21 July 2015
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.
day I live I am more convinced that the waste of life lies
the love we have not given, the powers we have not used,
the selfish prudence that will risk nothing and which,
pain, misses happiness as well.
gratitude will help us more
what has been offered us.
Being grateful influences
our attitude; it
softens our harsh exterior and
the threat out of most new situations.
abundance mentality springs from internal security,
not from external rankings, comparisons,
opinions, possessions, or associations.
to Be Happy
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. . . .
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.
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.
way of positive living doesn't sound too bad, does it?
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
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.
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.
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.
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
people behind the words
Two - Year Three
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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
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?
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
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.
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."
Wallpaper! Just click below
the size your desktop is
right-click on the
picture that appears
in the new
window, and choose
"Set as background."
photo's from a spring
day in Kootenay National Park)
x 800 - 1440
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.
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.
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.
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
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
children how to measure and how to weigh. We
to teach them how to revere, how to sense wonder and awe.
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
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
the creation is full of mystery; we
will never entirely understand it.
We must abandon
arrogance and stand in awe. We must recover the
of the majesty of creation, and the ability to be
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.
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.
deep within me that the highest point a person can attain is
Knowledge, or Virtue, or Goodness, or Victory, but something
even greater, more heroic and more despairing: Sacred
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.
of the most important elements
of living life fully is
awareness-- awareness of our surroundings, of other people
and their motives and fears and desires, of the things that
affect us most in our lives, both positively and negatively.
In the twelve years of livinglifefully.com's existence, this
essay series has been a mainstay of the weekly e-zine--a
series that has explored not just the things that exist and
that happen around us, but also our reactions to those
things. The first five years of the column are now available
exclusively on Kindle.
Life Fully, the e-zine
exists to try to provide for visitors of the world wide web a
of growth, peace, inspiration, and encouragement. Our
are presented as thoughts of the authors--by no means do
mean to present them as ways that anyone has to live
from them what you will, and disagree with
whatever you disagree
with--just know that they'll be here for you
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?
a year of one-sentence reminders
of ways that we can
make the most of our lives each day that we live.
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novel of life and learning; Walker's fascinating journey
will remind you of all that is good in this world.
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Read Chapter One
David agrees to
give 70-year-old Hector
a ride west, he can't imagine the lessons he'll learn
about his life.
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Read Chapter One
and spending, we lay waste our powers," wrote
Wordsworth over 150 years ago. And we're still doing
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