17 January 2017      

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 Our Choice to Be Strong
Viktor Frankl

from Character, the Grandest Thing
in the World
     Orison Swett Marden

Show You Care
tom walsh

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Joy and sorrow are inseparable. . . together they come and when one sits alone with you . . remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.

Khalil Gibran

The insight we gain from solitude has very little to do with the amount of time we spend alone.  It has a lot more to do with the quality of time we spend with ourselves.

Jan Johnson Drantell

Silence is something like an endangered species.  The experience of silence is now so rare that we must guard it and treasure it.

Gunilla Norris


Our Choice to Be Strong
Viktor Frankl

We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread.  They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a person but one thing:  the last of the human freedoms--to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way.

And there were always choices to make.  Every day, every hour, offered the opportunity to make a decision, a decision which determined whether you would or would not submit to those powers which threatened to rob you of your very self, your inner freedom; which determined whether or not you would become the plaything of circumstance, renouncing freedom and dignity to become molded into the form of the typical inmate.

Seen from this point of view, the mental reactions of the inmates of a concentration camp must seem more to us than the mere expression of certain physical and sociological conditions.  Even though conditions such as lack of sleep, insufficient food and various mental stresses may suggest that the inmates were bound to react in certain ways, in the final analysis it becomes clear that the sort of person the prisoner became was the result of an inner decision, and not the result of camp influences alone.

Fundamentally, therefore, any person can, even under such circumstances, decide what shall become of him or her--mentally and spiritually.  They may retain their human dignity even in a concentration camp.  Dostoevski said once, "There is only one thing that I dread:  not to be worthy of my sufferings."  Those words frequently came to my mind after I became acquainted with those martyrs whose behavior in camp, whose suffering and death, bore witness to the fact that the last inner freedom cannot be lost.  It can be said that they were worthy of their sufferings; the way they bore their suffering was a genuine inner achievement.  It is this spiritual freedom--which cannot be taken away--that makes life meaningful and purposeful.

An active life serves the purpose of giving people the opportunity to realize values in creative work, while a passive life of enjoyment affords them the opportunity to obtain fulfillment in experiencing beauty, art, or nature.  But there is also a purpose in that life which is almost barren of both creation and enjoyment and which admits of but one possibility of high moral behavior:  namely, in one's attitude to one's existence, an existence restricted by external forces.  A creative life and a life of enjoyment are banned to that person.  But not only creativeness and enjoyment are meaningful.  If there is meaning in life at all, then there must be a meaning in suffering.  Suffering is an ineradicable part of life, even as fate and death.  Without suffering and death human life cannot be complete.

The way in which a person accepts his or her fate and all the suffering it entails, the way in which they take up their crosses, gives them ample opportunity--even under the most difficult circumstances--to add deeper meaning to their life.  It may remain brave, dignified, and unselfish.  Or in the bitter fight for self-preservation they may forget their human dignity and become no more than an animal.  Here lies the chance for people to make use of or to forego the opportunities of attaining the moral values that a difficult situation may afford them.  And this decides whether they are worthy of their sufferings or not.

Do not think that these considerations are unworldly and too far removed from real life.  It is true that only a few people are capable of reaching such high moral standards.  Of the prisoners only a few kept their full inner liberty and obtained those values which their suffering afforded, but even one such example is sufficient proof that our inner strength may raise us above our outward fate.  Such people are not only in concentration camps.  Everywhere people are confronted with fate, with the chance of achieving something through our own suffering.


At the time of Frankl's death
in 1997, Man's Search for
had sold more than
ten million copies in twenty-four languages.  A 1991 reader survey
for the Library of Congress that
asked readers to name a "book
that made a difference in your
life" found Man's Search for
among the ten most influential books in America.


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from Character, The Grandest Thing in the World
Orison Swett Marden

On the steps of a public building in Florence an old, disabled soldier sat playing a violin.  By his side stood a faithful dog holding in his mouth a veteran’s hat, into which, now and then, a passer-by would drop a coin.  A gentleman, in passing, paused, and asked for the violin; first tuning it, he then began to play.

The sight of a well-dressed man, playing a violin in such a place, with such associations, attracted the passers-by, and they stopped.  The music was so charming that they stood enchanted.  The number of contributions largely increased.  The hat became so heavy that the dog began to growl.  It was emptied, and soon filled again.  The company grew until a great congregation was gathered.  The performer played one of the national airs, handed the violin back to its owner, and quickly retired.

One of the company present said:  “This is Amard Bucher, the world-renowned violinist.  He did this for charity; let us follow his example.”  And immediately the hat was passed for a collection for the old man.  Mr. Bucher did not give a penny, but he flooded the old man’s day with sunshine.

So, too, it was related that when Michael Angelo was at the height of his fame, when monarchs and popes were paying fabulous prices for his works, a little boy met him on the street, with an old pencil and a piece of dirty brown paper, and asked him for a picture.  The great artist sat on the curbstone and drew a picture for his little admirer.

A like charming story is told of Jenny Lind, the great Swedish singer, which shows her noble nature.  Once when walking with a friend she saw an old woman tottering into the door of an almshouse.  Her pity was at once excited, and she entered the door, ostensibly to rest for a moment, but really to give something to the poor woman.  To her surprise, the old woman began at once to talk of Jenny Lind, saying,--

“I have lived a long time in the world, and desire nothing before I die but to hear Jenny Lind.”

“Would it make you happy?” inquired Jenny.

“Ay, that it would; but such folks as I can’t go to the playhouse, and so I shall never hear her.”

“Don’t be so sure of that,” said Jenny.  “Sit down, my friend, and listen.”

She then sang, with genuine glee, one of her best songs.  The old woman was wild with delight and wonder, when she added,--

“Now you have heard Jenny Lind.”

Sweeter than the perfume of roses is a reputation for a kind, charitable, unselfish nature; a ready disposition to do to others any good turn in your power.  “The mind’s sweetness,” says Herbert, “has its operation on the body, clothes, and habitation.”  So Cervantes spoke of one whose face was like a benediction.  “Good looking,” as Horace Smith remarks, “is looking good.”  “Be good,” says our Amesbury poet, “be womanly, be gentle, generous in your sympathies, heedful of the good breeding of all around you,--and you will not lack kind words of admiration.”

Was there ever an unselfish person, of charitable and generous impulses, sociable, loving, kind, of tender spirit, thoughtful for others, who was not universally beloved?  He, indeed, is the light-bearer.

Some people are born happy.  No matter what their circumstances are, they are joyous, content, and satisfied with everything.  They carry a perpetual holiday in their eyes, and see joy and beauty everywhere.  When we meet them they impress us as having just met with some good luck, or as having some good news to tell.  Like the bees that extract honey from every flower, they have a happy alchemy which transmutes even gloom into sunshine.  In the sick-room they are better than the physician and more potent than drugs.  All doors open to these people.  They are welcome everywhere.

The most fascinating person is always the one of the most winning manners; not the one of greatest physical beauty.

We do not need an introduction to feel his greatness, if you meet a cheerful man on the street on a cold day you seem to feel the mercury rise several degrees.

*   *   *   *   *

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Passion doesn't come from business or books or even a connection
with another person.  It is a connection to your own life force, the
world around you and the spirit that connects us all.  You are the
source.  Books, work, music, people, sunsets all provide sparks,
but only you can light the fire.

Jennifer James
Success Is the Quality of Your Journey



Show You Care

Perhaps one of the most difficult lessons that I've ever learned--certainly one that took a very long time to manifest itself in my life--is the ability to show other people that I honestly do care about them.  In my life, I believe it has to do with risk:  if I show I care and the other person rejects that caring, it could hurt.  Or at least, that's how I used to see things.  Nowadays, though, I'm able to show others that I care about them without having any expectations of how they'll react, and that ability has proved to be one of the most important elements of my life.

You see, I used to take any rejection personally.  I allowed it to make me think that there was something wrong with me that caused someone else to reject me and my caring.  That, though, was rather silly.  I would take things personally because I had certain expectations about how people should react to my caring.  If I expressed my caring and the other person acted in a way I didn't expect or a way that made me feel rejected, I was miserable.  So I went about not showing others the fact that I cared about them, and that way I didn't face rejection.

Nowadays, though, I try to show caring in little ways, and I don't have any expectations at all as to how people should react.  If someone tells me about a problem and I offer to help out and that person says no, then I keep in mind that a lot of people have a support system in place already--relatives and friends who can offer their support in times of need--and extra help may be more of a bother in a difficult time than a help.  If my offer of a caring response comes with conditions and I'm disappointed if those conditions aren't met, then the problem is mine.  Any offers of help that we make should be made without any expectations of the other person accepting at all--I've shown that I care, and the person to whom I've offered my aid has every right to either accept or decline my offer.


Too often we underestimate the power of a touch,
a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest
compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of
which have the potential to turn a life around.

Leo Buscaglia

Our caring can have profound effects on others.  Some people go through their daily lives thinking that no one cares for or about them at all.  A simple demonstration of our caring by asking how someone is--and then actually listening to the answer--will show that person that we actually do care.  Our caring isn't going to cure depression or turn someone else's life into a paradise, but it can at least act as another brick in a positive wall--it can be another piece of a puzzle that the person can put together to see that yes, the world really is a caring place, and there are more caring people than there are people who don't care at all.  Sometimes what we give is merely a small piece to that much bigger puzzle that all of us are trying to put together.

It's not always easy to show you care.  There are societal pressures and norms, for example, that keep us from showing our caring in healthy ways.  We used to be able to give hugs, for example, but our society has deemed that hugs are often inappropriate and people can actually get in trouble now for giving them.  As a teacher, for example, I don't even entertain the notion of hugging my students--neither my college students nor the students I taught while in high school.  When I see them when they're no longer my students, that rule no longer applies, but the possibility of problems keeps me from showing my caring in that way.  So I stick to encouragement and doing my best to notice signs that things may not be going well for someone.  I miss those signs often, I'm sure, so I try to encourage anyone I can any time I can in an effort not to miss the chance to help someone else.

We all have peers and other people in our lives, too, who could use our caring, but to whom it's difficult to show that we care without sending mixed signals.  How do you show your boss that you care without seeming like you're sucking up to him or her?  How do you show a person who doesn't understand boundary issues that you care without having that person misinterpret your caring for something deeper--and what do you do if this happens?  Sometimes I'm a bit afraid to show someone that I care because I know that the person will become clingy and simply won't leave me in peace, partly because other people are also afraid to show their caring for the same reason.  It's a legitimate reason for not showing caring, but is it really the most helpful?  I sincerely don't know the answer to that question.

Do what you can to show you care about other people,
and you will make our world a better place.

Rosalynn Carter

But the bottom line of caring is that we really are here to make the world a better place, aren't we?  Can we do that hiding behind our walls and shields that we devise to keep us "safe" from being "hurt"?  I don't think that we can.  We don't need to change the whole world to make it a better place (though I'm pretty sure that if I were king, I could improve things!).  We only have to help the person who is next to us right here, and right now.  And to help them, we don't need to "fix" their lives for them--we only need to let them know that we care.  And letting them know we care isn't about making ourselves available to them twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.  We also need to be sure that we don't move from caring to enabling.

You see, a person who feels cared-for has more confidence and is willing to take more chances in life.  This person is able to spend time alone, and is much less likely to resort to negative methods of gratification, such as addictive substances or violence.  These people aren't going to get as frustrated, and they're not going to have as many issues with anger.  And more importantly, they're going to be more likely to pass on the caring to others, adding even more positive energy to this world of ours.

One of my biggest problems is showing that I care for everyone, not just the people who are like me or the people who agree with me or share my biases and likes and dislikes.  Some of the most important lessons I've learned in life have come from people that I thought had nothing to teach me because they were so different from me--so now I know that I need to extend my caring to every person on this planet.  After all, most of the people who do hateful things do so because they haven't been shown much caring, or they've learned to reject the caring as a defense mechanism because of perceived hurts earlier in their lives.

Knowing what to say is not always necessary; just the presence
of a caring friend can make a world of difference.

Sheri Curry

And I can't ignore the potential problems that can arise when we show caring to someone of the other gender, someone who may be attracted to us physically, or who may wish to have a relationship that's deeper than friendship or acquaintanceship.  Will that person misread our caring for something deeper, and thus feel that it's appropriate to pursue a relationship at a level that we don't really feel comfortable with?  This does happen, and the question that we have to ask ourselves is whether or not we're willing to deal with that sort of complication.  It may be better for everyone involved that the amount and type of caring that we show be much less when that type of dynamic is possible.  There really is no law saying that the amount and type of caring that we show to others has to be equal for everyone.

I do care.  I even care about people I've never met, including you.  And I care not because I'm supposed to or because it's the "right" thing to do according to some teaching.  I care because my heart tells me that everyone on this planet deserves my caring, and that I don't have the right to withhold my caring from anyone for any reason.  Sometimes that makes things difficult for me, and I think that I'll always have problems in showing that caring.  But if I want my life to have meaning, then I need to care, and I need to let others know that I care.  After all, if I don't, then what possible purpose can I find for this life of mine?

More on caring.


One 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.



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There's no telling what's inside each person that we meet, no telling the potential that each person has for growth and for doing exceptional things.  Just like the apple seed, though, our potential is realized by creating just the right conditions for our growth and development.  Just as the apple cannot thrive in dry, barren climes, so is it difficult for us to thrive in situations that are not fitting.

tom walsh


I was driving north on Highway 101, just ten minutes past the Golden Gate Bridge, on my way to the Richmond Bridge in San Rafael.  I planned to cross the bay and drive on north from there to Antioch, where I had an important business meeting.  Even though it was midday, I found myself suddenly in gridlock traffic.  I thought I might miss my appointment in Antioch.  I began to feel anxious.  I became irritated at the drivers I saw joining the freeway traffic from entrance ramps without leaving any space for the cars already on the highway to move forward.  It was looking less and less likely that I'd be at my appointment on time.  I noticed that my body had become tense and I was gripping the wheel.  Then I looked out the driver's side window and saw Mount Tamalpais.  I looked out to my right and saw Richardson Bay.  I thought, "I am sitting between two major tourist attractions.  People come from all over the world to sit exactly where I am sitting right now in order to have this view."  I sat back and appreciated the view.  My hands unclenched.  My body relaxed.  My mind relaxed.  Then I had this big revelation.

This was my revelation:  "I'll get to Antioch when I get to Antioch.  Maybe today.  Maybe not today.  Maybe I'll be there for the meeting.  Maybe I won't be there for the meeting.  Whatever will be will be.  My getting aggravated is not changing the situation.  It is making it worse."

When the traffic did start up again, I didn't drive too fast, so I didn't become a menace to myself and everyone else on the highway.  That's the important part. . . . You need to keep looking for whatever perspective you can find that will transform the moment.

Art George
as related to Sylvia Boorstein


We’re all doing time.  As soon as we get born, we find
ourselves assigned to one little body, one set of desires
and fears, one family, city, state, country, and planet.
Who can ever understand exactly why or how it comes down
as it does?  The bottom line is, here we are.  Whatever,
wherever we are, this is what we’ve got.  It’s up
to us whether we do it as easy time or hard time.

Bo Lozoff


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