity and yes, I did have a schedule of sorts for doing so.

Today, though, the names for this post seem almost to mock me.  It is most apparent that for many living in the present, the emphasis has shifted.  Instead of believing in Jehovah Tsidkenu, “the Lord our righteousness”, many believe simply in Elohe Tsadeki, “God of my righteousness”.  Most theologians point to the first and last words of these names – god and righteousness.  Today, though, living the faith has put emphasis on the pronouns.  Many no longer care about the “our”; their only interest is in the “my”.

I have a policy that I do not write when overly emotional.  I do not write when angry nor when I have been deeply hurt.  The purpose of these posts is not to convert nor inflame but to begin a constructive conversation.  I enjoy hearing from others when they are respectful in their disagreement.  I believe such conversations help us to think and strengthen our beliefs.

Somethings, however, are non-negotiable.  The right for each person to fully live out their potential should also be non-negotiable.  There is no scientific basis for believing one’s gender, ethnicity, not the ability to wield a weapon that fires bullets or other ammunition entitles you to anything above what others living on this planet deserve – the right to live, to flourish, to be a part of the conversation of life.

Perhaps that is why there is a name for this one deity known as Jehovah Elohim Yeshua, the “Lord God of my salvation”.  Truly, salvation is a necessary part of living.  For some their deliverance is obvious as is their need.  A woman whose husband leaves scars and bruises is much more obvious than the husband who exercises dominion over his wife, insisting she forego her own potential in order for him to achieve his or inhibits her social contacts.  Though often hidden, the psychological abuse can be just as deadly as the physical abuse.

The supervisor who has strong abilities but lacks the interpersonal counseling needed when managing employees may unknowingly create a situation that results in someone resorting to violence to be heard.  The voice of a gun is loud.  There is no denying that.  All too often people disdain psychology, calling it a fake science because the quantitative evidence of human thought patterns cannot be displayed like a physical object can.

This does not exclude the accountability of any one person.  Please do not misunderstand me.  We are all accountable for our actions, regardless of what has preceded them.  We all have choices to make when we stand up and go forward into the day.  We can all seek the goodness of living and create the best in our own individual situations or we can elect to remain victims.

The victim mentality is not an easy one to throw off and it requires great courage.  It takes even greater courage to admit when we have fallen short and it really is easy to lay the blame on someone else.  The politician mentioned earlier has gotten great press coverage by name calling and deflecting the spotlight off his own lack of experience and personal success.  He has not assumed any accountability for his need to insult.  A recent study reported that those who understand and use sarcasm might be highly creative.  There is a difference, nonetheless, in being creative and avoiding issues.

I believe that each of us contributes to this world in our own way.  Having lost those I have loved to death, I know the pain the permanent physical separation of such a loss.  I choose to believe that these people, rather than having had their whole life yet to live, perhaps already lived a life of value.  Rather than emphasizing what will never be, I think we should emphasize what has been and their impact on our lives.  I hope at some point in time the shooter of the people involved in the news story that were shot while conducting an interview on air felt the love that people are not discussing.  I hope they realized their incredible value to the society in which they lived.  I hope the reported to whom the insults were levied and attempts made to dismiss by the politician felt the importance of his job in freely reporting an unbiased news story for his constituents and network’s audience.

People feel cornered at times and that is when their true colors, their true faith becomes evident.  Certainly the politician feels entitled and perhaps is his own god, thinking he is the most important thing.  Regretfully he seems to place value in one’s ethnicity as long as it is the same as his.  His belief system is based upon a very small view of the world and any belief system must also have a narrow vision.    The gunman of the other story also made his insecurities evident by his actions and a multi-paged written statement of his feelings.  He had lost hope and faith.

The fact of the living on this planet is that, sometimes bad things occur.  At some point, someone is going to step on your toes, hurt your feelings, try to override your own rights so that they can seem to rise above you and perhaps accomplish more than you.  Life is not always sweet nor is everything attempted going to be successful.  What we can do is control our actions and reactions.  We can seek the goodness in ourselves and others.  El Simchath Gili, “God my exceeding joy”, is still open for business.  All we need to do is seek the goodness, putting others ahead of our own egos and living a life that harms no others.

Do My Eyes Deceive Me?

Do My Eyes Deceive Me?

Pentecost 58

Every so often we hear something and turn around to determine what we have heard. Often we peer into the murkiness of the unknown and see ….. Many psychologists would say that what we think we see is based upon our expectations. Others claim it is simply our brain working as it does, gathering known reference materials in order to determine and postulate a response. After all, one cannot identify a bed if one has never seen a bed.

Perhaps this is why so many deities and spirits of the ancient world had human characteristics. It does no good to tell a story if people cannot relate to some aspect of the story. That said, we do have to think outside of the box in order to progress and evolve. And that can be very scary.

In mathematics there is something known as the Viterbi Algorithm. The University of Southern California Engineering Dept.’s website describes this procedure as a short cut to finding out what isn’t necessary or needed. “The Viterbi Algorithm — theoretical basis for such wide-ranging applications as cell phones, DNA analysis and speech recognition — is essentially a fast way of eliminating dead ends.”

An example is given. “Imagine you’re a detective trying to determine the point of origin for a suspect arriving at the Seattle airport. He is from abroad and has been there for no more than an hour. You know during this period that four domestic flights arrived from four cities served by flights from 30 others. One way to determine the suspect’s origin would be to go back to all 30 and make inquiries. The alternative: identify which of the four closest cities he arrived from; then investigate only places with connections to that one.”

An algorithm is a mathematical term which refers to a specific way or formula to solve a problem. Using the result of a series of events, the formula works backwards to eliminate everything that could not have produced the end result. Originally created for electronic signals, the Viterbi Algorithm is now used in cell phones, voice recognition devices, and even DNA coding to eliminate the unnecessary in determining what is pertinent.

An algorithm is based upon what is known, the processes involved that yield quantifiable results. In the telling of the mythologies of the world, the listener used what was known in imagining what could be. Recently two visitors to a park in Holland heard some knocking sounds, unexpected in the wooded area they were visiting. Looking in the direction of the sounds, they saw what appeared to be a large furry animal peering at them from its hiding place behind a large tree. Mentally they did a quick subconscious use of deductive reasoning to realize they might be in danger. One of the two quickly snapped a picture of the unknown beast and then they left, hurriedly.

For those who believe in the mythological creature known as sasquatch or bigfoot or any of the other twenty-plus names given to this large, yet-to-be documented primate, this will be a “sighting” of immense proportion. For those who scoff at the thought of such a thing, it will be a funny joke to talk about and perhaps become a scary story to be told on camping trips.

Our perception of an incident greatly affects how we perceive what our eyes are telling us. Is it egotistical to think we have discovered every single thing there is to learn about our planet, its creatures, and its possibilities or is it a waste of time to be open to the possibility of a large primate similar to man that has gone undiscovered for eons? Isn’t the the hallmark of science that we know what we know but are open to learning new things, expecting to discover what was previously unknown?

About a decade ago the planets of our solar system were reduced in number from nine to eight. Pluto was demoted to a celestial body that was NOT a planet. This past week while park visitors were being scared in Holland, the astronomers of the world were celebrating their first sightings up close of Pluto. TO their surprise, the planet was larger than expected. For many, this was proof it should once again be classified as a planet. For others, it was simply a remarkable feat of science to learn more.

Also this past week a candidate running for president in the USA denounced a fellow political party member who was a war veteran, former prisoner of war, and recipient of several medals of valor and courage. The candidate claimed the veteran should not be perceived as a hero. Of course, the candidate had never been a veteran, never volunteered for any such tours of duty nor has he ever visited a POW camp in a war torn country. And after making his proclamation, he got back in his limousine wearing his suit which was personally tailored and cost more than many veterans make in ten years of service, and went back to his penthouse to be served a catered meal in furnishings staffed by those who hopefully are paid more than the average veteran.

It is easy when reading and discussing the mythologies of other cultures to be disdainful and even easier to talk about things we really have no personal knowledge of but feel qualified to discuss. We all have opinions and those are our right. The important thing, though, is to try to speak from a point of reference, from a perspective that is not built upon imaginary foundations of nothingness.

Having been in wooded areas and park-like settings that border on wildlife areas, I can appreciate the fear the tourists in Holland felt upon coming up on an unexpected animal standing as tall or taller than a human. I can appreciate their fear because of the mental algorithm in my head that says bears are dangerous and of a similar size. I will go on record as saying I do think there are animals out there we have yet to identify and discover and one could be a large primate. I will also go on record as saying I have no idea what these people saw in Holland and am glad they are safe with no animal, known or unknown, needing to be killed.

It is fun to make up stories and imagine “what if”. I am a writer and that is something I enjoy. However, we need to remember to weed out our imaginings when we deal with each other. We need to act on fact and not supposition. Perhaps the said veteran who is now a politician and US Congressman could have voted stronger for veterans’ rights or tried to pass legislation that increased benefits and/or salaries. But does a person with no experience in either the government or the military know enough o discuss such to the point of name calling? Or is this person simply trying to write a tale of his own mythology, one in which he himself is the hero by denouncing all others?

We need to live today using our own personal Viterbi algorithm of faith and hope. We need to weed out the unnecessary pettiness in creating the myth we will live today and make our own reality. This too takes courage and is not easy. I believe in you. I believe in the story of peace, love, joy, and progress that you will write today. Don’t be deceived by the useless clutter around you. Find what works for you; use what makes you the best possible version of yourself today. Live your vision of possibilities!