21 July 2015      

Good day, and welcome to our newest issue!  We hope that you enjoy
reading it as much as we've enjoyed putting it together!

How to Be Happy
Janet Hostetler

I Did It
Benjamin Zander

Awestruck
tom walsh

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It is not the level of prosperity that makes for happiness but the kinship of heart to heart and the way we look at the world.  Both attitudes are within our power, so that people are happy so long as they choose to be happy, and no one can stop them.

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Every day I live I am more convinced that the waste of life lies in the love we have not given, the powers we have not used, the selfish prudence that will risk nothing and which, shirking pain, misses happiness as well.

Mary Cholmondeley

Practicing gratitude will help us more fully appreciate what has been offered us.  Being grateful influences our attitude; it softens our harsh exterior and takes the threat out of most new situations.

unattributed

An abundance mentality springs from internal security, not from external rankings, comparisons, opinions, possessions, or associations.

Stephen R. Covey

  
How to Be Happy
Janet Hostetler

So let's talk about happiness, or rather how we can go toward that goal.  I think we can all agree that to be happy we should live a positive life.  That makes sense.  So, how then, can we make sure that we live positively?  One way is to surround ourselves with positive things and positive experiences. Read good books, see good movies, have beautiful artwork hanging on our walls.  We should eat delicious food, buy ourselves fresh flowers to greet us when we get home and attend all kinds of concerts frequently. . . .

It is important to remember why we are living on this earth.  What are our priorities:  our family and friends or getting that extra bonus by working 100 hours a week?  Which really and truly makes us happier?  We only have one life, so let's treat ourselves well, with massages and bubble baths.  Never pass a playground without stopping to swing.  Throw away our watches and maybe even try living without a planner for a day.

Find the little things, like sunrises and sunsets, or tequila shots and pet rocks, that make a day worth living.  And always, always, always have a reason to get out of bed in the morning--whether it's the brownies you baked the night before or the realization that Thursday means "ER" is on at 10:00.

That way of positive living doesn't sound too bad, does it?

But I'd like to introduce another way of living positively.  This previous way is inward-looking.  The goal is to bring positive or happy things of the world into our lives.  A second manner of positive living is more outward-focused.  The goal is to direct our own positivity (if I can take the liberty of inventing a word) on the world.  To perhaps even seek out the negative things in this world and work to make them positive.

This lifestyle might not appear so much fun, at first.  We no longer can claim that it is for "positive" reasons that we don't read the bad news in the newspaper.  To the contrary, we must open our eyes and ears to what is happening in all corners of this world that is our global community.  Sure it does no good to numb ourselves to all the horrors of the world by repeated contact.  But we cannot solve problems without knowing they are there.

In this life, maybe instead of going to a concert, you will perform for others.  Maybe instead of buying cut flowers, you will plant flowers in a vacant lot for others to enjoy.  Maybe you will teach, heal, counsel, or write policy that changes the world.  Building a house with Habitat for Humanity may come before that weekend at the spa.  But look at what you've made at the end of a day!  The beautiful artwork that a schoolteacher hangs on her wall may come from a yet undiscovered talent.  But when it is given to you in appreciation of your love, there is no art so beautiful in the world!  The hours at the rape crisis center are not always conducive to watching sunsets.  When you take responsibility for the world, bubble baths sometimes have to wait.

But once again, I ask you to think about why we are here on earth and what is really important in life.  What is the most positive way you can lead your life?  As I said before, the key to a positive life is to always, always, and always have a reason to get up in the morning.  I know of no better reason than that you are needed and that the world will be a better place for your having lived.

I cannot tell you what to do in your life.  You must find your own causes, based on your own convictions.  Each of us must use our own talent and our own strengths to give what we can.  But each of us must give.

~from a commencement ceremony, 1997

   

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I Did It
an excerpt
Benjamin Zander

Mendelssohn's Italian Symphony starts off as though the music is making a joyful sprint toward a double handspring that catapults it to the high trapeze.  Mendelssohn gives the winds eleven quick steps before the violins make their first energetic somersault, but in one concert, while I was pointing to the winds, a single violinist came in with exuberance and gusto after just five steps!  It was the kind of confident violin playing you can't help admiring, but it left us out there in space, no trapeze within our grasp.  For the first time in my conducting career, I stopped a performance--in front of more than a thousand people.  I smiled to the orchestra, said to myself "How fascinating!" and began the piece again.  This time, of course, there was no mishap.

Afterward, someone associated with the orchestra asked me in a hushed voice, "Would you like to know who came in early in the Mendelssohn?"  Whether it was the slightly conspiratorial nature of the question that put me off, or whether it was that such a question was in disturbing contrast with the spiritedness of the music that we had just performed, I found myself saying, "No!" abruptly, and then adding, "I did it."

Not literally, of course.  I didn't actually play the violin.  But in that moment, in the context of the great music we had just made, it seemed absurd to me to consider handing out blame.  It could only divide us, and for what?

Certainly that player would never again come in early in the Italian Symphony, nor, perhaps, from this time on, make the mistake of a premature entrance in any performance.  And I myself would know to be especially careful in guiding the orchestra through those eleven steps whenever I conducted that passage again.  There was absolutely no gain to blaming anyone, and a real cost in terms of the blow to our integrity as a group.  Besides, I know full well that every time I step onto a podium, I take a risk that things won't turn out exactly as I anticipate them in my ear--but then, there is no great music without such risk-taking.

I think, in retrospect, that my "I did it" response represented even more than that--I was saying that I was willing to be responsible for everything that happened in my orchestra.  In fact, I felt enormously empowered and liberated by doing so.

The type of responsibility we are most familiar with is the sort that we apportion to ourselves and others.  Dividing obligations helps us keep life organized and manageable, as for example, "I'll be responsible for making the kids' lunches, if you feed them breakfast," or, "It wasn't all my fault that our check bounced; you forgot to enter other checks in the ledger."  We often use reward and punishment to regulate accountability--the carrot and stick, the bonus at the end of the successful year, the threat of being fired.  Approval and disapproval are also strong motivating factors, which rely for their effectiveness on the individual's desire to be included and to do well within the community.  Because the model is based on the assumption that life will be under control if everyone plays his or her part, when things do break down, someone or something naturally gets blamed.

Apportioning blame works well enough to keep order in a relatively homogeneous community that boasts commonly accepted values and where everyone is enrolled in playing his part.  It appeals to our instinctive sense of fairness.  However, its effectiveness is likely to be circumscribed in communities of divergent cultures and widely varied resources.  It is at this point, when everything else has failed, that you might find it useful to pull out this new game, the game of being the board.

In the fault game your attention is focused on actions--what was done or not done by you or others.  When you name yourself as the board your attention turns to repairing a breakdown in relationship.  That is why apologies come so easily.
   
   

In a lively, sensible manual for turning life's obstacles into possibilities, the Zanders introduce various "tools" for transformation, drawing on their extensive experiences with musicians, students and patients in therapy (Rosamund is a psychotherapist and painter; Benjamin is the conductor of the Boston Philharmonic).  They also emphasize practices such as thinking in terms of making a personal "contribution" rather than stark "success or failure"; "lightening up" in order to see a problem from a new perspective; and reassessing "frameworks for possibility."

   

   

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For years, the people of Canyon Bluff have shared the stories of the Nogglz, their own version of the monsters in the closet. "If you don't behave, the Nogglz will come and get you and carry you down into the mines," they've told their children. Of course, they were just stories. Nobody could have stayed alive in an old mine for six decades. But when one of their own is brutally murdered one cold November night, it may be time to come to terms with the sins of their fathers and their own ties to the town's dreadful past. And for the sheriff and his deputy and the state troopers who are called to the town to deal with the murder, an ordinary day becomes an extraordinary battle for simple survival.
 
Sometimes I write things just to tell a story, but I just can't help mentioning some life lessons, even in a novel about creatures running amok in an old mining town in the Colorado mountains.  Nogglz is available in print by clicking here, or as a Kindle e-book by using the link to the left.  Using the mining town as the setting is a tribute to my mother, who grew up in a tiny mining town herself, and who has never left there in her heart.

   

A happy life must be to a great extent a quiet life,
for it is only in an atmosphere of quiet that true joy can live.


Bertrand Russell

   

 

Awestruck

I was awe-stricken again this weekend.  I had signed up for a long race that goes along what's called "The Devil's Backbone" in southern Montana, a stretch of mountain ridges and peaks that gives a person an extraordinary series of views for hours and hours on end.  I was out there for more than seventeen hours, and I was blessed with some views that will be with me for the rest of my life.

Awe is something that I actively seek out in life; I like to remind myself that I'm surrounded by absolutely astonishing things and people on this planet, and that not everything interesting or fascinating is on my computer.  Many of those things are all around me, all the time.  On Saturday, I placed myself in a situation in which I was all but guaranteed to see many incredible views.  On other days, though, it's up to me to make sure that I notice the awesome in the things that surround me all the time.

   

We teach children how to measure and how to weigh.  We
fail to teach them how to revere, how to sense wonder and awe.

Harold Kushner

   
It's within our power to make awe a regular part of our lives.  Our world is awesome and awe-inspiring, yet we don't see that side of it behind the surface that we normally see.  I have a car that gets me to work each day, yet all I do is turn a key and put it into gear, and I don't think a bit about the amazing internal combustion engine that causes it to be able to move, using gasoline that's been distilled from petroleum that's been pulled out of deep in the ground.

Every tree is a source of awe, especially if we consider the fact that the oxygen that we breathe all the time comes from the trees.  And when we start to understand the process of photosynthesis, trees become even more awe-inspiring.  And what about the way that the wood is formed, and the thousands of uses that we have for wood?

And perhaps that's where some of our problems lie.  Perhaps we don't see the awesome in the world because we're not aware of what some of the awesome things are.  As we educate ourselves about the world, we can start to see new areas of awe.  As I've learned more about how plants and trees work, I see the awe in the ways they grow from small seeds, and the ways that all of the wood, leaves and fruits come from something as small as the seed is.  And that said, we can keep in mind that we also come from the union of two tiny pieces of genetic materials.  If that's not awesome in itself, I don't know what else could be.

When I learned more about astronomy, my glances at stars became more intense, and my newfound understanding helped me to see the night sky in a completely different way, a way that has fired my imagination and made me feel like I've never felt before when I see it.  I had always seen beauty in the night sky, but the beauty paired with the knowledge of just what the stars are and the distances involved has given me new inspiration.
    

But even more important, we must learn to acknowledge that
the creation is full of mystery; we will never entirely understand it.
We must abandon arrogance and stand in awe.  We must recover the
sense of the majesty of creation, and the ability to be worshipful in
its presence.  For I do not doubt that it is only on the condition
of humility and reverence before the world that our
species will be able to remain in it.

Wendell Berry

    
Wendell says that we "must abandon arrogance," and I believe that he's right.  We're not necessarily consciously arrogant, but we do very often look at the world with jaded eyes, with the idea that what we see in the world should serve us in some way if it's to be of any use to us.  We look at diamonds as possessions that are meant to impress other people; we look at the thunderstorm as an inconvenience; we see the snow as something that needs to be cleared away, except perhaps in place where it can serve us if we want to ski.  Wendell doesn't say "We must" because he wants to tell others what they have to do--rather, he uses those words to tell us what's necessary if we're to reclaim the fullness and richness of the lives that we're living.

When I feel awe, I feel my place in the world.  I also feel my significance, which seems to be a contradiction.  After all, if I'm in awe of the majesty of the mountains, wouldn't that make me feel very tiny and insignificant?  Not at all.  When I see the mountains and even when I'm in them, I know that I am a part of an astonishing world, and it's there for me to share and to know and to love.  And not just that, the awe is a message to me that I am truly a part of something special, something wonderful, and that I, too, am something wonderful.  After all, when we start thinking about the number of cells in our bodies, the ways that all our systems interact to maintain life, the ways that our brains function to allow us to see and to feel and to think and communicate--well, we see that we're pretty awe-inspiring ourselves.
   

I felt deep within me that the highest point a person can attain is not
Knowledge, or Virtue, or Goodness, or Victory, but something
even greater, more heroic and more despairing:  Sacred Awe!

Nikos Kazantzakis

   
Our attitude towards the world can be what we want it to be.  It can be indifferent, it can be full of wonder, it can be arrogant.  How we see our world, though, is pretty how much how we end up living our lives, and we can squander many of the gifts that the world gives us simply by ignoring them or taking them for granted.  Developing our sense of awe to encompass every area of our lives gives us a unique tool in our efforts to live fully and richly, and I know that I want to keep my sense of awe not just active, but overactive, all the days of my life.  Thus will I find richness in all that I do.
   


  
One of many awe-inspiring views from Saturday.

   
More on expectations.

   

One of the most important elements
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On a clear day we can
see forever and ever.
We know where we came
from and why we are here
on earth and where we
ultimately are going. The
threads woven into the
fabric of our lives are
beginning to create
a beautiful tapestry.

Marilyn S. Bateman

  

Softly and kindly remind yourself, ''I cannot own anything.''  It is a valuable thought to keep in mind as you struggle to improve your financial picture, worry about investments, and plan how to acquire more and more.  It is a universal principle which you are part of.  You must release everything when you truly awaken.  Are you letting your life go by in frustration and worry over not having enough?  If so, relax and remember that you only get what you have for a short period of time.  When you awaken you will see the folly of being attached to anything.

Wayne Dyer

If you reflect on your life, you may recall times when you couldn't see the value of some person and were tempted to brush him or her off.  It takes hindsight to recognize that the very situation you may have seen as an irritating bother turned out to be a blessing in disguise.  Wouldn't life be a much more enjoyable and meaningful experience if we decided to look at the difficult people and irritating situations as blessings in disguise?  If we look deeply enough, we might see how these experiences as situations that motivate us to grow and change for the better.

John Marks Templeton
Worldwide Laws of Life
   
  

Parents impose their own limited concepts on their children, often ignoring
their temperaments, special needs, and abilities.  Your parents and teachers
may have mistakenly ignored your strengths or may not have encouraged you
to develop them.  You can discover your basic capacities by experimenting
with things that you always wanted to do.  Don't be discouraged by notions
that seem "silly" or "foolish" or "not you."  Do it!  Who knows what will happen?

Ari Kiev

    

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