24 January 2017      

Welcome to today, and thank you for being here with us!

 We Invent Ourselves
Earl Nightingale

If I Had My Life to Live Over
Erma Bombeck

Balance between Heart and Mind
tom walsh

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It is a wholesome and necessary thing for us to turn again to the earth and in contemplation of her beauties to know the sense of wonder and humility.

Rachel Carson

The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched.  They must be felt with the heart.

Helen Keller

Happiness is a present attitude--
not a future condition.

Hugh Prather

We Invent Ourselves
Earl Nightingale

Reading in my study late one night, I was reminded that the French existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre had argued that we invent ourselves by virtue of the multitude of our choices.  And Rollo May, in his intriguing book The Courage to Create, says, "Human freedom involves our capacity to pause between stimulus and response and, in that pause, to choose the one response toward which we wish to throw our weight.  The capacity to create ourselves, based upon this freedom, is inseparable from consciousness or self-awareness."

Have you given much thought to the fact that you create yourself?  You do, to an altogether unsuspected extent, simply by the choices you make, by the things you decide to do or not to do.

As the Danish philosopher Kierkegaard well said, "The self is only that which it is in the process of becoming."  So it is that an adult can stand in front of a full-length mirror and take a good, long look at what he or she has created.

We leave home, we form ourselves into new people, and we learn, as Thomas Wolfe learned, that we can't go home again--that we don't fit as well as we used to.  We're different.  We wonder, after a visit--as we leave to return to our everyday lives--what happened, if something is wrong, what the strangeness was.  It is simply that we are different now, and going back home again is like trying to get a two-year-old shoe on a teenager.  It's just not going to fit anymore.

We have shaped ourselves into new people, and we have done so by our decisions.  There's no going back, of course, and I guess most of us wouldn't want to if we could, even though we're acutely conscious of mistakes we've made.  We have to remember that each of us is new at this business of living and content ourselves with the fact that most of us have plenty of time to make good decisions in the future.

If there's a rule in making decisions, I suppose it is to listen to that inner voice and try to make decisions that tend to be growth oriented.  There's really no standing still, even if we'd like to.

I often wonder how many parents in poor families have said to their children, "I want you to get an education and make something of yourself."  The old term "Make something of yourself" carries with it the clear message that we invent--we make--ourselves.

I do think, however, that most try to play it safe.  That is, they select those decisions that seem to carry the least risk of failure and by doing so live out their lives well below their real potential as persons.  Sayings such as "I'm not going to stick my neck out" and "Don't rock the boat," to say nothing of the popular "Take it easy" and "Never volunteer," all indicate a reluctance to live fully extended or at the leading edge of life.

Professor Sidney Hook of Columbia University wrote:  "My observations lead me to the conclusion that human beings have suffered greater deprivations from their fear of life than from its abundance.  The most deplorable insecurities are those which prevent human beings from deviating from traditional routines, which prevent them from living their own lives in their own reflective styles."

Sydney Hook goes on to remind us that "When we learn to be unafraid, the insecure and uncertain lose their terrors for us.  And we can learn to be unafraid through habit and reflection."


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If I Had My Life to Live Over
Erma Bombeck

Someone asked me the other day if I had my life to live over would I change anything. 

My answer was no, but then I thought about it and changed my mind. 

If I had my life to live over again I would have waxed less and listened more. 

Instead of wishing away nine months of pregnancy and complaining about the shadow over my feet, I'd have cherished every minute of it and realized that the wonderment growing inside me was to be my only chance in life to assist God in a miracle. 

I would never have insisted the car windows be rolled up on a summer day because my hair had just been teased and sprayed. 

I would have invited friends over to dinner even if the carpet was stained and the sofa faded. 

I would have eaten popcorn in the "good" living room and worried less about the dirt when you lit the fireplace. 

I would have taken the time to listen to my grandfather ramble about his youth. 

I would have burnt the pink candle that was sculptured like a rose before it melted while being stored. 

I would have sat cross-legged on the lawn with my children and never worried about grass stains. 

I would have cried and laughed less while watching television. . . and more while watching real life. 

I would have shared more of the responsibility carried by my husband which I took for granted. 

I would have eaten less cottage cheese and more ice cream. 

I would have gone to bed when I was sick, instead of pretending the Earth would go into a holding pattern if I weren't there for a day. 

I would never have bought ANYTHING just because it was practical/wouldn't show soil/ guaranteed to last a lifetime. 

When my child kissed me impetuously, I would never have said, "Later. Now, go get washed up for dinner." 

There would have been more I love yous. . . more I'm sorrys. . . more I'm listenings. . . but mostly, given another shot at life, I would seize every minute of it. . . look at it and really see it. . . try it on. . .  live it. . . exhaust it. . . and never give that minute back until there was nothing left of it.

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Be gentle with yourself, learn to love yourself, to forgive yourself,
for only as we have the right attitude toward ourselves can
we have the right attitude toward others.

Wilfred A. Peterson



Balance between Heart and Mind

I wasn't sure how to title this piece:  I was having problems deciding between "finding a balance" and "creating a balance," so I just decided to leave the first two words off for the sake of accuracy.  The truth as far as my mind is concerned is that both words would work, but there's something in my heart that says that neither word is completely accurate.  Is the balance there already, and we reject is or simply can't find it?  Or have we been taught so much to value one over the other that we have to go back and re-educate ourselves so that we can learn the value of the other?

Either way, we seem to have been brought up in a society that doesn't value balance at all--in our world, people are consistently rewarded for going to extremes:  working more time, focusing on one thing and one thing only, becoming expert in very limited fields, even for giving up things like free time to do more work.  In all of our hurry and hustle and bustle, we are definitely losing much of what we've always considered to be important to us, things such as rest and relaxation, hobbies, reading, time with friends and family, and many other elements of life that don't directly "contribute" or "produce," but which have always been important ways for us to ensure that when we are productive, we're even more so.

One of the areas of balance that has suffered dramatically in what we call "Western" society is that of mind and heart.  Somehow, we've come to believe that logic and rational thought are the keys to existence, and that our hearts somehow steer us wrong because they allow input from our emotions.  We can "think our way through anything," we believe, because we've been taught that there's always some sort of logical answer to be found.


When the heart speaks, the mind
finds it indecent to object.

Milan Kundera
The Unbearable Lightness of Being

But our world is far from logical.  We see the logic because we try to impose it upon the world, but just because we put it there on a shrine and start to worship it doesn't mean that it's supposed to be there.  We actually lose a lot when rationality becomes our ruler--we lose compassion, we lose open-mindedness, we lose spontaneity, we lost connection, and we lost our instincts.  When we try to think our ways through everything, we lose our connections to the higher parts of ourselves and to the unity of all things that surround us.

We are a people who want to solve every mystery, never even considering what it would be like to let that mystery be and actually respect it and enjoy it.  We want to explain everything, without even considering that not everything can be explained, and that sometimes it's better to leave things unexplained.  We think we can reach a solution to every problem without considering the possibility that some problems may make us better and stronger people by forcing us to go through certain trials and tribulations.

One of the ways that I see this lack of balance regularly is in our reading, especially as far as education is concerned.  We usually want to "get" a reading:  we want to analyze it in order to understand it, and we want to find all the symbols and metaphors and plot lines and conflicts and explain what they "mean" and how they relate to each other.  Rarely do we allow ourselves to simply read and feel a book because that doesn't have as much "value," and that doesn't show any intelligence or critical thinking.

Some of the best books and poems that I've read, though, have been ones that I haven't tried to analyze, ones with characters with whom I empathize and/or sympathize.  When I read books like this, my heart goes out to the characters, even though I know that they don't exist as human beings.  I feel compassion for people who aren't even people, and this allows my heart to grow and to expand.  This is one of the reasons for which I won't read many violent novels or horror stories--it's too hard for me to see these characters suffer because of other people's cruelty, and I feel somewhat sick when I read such things.  Even though my mind tells me, "Oh, it's just some actors," my heart tells me, "It's violence and it's not really entertainment."  In this case, I prefer to listen to my heart because I truly do not want to be entertained by other people's suffering.

It is only with the heart that one can see rightly;
what is essential is invisible to the eye.

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
The Little Prince

I watch people try to treat their children purely rationally, and they relate to them on only rational and logical levels--they very rarely allow their hearts, which are filled with love, "get in the way."  When I'm with my students, though, and someone doesn't get their homework turned in, I have to decide whether I'll let them turn it in late.  My rational mind says that they're possibly scamming me to buy more time, but my heart says, "Yeah, that's possible, but what if they're not?  What if they got so caught up in another class's work that they didn't have time? What if they're having relationship issues?  There's so much that I simply don't know here!"  Whichever decision I make, I can end up being wrong, but I've decided that if I'm going to make mistakes, they're going to be mistakes in the favor of other people, in favor of my heart, and in favor of compassion rather than punishment.  In short, in favor of love, and love is the heart's dominion, not the mind's.

Because the mind will look at something like love and try to analyze it, try to figure out if the cost is worth the return, try to reach a logical conclusion as to whether or not love is justified or even worthwhile.  The mind will find reasons to reject love and compassion because of potential problems that haven't even surfaced yet, while the heart will recognize potential problems and then try to work through them instead of rejecting outright the love itself.

So here's what I try to do:  I try to recognize whether particular thoughts of mine are coming from my head or from my heart.  If somebody has harmed me, are my thoughts of getting even an effort of my ego to make myself feel better, or an effort of my heart to show love and compassion?  If I have to decide whether or not to donate to a certain cause, are my thoughts mind-centered and focused on how much money I'll "lose," or are they on the good that the money can do to help someone else somehow?

It's difficult because our minds can rationalize almost any behavior we choose.  It's also difficult because sometimes, the logical choice is the best choice.  There are times when punishment is merited for a child who has chosen to do something wrong, because it really is necessary for us to learn that our actions do have consequences, and sometimes negative ones.  Our hearts may be saying "Show some sympathy," but our rational minds may realize that there are longer-term issues at stake.  Perhaps if I need to buy a new car, my heart may be sold on a very expensive one while my mind has a very good grip on just how much I can afford to spend each month.

Your heart's voice is your true voice. It is easy to ignore it,
for sometimes it says what we'd rather it did not--and
it is so hard to risk the things we have. But what life are
we living, if we don't live by our hearts?  Not a true one.
And the person living it is not the true you.

Susan Fletcher
The Highland Witch

All that I've said so far, though, is about making choices.  Living from the heart instead of the head is so much more than that, though.  It involves letting the heart take the lead, following it and allowing it to show you things that you would never see otherwise.  But there will be more about that next week, I'm sure.

More on heart.


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There is an art in
defeat which
noble souls always
acquire; you must
know how to
lose cheerfully;
you must be
fearless of

The Urantia Book


Stanzas on Freedom

Is true Freedom but to break
Fetters for our own dear sake,
And, with leathern hearts, forget
That we owe mankind a debt?
No! True freedom is to share
All the chains our brothers wear,
And, with heart and hand, to be
Earnest to make others free!

They are slaves who fear to speak
For the fallen and the weak;
They are slaves who will not choose
Hatred, scoffing, and abuse,
Rather than in silence shrink
From the truth they needs must think:
They are slaves who dare not be
In the right with two or three.

James Russell Lowell 


So the thing to do when working on a motorcycle, as in any other task, is to
cultivate the peace of mind which does not separate one's self from
one's surroundings.  When that is done successfully, then everything else
follows naturally.  Peace of mind produces right values, right values produce
right thoughts.  Right thoughts produce right actions and right actions produce
work which will be a material reflection for others to see
of the serenity at the center of it all.

Robert M. Pirsig


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