13 March 2018      

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We sincerely hope that you enjoy what you find here, and that you find
something that's both interesting and relevant to you in your life today.

Seeing the Magnificence
Laura Berman Fortgang

Taking Your Fun Every Day as You
Do Your Work     Orison Swett Marden

That's Wonderful!  (Or Not)
tom walsh

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If you are seeking creative ideas, go out walking.
Angels whisper to a person when one goes for a walk.

Raymond Inmon

The successful person is the individual who forms the habit of doing what the failing person doesn't like to do.

Donald Riggs

Who builds a church within their hearts
And takes it with them everywhere
Is holier far than they whose church
Is but a one-day house of prayer.

Morris Abel Beer

  

Seeing the Magnificence
Laura Berman Fortgang

Usually, I find it easy to find the divine in strangers I meet along my path.  It may be on an airplane, at the mall, on a campground--just anywhere.  I find it easy to connect with them, usually being the one who starts the conversation especially if I see them looking awkward wondering if they should say something.  I can find something in them across any cultural, racial, or physical boundaries to connect with them on.  As my eyes meet theirs and a smile warms my face, it's almost as if my upturned expression turns on a faucet that empties love into my heart.  Much more difficult is finding the divine in those who test my patience and goodwill.

When I lived in my studio on Twenty-third Street in New York City, I had a neighbor who was very elusive.  Our apartments were separated only by an elevator shaft, yet we never spoke to each other.  She would rush into her apartment and close the door to avoid eye contact with me, and she often left things that got in my way in the narrow hallway.  She was a chubby woman in her forties with big blue eyes and curly chestnut hair, who always seemed distracted, in a rush, and somewhat messy and eccentric.  I had some animosity toward her only because at the time it was hard not to take it personally that she never looked up to say hello.  I didn't hate her, but I just never gave any thought to her behavior other than being annoyed by it.

One winter in particular, I happened to casually notice that the hats or head scarves my neighbor usually wore no longer had chestnut curls falling from them.  There was no evidence of her head being shaved; her hair had clearly fallen out.

"Oh my God," I remember thinking.  "She's got cancer!"

After I made that discovery, the opportunity to run into her had not come up until one night, when I went to throw the trash into the incinerator.  I found her sitting in the stairwell smoking a cigarette.

"I've never seen you smoke," I said.

"It's not a good time to start," she said.  "I wanted to keep the smoke out of the apartment.  You know, I am really sorry for all the stuff I leave in the hallway sometimes.  I had to lose a breast to figure out it was time to let go of some of the stuff in my apartment."

I didn't know how to react at first.

"You don't have to apologize."  I could feel shame washing over me as I realized I had known nothing of this woman's pain.

"I noticed you had lost your hair, but I had no idea you had cancer.  I'm so sorry."

"It's okay," she said.  "I am going to be all right.  But I am learning so much and I know this happened to me because I can't let go of anything.  I can't let you in to see, but my apartment is floor-to-ceiling shoes, furniture, newspapers, and boxes, with a few little pathways to walk through.  I know I have to clear this place out."

I don't remember how the conversation ended that night, but I do remember that we went on to be friendly with each other.  We found that we shared a religious upbringing and a love of vintage shoes and all things bohemian.  She moved away a couple of years later, and while we never became close enough that we might have kept in touch, her presence had taught me so much.  Through the realization that her earlier behavior had had absolutely nothing to do with me, I learned that taking personally such small things as a failure to say hello was a waste of energy.  If I had known to see more and look more deeply, I may have recognized her magnificence sooner.  She was a sweet person with a tough life.  I felt so bad for having ever been annoyed with her.  If I had asked about the stuff in the hall, I might have learned about her living conditions earlier and maybe could have helped her.  Her perfection was a given, but I never bothered to look.

more on perspective

   

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Taking Your Fun Every Day as You Do Your Work
Orison Swett Marden

Ten things are necessary for happiness in this life, the first being a good digestion, and the other nine,--money; so at least it is said by our modern philosophers. Yet the author of "A Gentle Life" speaks more truly in saying that the Divine creation includes thousands of superfluous joys which are totally unnecessary to the bare support of life.

They alone are happy people who have learned to extract happiness, not from ideal conditions, but from the actual ones around them.  The people who have mastered the secret will not wait for ideal surroundings; they will not wait until next year, next decade, until they get rich, until they can travel abroad, until they can afford to surround themselves with works of the great masters; but they will make the most out of life to-day, where they are.

"Why thus longing, thus forever sighing,
     
For the far-off, unattained and dim,
While the beautiful, all round thee lying,
      Offers up its low, perpetual hymn?

"Happy the people, and happy they alone,
      They who can call to-day their own;
They who, secure within themselves, can say:
      'To-morrow, do thy worst, for I have lived to-day!'"

Paradise is here or nowhere: you must take your joy with you or you will never find it.

It is after business hours, not in them, that we break down. We must, like Philip Armour, turn the key on business when we leave it, and at once unlock the doors of some wholesome recreation. Dr. Lyman Beecher used to divert himself with a violin. He had a regular system of what he called "unwinding," thus relieving the great strain put upon him.

"A person," says Dr. Johnson, "should spend part of his or her time with the laughers."

Humor was Lincoln's life-preserver, as it has been of thousands of others. "If it were not for this," he used to say, "I should die." His jests and quaint stories lighted the gloom of dark hours of national peril.

"Next to virtue," said Agnes Strickland, "the fun in this world is what we can least spare."

"When the harness is off," said Judge Haliburton, "a critter likes to kick up his heels."

"I have fun from morning till night," said the editor Charles A. Dana to a friend who was growing prematurely old. "Do you read novels, and play billiards, and walk a great deal?"

Gladstone early formed a habit of looking on the bright side of things, and never lost a moment's sleep by worrying about public business.

There are many out-of-door sports, and the very presence of nature is to many a great joy.  How true it is that, if we are cheerful and contented, all nature smiles with us,--the air seems more balmy, the sky more clear, the earth has a brighter green, the trees have a richer foliage, the flowers are more fragrant, the birds sing more sweetly, and the sun, moon, and stars all appear more beautiful. "It is a grand thing to live, to open the eyes in the morning and look out upon the world, to drink in the pure air and enjoy the sweet sunshine, to feel the pulse bound, and the being thrill with the consciousness of strength and power in every nerve; it is a good thing simply to be alive, and it is a good world we live in, in spite of the abuse we are fond of giving it."

"I love to hear the bee sing amid the blossoms sunny;
To me his drowsy melody is sweeter than his honey:
      For, while the shades are shifting
        Along the path to noon,
      My happy brain goes drifting
        To dreamland on his tune.

"I love to hear the wind blow amid the blushing petals,
And when a fragile flower falls, to watch it as it settles;
      And view each leaflet falling
        Upon the emerald turf,
      With idle mind recalling
        The bubbles on the surf.

"I love to lie upon the grass, and let my glances wander
Earthward and skyward there; while peacefully I ponder
      How much of purest pleasure
        Earth holds for his delight
      Who takes life's cup to measure
        Naught but its blessings bright."

Upon every side of us are to be found what one has happily called--UNWORKED JOY MINES.  And those who go "prospecting" to see what they can daily discover are wise people, training their eye to see beauty in everything and everywhere.

"One ought, every day," says Goethe, "at least to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture, and, if it were possible, to speak a few reasonable words." And if this be good for one's self, why not try the song, the poem, the picture, and the good words, on some one else?

Shall music and poetry die out of you while you are struggling for that which can never enrich the character, nor add to the soul's worth?  Shall a disciplined imagination fill the mind with beautiful pictures?  Those who have intellectual resources to fall back upon will not lack for daily recreation most wholesome.

It was a remark of Archbishop Whately that we ought not only to cultivate the cornfields of the mind, but the pleasure-grounds also. A well-balanced life is a cheerful life; a happy union of fine qualities and unruffled temper, a clear judgment, and well-proportioned faculties.

In a corner of his desk, Lincoln kept a copy of the latest humorous work; and it was frequently his habit, when fatigued, annoyed, or depressed, to take this up, and read a chapter with great relief. Clean, sensible wit, or sheer nonsense,--anything to provoke mirth and make a man jollier,--this, too, is a gift from Heaven.

In the world of books, what is grand and inspiring may easily become a part of every person's life.  A fondness for good literature, for good fiction, for travel, for history, and for biography,--what is better than this?
   

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Do you know the more I look into life, the more things it seems to me
I can successfully lack--and continue to grow happier.  How many kinds
of food I do not need, or cooks to cook them, how much curious clothing
or tailors to make it, how many books I have never read, and pictures
that are not worthwhile!  The farther I run, the more I feel like casting
aside all such impediments--lest I fail to arrive at the far goal of my endeavor.

David Grayson

   

 
That's Wonderful! (or Not)

I've been in many situations in which I've watched people celebrate the mediocre and even the poor job.  I've been at schools in which students are praised with words like "You did a wonderful job" just because they did something better than they did it the last time, but by no means did they accomplish something excellent, something extraordinary.  It's a tendency that bothers me greatly, for while we think that it's helping a person's self-esteem to praise them highly, what it's actually doing is teaching that person that mediocre work is not just acceptable, but it's something to be praised.

I definitely believe in giving praise where praise is due.  And if someone does a good job, then I firmly believe that it's important that we acknowledge that fact with a "good job."  However, there's a huge difference between good and wonderful, and it seems that fewer people are able to recognize that difference when they see it, and they're teaching young people the wrong things about what constitutes "excellent."

The problem with this tendency is that it keeps young people from learning just what "excellent" really means.  The word obviously is derived from the verb "to excel," which means to do something better than others do the same thing.  I've worked with many young people who experience great disappointment and frustration when they've done somewhat decent work and have expected a high grade for it.  I even have students who think that they should get an "A" just because they did an assignment.  Because others have allowed them to believe that they can be rewarded for doing just normal work, they aren't able to deal effectively with the results of being told their work is decent--it causes them to experience extremely negative feelings.

All we have to do is look to athletics for a good example.  In competitions, "excellent" is obvious, whereas "okay" is also obvious.  For the most part, young people are able to get a realistic idea of where they stand.  Of course, since some of them are at very small schools, the level of competition is much lower, and this presents a problem, also.  What's excellent in a track meet for small schools, for example, probably wouldn't even make the cut for a track meet for large schools.

So what?  To me it seems very clear that one of the most important things that we can do for our young people is to give them an accurate idea of their abilities.  We can still praise, and we can still encourage, but if we start gushing, we could easily be doing more harm than good.  Young people who grow up knowing that excellence takes extra work and extra dedication are much more likely to reach excellence in their work and their hobbies, for they won't have grown up thinking that they can win praise and accolades for mediocre work.  I can't tell you how many students in my English classes in college ended up getting C's when they had never gotten below an A in high school.

Help our young people to have an accurate idea of their skills and potential.  As hard as it is, withhold the claims of "that's a wonderful job" for the truly wonderful jobs--you can say "You did well" and still help someone to feel good about themselves.  What our young learn from us sticks with them for a very long time, and we want that to be something helpful, not something harmful.
   

   
More on encouragement.

   
   

  

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While ideas such as discipline and focus are undeniably important, so is the idea of having fun. With a small amount of effort, we can extract all the fun and joy out of most parts of our lives--our relationships, our work, even our leisure time.  We can put so many restrictions and should's on everything we do that our very lives become dull, overly ponderous, and routine.  Before long, we find ourselves living up to a set of rules--and we're not certain where the rules came from or whose they are. Let yourself go.  Have a little fun with life.  Or, have a lot of fun with life.  If you've spent years being extremely disciplined, reliable, and somber, maybe part of achieving balance is having a decade of fun.

Melody Beattie

  
Look at life through the windshield, not the rearview mirror.

My sister Barbara tried to teach me this lesson more than twenty years ago.  At the time, she was planning her wedding under what I can only describe as bittersweet circumstances.  On the one hand, my sister was about to realize a life-long dream:  at age thirty-eight, she was about to marry the man she had been in love with since they were teenagers.  On the other, she had just been diagnosed with colon cancer. . . .

"What good would it do to be angry, Patsy?" she said gently.  "I can't change the past and I can't control the future.  I can, however, make the most of the present.  Shot and I are together now.  At this moment.  And, if you think about it, this moment is all any of us really has."

The ability to live fully in the moment--in the time and place we are right now--is one of the greatest secrets I know of living joyfully.  Because once you grasp it, freedom is very close.  You stop worrying about the past and stressing out about the future.  Enjoying life--not agonizing about what happened yesterday or what might happen tomorrow--becomes your priority.  Your days become a gift, not a grind.

Patti LaBelle
As by Fire
Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Sometimes I feel so passionate a yearning
For spiritual perfection here below,
This vigorous frame, with healthful fervor burning,
Seems my determined foe,

So actively it makes a stern resistance,
So cruelly sometimes it wages war
Against a wholly spiritual existence
Which I am striving for.

It interrupts my soul's intense devotions;
Some hope it strangles, of divinest birth,
With a swift rush of violent emotions
Which link me to the earth.

It is as if two mortal foes contended
Within my bosom in a deadly strife,
One for the loftier aims for souls intended,
One for the earthly life.

And yet I know this very war within me,
Which brings out all my will-power and control,
This very conflict at the last shall win me
The loved and longed-for goal.

The very fire which seems sometimes so cruel
Is the white light that shows me my own strength.
A furnace, fed by the divinest fuel,
It may become at length.

Ah! when in the immortal ranks enlisted,
I sometimes wonder if we shall not find
That not by deeds, but by what we've resisted,
Our places are assigned.
   

  

Everybody avoids the company of those who are always grumbling, who are
full of "ifs" and "buts," and "I told you so's."  We like the people who always
look toward the sun, whether it shines or not.  It is the cheerful, hopeful people
we go to for sympathy and assistance; not the carping, gloomy critics,--who
always think it is going to rain, and that we are going to have a terribly hot
summer, or a fearful thunder-storm, or who are forever complaining of hard
times and their hard lot.  It is the bright, cheerful, hopeful, contented people
who makes their ways, who are respected and admired.
Gloom and depression not only take much out of life, but detract greatly
from the chances of winning success.  It is the bright and cheerful
spirit that wins the final triumph.

Orison Swett Marden

    

  

   

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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