3 October 2017      

It's October now, which means that we've all made it through
nine months of the year so far!  Thanks for coming by to visit--
we hope that there's something in this issue that will lift your
spirits, make you think, or make you feel better and/or stronger!

Wordless Messages
Leo Buscaglia

Stop, Look, and Listen
Leslie Levine

The Simplest Days
tom walsh

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The cynic says, "One person can't do anything."  I say, "Only one person can do anything."  One person interacting creatively with others can move the world.

John W. Gardner

You don't really understand human nature unless you know why a child on a merry-go-round will wave at his or her parents every time around--and why his or her parents will always wave back.

William D. Tammeus

I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain.

James Baldwin

We tolerate differences of opinion in people who are familiar to us.  But differences of opinion in people we do not know sound like heresy or plots.

Brooks Atkinson

  
Wordless Messages
Leo Buscaglia

Though words are still the major source of communication, they are not the only source.  In fact, St. Exupéry said, "Words can be a source of great misunderstandings."  We also talk to each other in wordless messages.  When I see people on the street I almost always say, "Good morning.  How are you?"  Many times they answer, almost fiercely, "Fine!"  I cannot help but wonder, "Then why the hell don't you tell your face?"

We talk to each other with smiles, with handshakes, with hugs, with laughter, with eye contact, with touching, holding, enfolding, and a myriad of gestures.  These, too, are languages.  Some of which may "speak louder than words."  You can tell a great deal about a person when he or she shakes your hand.  A hug can send off so many messages.  A glance can suggest a thousand words.  Still, not too many of us respect the power of wordless messages.  We do not even think about what they are telling others about us.

I was recently in a hospital with a most serious cardiac condition.  I had many nurses taking care of me day and night.  It soon became apparent which nurses were performing routine duties and which were actually engaged in helping patients to heal.  How a thermometer was put in my mouth carried a special meaning.

So did taking my pulse, giving a backrub, taking a moment to greet me with a touch.  Wellness comes from within but communicated warmth helps to bring it forth.  I had a room full of flowers and plants.  It was a joy to share them through the ward.  I'd take them and use them as an opening to friendship.  "For me?" the other patients would ask, and already one could see expressions of joy on their faces, eyes taking on new life.  Someone cares.  I made friends in almost every room.  The doctors made medical rounds in the morning and Buscaglia made love rounds for the rest of the day.  My own health increased amazingly fast--and I could perceive attitudinal changes in many of the others almost daily.  One man who, on my first visit had said, "Who the hell cares?  I may as well die!" was walking around the ward with me before I left.  To "say" is wonderful, but to "do" can have even greater power.  I had a Buddhist teacher several years back who taught me that "to know, and not to do, is not yet to know!"

Unless you enjoy talking to yourself, it takes two for human communication.  This usually means one to speak and the other to listen.  But listeners are as rare as sensitive speakers.  Most of us have forgotten the fine art of listening.  If we listen at all, which is rare, we have the static of our own preconceived ideas working constantly until, when all is said and done, we hear not what the person is saying but what we are prepared to hear.  We often find that people have answers to our queries and solutions to our problems prior to our stating them.

I recently discovered that the average speaker can utter 125 words per minute.  The listener can process about 400 to 600 words per minute.  True listening is determined by how we decide to use the intervals.  Are we preparing our own dialogue?  Are we planning tomorrow's menu?  Are we fantasizing about what we could be doing or places we might prefer being rather than where we are?  Are we observing and sensing the person's mannerisms, clothes, grammar, sexual quotient?  All these things often seem to be occurring at once and it's only afterwards when arguments ensue that we see how much was missed.

The pitfalls to true listening are expressed in a thoughtful poem "Listen" by an anonymous writer:

When I ask you to listen to me and you start giving advice,
you have not done what I asked.
When I ask you to listen to me and you begin to tell me why
I shouldn't feel that way, you are trampling on my feelings.
When I ask you to listen to me and you feel you have to do
something to solve my problems, you have failed me, strange
as that may seem.
Perhaps that's why prayer works for some people.
Because
God is mute and He doesn't offer advice or try to fix things.
He just listens and trusts you to work it out for yourself.
So please, just listen and hear me.  And if you want to talk,
wait a few minutes for your turn and I promise I'll listen
to you.


Sharing, so vital to loving communication, stops when you sense the other person is not listening or caring, and the sad part is that often we are not given a second chance.

A third, and most vital level of communication is also nonverbal.  It is communication through action.  You may remember that Eliza Doolittle's love message in the great Lerner and Lowe musical My Fair Lady was "Show me!"  If you love me, she shouts, don't just talk about it--show me in action!  Do loving things for each other.  Be considerate.  Put your feelings into action.  Make that favorite food.  Send the flowers.  Remember the birthday or anniversary.  Create your own love holidays to celebrate--don't just wait for Valentine's Day.

Now, the final question.

What is everyone doing instead of saying "I love you"?

We are mainly distancing, destroying, intimidating, disappointing, degrading, devaluing and we don't know how to change this.  A new language of love can remake our minds.  In their important book, The Human Connection, Ashley Montague and Floyd Matson state that love is the highest form of communication.  They say:

Human communication, 'as the saying goes, is a clash of symbols';
it covers a multitude of signs.  But it is more than media and
messages, information and persuasion; it also meets a deeper
need and serves a higher purpose.  Whether clear or garbled,
tumultuous or silent, deliberate or fatally inadvertent, communication
is the ground of meeting and the foundation of community.  It is, in
short, the essential human connection.

So, if you want to make the human connection in a loving relationship you may want to review the following:

Tell me often that you love me through your talk, your actions and your gestures.  Don't assume that I know it.  I may show signs of embarrassment and even deny that I need it--but don't believe it; do it anyway.

*  Compliment me often for jobs well done and don't downgrade but reassure me when I fail.  Don't take the many things I do for you for granted.  Positive reinforcement and appreciation work towards making sure I repeat them.

*  Let me know when you feel low or lonely or misunderstood.  It will make me stronger to know I have the power to comfort you.  Feelings, unverbalized, can be destructive.  Remember, though I love you, I still can't always read your mind.

*  Express joyous thoughts and feelings.  They bring vitality to our relationship.  It's wonderful to celebrate nonbirthdays, personal Valentine's days.  Give gifts of love without reason and hear you verbalize your happiness.

*  When you respond to me so I feel special, it will make up for all those who, during the day, have passed me up without seeing me.

*  Don't invalidate my being by telling me that what I see or feel is insignificant or not real.  If I see and feel it--for me--it's my experience and therefore important and real!

*  Listen to me without judgment or preconception.  Being heard, like being seen, is vital.  If you truly see me and hear me as I am at the moment it is a continued affirmation of my being as we help each other to change.

*  Touch me.  Hold me.  Hug me.  My physical self is revitalized by loving nonverbal communication.

*  Respect my silences.  Alternatives for my problems, creativity, and my spiritual needs are most often realized in moments of quiet.

*  Let others know you value me.  Public affirmation of our love makes me feel special and proud.  It is good to share the joy of our relationship with others.

I know you're probably thinking that the above ideas are not really necessary between lovers.  They occur spontaneously.  Not so.  It is these very aspects of communication that are the cornerstones of a healthy loving relationship.  They also make up the most beautiful sounds in the world!
  
  

In this exploration of loving and living, bestselling author Leo Buscaglia addresses the intricacies and challenges of love relationships.  He asks such important questions as:  How do we best interweave our lives with our loved ones?  Do we change our way of relating depending on the circumstances:  If we fail in one relationship, can we succeed in others?  In this exhilarating book, Leo doesn't give pat answers.  He presents alternatives and suggests behavior that opens the way to truly loving each other.  He recalls with heartwarming detail the importance of his own family and friendships in helping him to be open to grow and to love.

   

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Stop, Look, and Listen
Leslie Levine

On the afternoon of her fortieth birthday, I called a friend to wish her well.  I asked about her plans for the rest of the day and learned that a celebration had already taken place.  In the morning, my friend, her two sisters, and her husband had risen high into the Kentucky sky in a hot-air balloon.  "What was it like?" I asked.  "Well, I don't know if I can explain it," she said.  "I was so focused on the moment, when it was actually happening."

What I learned from my friend that morning is that sometimes, to be in the moment, you must surrender to it completely.  That's not to say you won't remember it later, though you may forfeit the chance to put the moment into words.  And although I couldn't say exactly what my pal experienced that morning, I heard the thrill and awe in her voice.

To truly be present, one must live inside the moment and experience it for its own sake.  If you live outside the moment--observing and explaining--you're no longer absorbing and feeling.  The moment breaks apart and eventually disappears.  Think of a movie.  Sometimes it's impossible to explain what you've seen.  On another level, though, one you can't necessarily pinpoint, you know that once you begin dissecting your experience, you take away from it as well.

When you live inside the moment, you break ties with the past and the future.  You put aside yesterday's regrets and shelve the fears of tomorrow, because ultimately these moments have minds of their own.  And like sand through your fingertips, moments can't be held for long.  Even if you only have them by a thread, your moments are worth holding on to, especially when you put them all together.  After all, isn't a succession of moments what our lives are all about?

As hard as we try to hold onto our moments--recognizing and honoring them-- it's still tempting, habitual really, to let them go, to minimize their presence.  Instead of collecting them, we scatter our moments like marbles that roll in every direction.  It reminds me of that old game, Hot Potato.  Get rid of it, quick!  It's as if we don't know what to do with the moment, as if we really have to do something with it.

Perhaps our penchant for minimizing the moment has something to do with waiting.  As children, many of us learned exceedingly well how to wait.  Wait until you're older, wait until you're bigger, wait until you finish your homework, wait until after school, wait until after dinner.  We were told to wait a lot.  So we waited, and instead of enjoying the moment, we focused on what we were waiting for.  It's not surprising then that we tend to downgrade the moment or miss it altogether.

As I get older, the moment has become increasingly more important.  When I yield to the moment, I stop fretting and worrying about the future.  I stop guessing at what may happen and, instead, pay attention to what's right before my eyes.  Sometimes the moment exhilarates like a bright and unexpected shooting star.  Other times, the moment is painful, as if I'm getting poked repeatedly in the side.

A few years ago, I sat on my son's bedroom floor folding some baby clothes that he'd outgrown.  I could feel the sadness and regret creeping in, but I wanted so badly to feel OK about the passage of time.  I quickened my pace to push the pain away.  I wanted the moment to be over.  Suddenly, though, I looked up and noticed a very blue sky staring down through the window.  Just feel it, I said to myself, as I slowed down, trying to focus on the task in front of me.  I held a shirt close to my face and inhaled as deeply as I could.  My heart seemed to crack and fill up at the same time as feelings of hope and loss collided right there in a pile of little boy's old clothes.  When I finally got up to leave the room, I wasn't sad anymore.  Instead, I thought about the miraculous growth of a child, whose shirt size is less about loss and more about the gift of life itself.

I don't know if you can live inside each and every moment.  But when you can, try to stop, look, and listen long enough to be right where you are, not in your past, not in your future.  Just right in the middle of a split second in time.
       
   

Ice Cream for Breakfast
helps readers capture
those moments of self-indulgence
that are often gained through
appreciating life's smallest
pleasures. From enjoying a
big bowl of Rocky Road
for breakfast to reveling in
the beauty of your toes,
52 short essays reveal the
simple truth: you really
have to take care of
yourself if you're going to
take care of others.

   

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If Spring came but once in a century, instead of once a year, or burst
forth with the sound of an earthquake, and not in silence, what wonder
and expectation there would be in all hearts to behold the
miraculous change!  But now the silent succession suggests
nothing but necessity.  To most people only the cessation of the miracle
would be miraculous and the perpetual exercise of God's power
seems less wonderful than its withdrawal would be.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

   

 

The Simplest Days

Some of my favorite days are those during which I don't really do anything.  I might go for two or three walks, read for a couple of hours, go for a run, listen to music, watch a good movie (or sometimes even a bad one), and basically just avoid "accomplishing" anything.  This is very hard for me to do, though, so I don't have as many of these days as I probably should have.

There are times when I simply have to force myself not to do anything, and to relax and enjoy it while I'm not doing anything.  It seems ironic to me that something like reading, which I used to spend hours and hours doing when I was a kid, is now something of a luxury, and I feel like I'm wasting valuable time when I'm with a book enjoying a story or some interesting information.

But our lives have changed significantly in the last twenty or thirty years.  The "down" time that people used to enjoy so much simply doesn't seem to be a part of our lives like it used to be.  When I was a kid, for example, television was still limited to three networks and PBS, and we didn't watch it much at all.  The computer wasn't around yet, so all the extra tasks that now take up so much of our time--checking email, responding to email, managing bank accounts, ordering gifts, surfing the web--didn't exist, even in our imagination.

Add to that the fact that most households now have both spouses working, and we tend to have more chores and tasks facing us during our supposed "down" time when we're not at work.  If my wife weren't working, she'd have more chances to do the shopping; since she works 40 hours a week, the shopping is pretty much my job, which I do every week.  If I were a househusband, I'd have plenty of time to do the laundry and dishes; since I'm not, those are tasks that get added to the time when we're not at work, so we have less "free" time than we would have had a few decades ago when it was much more common for one spouse--usually the wife--to spend more time at home.

And even though we have both spouses working these days, most families don't have more disposable income--most families are barely getting by, many without insurance or other necessities of life.  This is partly because of the rampant consumerism that we've been pushed into by marketers and advertisers, and partly because the wages that most companies are paying are not at all generous due to the need that companies have to maximize their profits.

Our quality of life, in my opinion, has gone down pretty drastically, and if I want to have a high-quality day during which I accomplish absolutely nothing, then I really have to fight for it.  I have to ignore the messy breezeway for a day and not clean it.  I have to resist the urge I have to get online and add to the website, no matter which great idea I have--it can and it will wait for me.

I'm not an irresponsible person, and I don't leave any tasks undone if they're absolutely necessary.  But I know that more and more in my life, I have to look very hard to find the times that are simple, relaxing, and "non-productive."  And I make every effort to make some days that way.

Perhaps as I'm growing older I'm finally learning the importance of the concept of the "Sabbath."  It's always seemed rather silly to me that every member of a particular religion should have the same day as a rest day, and that may be why I didn't see the value in such a day.  But now I know that I need my personal Sabbath, whether it be on Friday or Tuesday, or even two or three days long after a long period with no Sabbath.  There's much wisdom in the idea of rest and recovery, even if we have to force ourselves to take that down time, making sure that we're not violating our own promise to ourselves to be at rest.

   
   
   

  

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Silence must be comprehended
as not solely the absence of sound.
It is the natural environment for
serenity and contemplation.  Life
without silence is life without
privacy.  The difference between
sanity and madness is the quality
of our thoughts.  Silence is on
the side of sanity.

Norman Cousins

  
Two years ago I gave a gift--larger than one I would normally do without asking Seymour, my husband--to a cause I support.  I decided I would balance my unilateral decision by not buying fresh flowers on Friday afternoon for the next year, a long-standing habit pleasing primarily to me.  "You really can buy flowers," Seymour said when I told him my plan.  "It's fine about the gift.  You don't need to balance."

It's been a good practice, though.  I pass the flower shop as I do my Friday shopping.  I stop to admire the display.  I watch the flowers change with the seasons.  Often I feel like buying some.  I listen to my mind make up reasons:  "It's been more than a year now."  "These are so pretty!" "Tom and Mary are coming for dinner."  "I really should be supporting the local flower growers."  So far, I pass them by.  The important lesson, one that is still working, happens when I am halfway down the street and realize that the tug at my heart that was present in front of the flowers is no longer there.  Life is easier without imperatives.

Sylvia Boorstein
   

  

A life of love is difficult, but it is not a bleak or unrewarding life.
In fact, it is the only true human and happy life, for it is filled
with concerns that are as deep as life, as wide as the whole world,
and as far reaching as eternity.  It is only when we have consented
to love, and have agreed to forget ourselves, that we can find
our fulfillment.  This fulfillment will come unperceived and mysterious like
the grace of God, but we will recognize it and it will be recognized in us.

John Powell

    

  

   

A new way of reading has been here for a while now.  And while we still love our books, if you're like many people, you get tired of lugging around the books that sometimes weigh more than anything else we carry.  Imagine carrying hundreds of books--novels, self-help, history, travel, you name it--and reading them comfortably on a no-glare screen, setting things like text size to your own preferences.  It's a great experience, and it's available to us now for less than the cost of ten books.  And there are plenty of free books to download, especially timeless classics--you can easily get enough free books to pay for the Kindle.  Give yourself the gift of wonderful literature that you can easily bring with you, wherever you go!

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