May 31, 2004
A friend asked me, ďAre there such things as Messengers?Ē The first thought that came to me was, ďYes, Angels are messengers.Ē But then she went on to explain her experiences and involvement with other people. She said her life was becoming very strange, because she kept getting involved in strange situations, even with complete strangers. She felt in her heart a need and followed it. She began seeing a pattern because in each case there was a specific thing she was able to help with. In a sense she was awed and questioning what it was she was feeling.
I was walking through the skyway between buildings in downtown and I felt this need to turn around and go a different route. I didnít argue I just went with it. I just knew that I was going to go the other way. Thatís what it feels like when God speaks to me. I then started to wonder what was up ahead. Then I ran into a friend who was very frustrated by a computer problem she was having. Her supervisor was pressuring her to get something done and was almost belittling her because she couldnít do it faster. I took some time to work through the problems with her and see if we could find a solution. We did not really resolve the problem with the software but we exhausted all the alternatives. Eventually she got it done the slow way, but the main benefit was that she no longer felt alone. Her confidence was back and she knew that it wasnít just her incompetence. She is pretty knowledgeable with computers so I didnít think that was the case but her supervisor made her feel incompetent.
My conclusion is that we are all messengers but sometimes in our interactions with others we deliver the wrong mail, we forget we are messengers or choose not to deliver. Our biggest and most important message is that we care about and love each other
May 30, 2004
Use the Sidewalk!
The other morning when I was biking into work it was beautiful. It was cool but not cold, sunny and quiet. My ride was about 7 miles and it felt good. As I was riding I could see the river and birds flying along and a few cars passed me. I had just ridden across a bridge, and there was no shoulder. Although this road has a bike trail along most of it, there are places like this where there is no bike path. I was biking along and a few cars came up behind me on their way to work, I presumed. There was one person driving a truck who was tailgating the others. One car after another swung out around me and passed by. When this truck passed me, someone rolled down the window and shouted, ďUse the Sidewalk!!!Ē
My first reaction was surprise, then I thought, ďwhat a jerk.Ē Regardless of whether there was a bike path or not, unless itís posted bikes are allowed to ride on the roads. At that moment I thought that it would be interesting to have a tape recorder and play back his voice to him some day when heís sitting in church or just after someone was rude to him. The funny thing is, other than these few cars at this time of day, there was almost no traffic on this road. Going toward downtown there was no traffic coming at us either, except for a few more people on bikes enjoying the morning.
I can understand that commuterís frustration and impatience. Traffic stinks sometimes, itís dangerous, and people drive like maniacs. When we are running late it causes us to be tense. Road rage seems to be increasing all over the country. Iíve been frustrated by delays in the past also. In todayís society we too often donít leave ourselves enough time to get where we need to be. But this is not a problem I can help that driver with. I can only keep biking and hope that he has a change of heart. I can also choose how I react to people like that and what it does to me.
I bike for exercise and for clean air. I combine commuting to and from work with my exercise and at the same time Iím reducing pollution and helping our environment. One personís negative attitude does not negate the benefits of biking for me.
There is an ancient belief that says each of us gets to experience all of our actions and attitudes, from the recipients viewpoint. Indeed! What if thatís already happening? That guy yelling at me was probably the attitude I gave out many years ago toward a biker that was holding up traffic and making me late. My attitude toward bikers didnít change until I became one and saw how dangerous it is on our streets. It helps to Ďput yourself in their shoes,í before yelling, ďUse the sidewalk!Ē
May 29, 2004
The unfolding of our lives
A beautiful flower is holding its secret in, preparing to burst open, then throwing itís petals wide, reaching out to the sunshine in a radiant explosion of color and life. It is a celebration of Life and Joy.
During a discussion with some friends it could have seemed like we were talking about art. But art was not really our topic. It sounded like it, but there were underlying secrets ready to open up in our hearts and minds, revealing to us the beauty and joy in life.
For me Art is a process. It is a way of seeing things from different points of view. It is learning techniques and applying tools to achieve a result that is not yet revealed. When I reach the end of the creation process, the painting or other artwork is a wonder to behold for me, yet it no longer has the same meaning for me. Now it expresses a message. It shows the beauty of its design. The finished product is radiant in itís own way, and people, including myself, get a certain amount of joy from looking at it. Each person can draw their own meaning, value and appreciation from the artwork, just as we look at the beauty of flowers where they bloom or adorn our tables and our windows and desks. We can look at them and appreciate them. It stimulates us.
I give away almost all of my artwork. I create beautifully hand carved spoons for my mother, I dye Ukrainian Easter eggs for my friends and I paint pictures for family and others. But the real joy for me is the process of creating the art. It is the unfolding of the petals to reveal the beauty hidden inside. It is like the process of life.
At first it seemed that we were talking about art, but this conversation was really about struggles that most of us have had in life. It was a process of discovery and finding creative, loving solutions. The beauty of life is revealed in the process of working through the design, finding solutions, applying the tools and techniques we learn. The joy in living really is in the process of living and when we bloom it is an expression of what we are and is a result of what we went through.
May 28, 2004
In the Zone - Clearing the Clutter
I have been easily distracted many times and realized that I was out of time to complete something I had started. Part of it was lack of discipline and part of it was taking on too much. I fill up my time and never have a lack of things I feel are important to do. Last night I worked, then came home, ate dinner and talked with my father-in-law for a little while, then sat down at the computer to go into a scheduled chat session. I knew there was purpose in chatting last night and felt like there were some clear benefits to the discussion. However, I did not get my homework done for a summer class I am taking.
It should have been done I suppose by that time already, but I have a lot going on. This is not a new dilemma for many people. Prioritizing our time can be a challenge. During Finals time, I saw classmates skip one class so they could cram for another. I understand that totally.
But last night after clearing out everything that was gnawing on my mind, and weighing on my heart, I dug into my homework. I worked until 3am and finished it. It was amazing! I was focused and learned a lot.
I noticed something else. When Iím out biking a long distance, after about seven miles I get into a rhythm and thirteen miles doesnít seem any further. Iím not thinking about anything except the pumping of my legs and the road. I find the rhythm in the beat of my heart and the steady breathing. The rest of the world passes by as I push on.
Worry is self destructive. Sometimes getting in the Zone and leaving external worries on the roadside is very productive.
Sometimes we need to do that spiritually too. It feels good to get in the zone and clear our mind and hearts of clutter.
May 27, 2004
Toys to play with
Today I went to the Post Office to mail a package to my friendís daughter who lives in India. He has a little girl who is 3 years old that almost died when she was 1 from TB. At that time I made a decision to help them buy medicine for their little girl so I began sending a small amount of money to India each month. That saved her life, which is good, but to me there was something else needed. A great reward came to me when I received a picture of her holding a large pink stuffed elephant toy that was almost as big as her, which I had sent last year. She was grinning from ear to ear and squeezing the elephant with her tiny arms. Everyone is a human being. That little girl had no toys, and had spent her entire life to that point, sick. She did not just need medicine, she needed joy and hope and toys to play with.
When I was at the post office mailing a package today, I talked with the cashier about the cost of living in different locations in the world. She was from Ethiopia and said that 100 dollars there is like 500 US dollars here. I told her that 100 dollars in India is two months rent plus groceries for a family of 3. My friend and his wife and daughter live in a house with a dirt floor and a grass roof.
This helps us keep things in perspective. Especially when we complain about trivial things. That little girl could not help where she was born. It was not a personal choice gone bad. Often people who are not suffering have the attitude that those who are deserve it. I once heard a good phrase that went something like this: ĎWe are not giving something of ours to them, we are giving back what belongs to them.í
It doesnít have to be India or Africa. It could be right in our own neighborhoods. Instead of insulating ourselves each of us can open up and see the problems and suffering around us and do something. It doesnít even have to be a lot. just something.
One of the greatest deceptions in this world is that there is not enough for everyone. There is enough of everything for the entire world if we stop taking more than what we need and share what we have. The toys I sent were used by my daughter when she was little, so it cost me very little to make a little girl smile from ear to ear. That is priceless.
Each of us has the potential to make a difference in this world and can find our unique way to leave it a little better than we found it. In this case it was toys to play with.
May 26, 2004
How many Students does it take to wake up a college Campus?
I read an article in the Universityís paper about rape on the campus. The headline talked about the second reported rape of the year, but really was about rape and what to do about it if you are a victim. One of the statements that shocked me was, ďmore than 1,000 University women are victims of an actual or an attempted rape in a single academic year. Approximately 170 men are victims of the same crime.Ē
So, there are more than 1,170 victims of rape or attempted rape in one academic year. I told a friend about this, who wanted to know how many total students there were on campus and what the percentage was of the total student population. Somehow that didnít make me feel any better about the situation.
Rape is a sexual assault, an act of power, control and violence. How many is too many? There should not be any rapes on campus, in our communities or in our country. We have to look at the culture and ourselves to see what we are creating.
Most rapes are committed by people who the victim knows. We always worry about women walking alone at night, which is a valid fear, but even more troubling and fearful than a stranger is a person we know who might be harboring attitudes that would lead them to commit an act of sexual violence.
One rape is too many. If we open our eyes we can see it, and open our hearts we can know it. What will it take to change our campus and culture and society? Awareness and education is a good start.
May 25, 2004
Everything happens in the right time. Did you ever try to do something, and feel like there are endless road blocks and delays? Or you try something and it seems like all the doors are opening and everything goes smoothly? It could be an issue of Timing. ďFor everything there is a season.Ē
Thank God for events in my life that happen in the perfect time. I did not always recognize the perfect time for some things, but now I look for it. I pray for it. And more and more I am opening up to seeing the best timing for something.
Iíve been thinking about a project that I want to do, but now is not the right time. I have to keep working on the idea and clear up my schedule before I become deeply involved in it.
I was talking with a friend this afternoon and she told me, ďThere is never a lack of things to do!Ē Which is true. We always manage to fill up our time so it becomes a matter of priorities and purpose. And itís All in the right timing just as her visit was perfect timing to add her thoughts to this piece of writing.
May 24, 2004
Life without Bad guys
Today a coworker told me about how newer cars are coming out with tracking capability so someone can tell where you are at any given moment. She said this would be a great feature if you were stranded. I agree. Even Cell-phones are a huge blessing in case we break down or are running late or canít find a phone to check on our children. Some of the newer technology is amazing. Talking to someone on the other side of the world with a webcam and microphone is amazing. These are tools to use while we are in the process of living our lives. Some help us greatly, some are just conveniences and some are luxury.
Another coworker said that she was worried about people tracking her every move with this technology. At first she said, ďNo, Iím not doing anything wrong, I have nothing to hide. Why would they want to track me? They would be bored stiff.Ē This is a valid point too. Those that are not doing anything wrong donít usually have to fear the law. They have nothing to hide. This is an attitude of ďGo ahead and search me at the airport, I donít have any concealed weapons.Ē But then she went on to explain why she was worried about people tracking her every move. In the wrong hands it takes away our privacy, leaves us vulnerable to discrimination and leads to a loss of power to make our own choices. Power and Control over other people. According to her, even invasive information gathering for advertising purposes is loss of privacy and freedom.
The other day I got an email from a friend about the new Microchip technology, used currently for pets and livestock to identify them. She was worried that it would be used next in Human beings as a way to track them. And itís only a short step for the imagination to realize that this could be used to control people. She is not alone in that fear. Many people share that fear. They believe that once this innocuous little chip is accepted for tracking sex offenders and other socially unacceptable people, then itís only a matter of time until the Government mandates chipping for everyone. Letís call it Census tracker.
Later I met another friend in the park for lunch and he asked if I had read George Orwellís 1984í He was saying that I should because itís even more pertinent today. I found it online at http://www.literature-web.net/orwell/1984 And http://www.gerenser.com/1984/
In an age when our Country, and many others, have to deal with the reality of terrorist attacks Itís easy to fan the fire of fear. We allow the curtailing of freedom and Privacy In the name of Security. But how far does it go? Is Big Brother watching and forcing me to conform?
We can muse, wouldnít it be really nice if none of that was necessary? If we had a life without bad guys? Wouldnít it be great if people did not embezzle from the United Way? Wouldnít it be great if a Companyís owners did not fraudulently bill the government for cleaning up after a tornado? Wouldnít it be great if a sister could find a better way to deal with her brother than shoot him? Wouldnít it be great if the brother could find a way to not anger his sister? Wouldnít it be great if people in a company wouldnít haul empty fuel trucks across a desert? Wouldnít it be great if the bus strike didnít happen and the two sides could have been serious about negotiations that were in everyoneís best interest? Wouldnít it be great if we didnít have other people in other countries and cultures hate Americans?
I have to ask, who are the Bad guys? In most cases itís not George Orwellís Big Brother, itís ourselves. Itís people making bad choices. Do you think we would agree to spend our tax dollars on our large police forces if there were not people committing crimes? Itís a reactionary process. Someone does something unacceptable and we beef up security to prevent it. But it wonít solve the problem until we get rid of the bad guys. The bad guys are each of us when we make bad choices. We have to get to the root of the problems in society to heal them. What would life be like if we didnít beat our women or treat them like property? What would life be like if we didnít cheat on our taxes or over inflate the value of something when we sold it? We can make a difference in this world, not by getting rid of the Ďbad guysí but by focusing on what works.
How about teaching our business students about Ethical business practices, and making that the most important thing they learn. How about teaching our children and leading by example, the dangers of alcohol and drug abuse? How about teaching our children and leading by example, having dignity and respect for all human beings? How about really making sure that no person on the planet is left behind? A lot of it depends on what we value in life. If we value Peace and Love for each other, fairness, and real justice, and when we value each other as human beings, then we wonít have to wonder what life without bad guys is like. Weíll be living it.
May 23, 2004
Meeting on the Bus
When I was riding the bus to class I met a man who was interested in Biking. Since I did not want to ride my bike that many miles in one day, I put it on the busí bike rack on the front of the bus before boarding. Seeing me with my bike was enough of an icebreaker for this man to talk to me about biking. It was a good conversation and he gave me a few tips and I learned a few things about bikes that I never knew. I also learned that the route I was riding had a posted speed limit, and I was violating that by riding too fast. When I think about this, itís my willingness to be open and forthcoming that led to a good conversation and connection with another human being and I learned a valuable lesson. I had seen the 10MPH speed limit posted on the bike trail before. My reason for riding on the trail instead of the street was based on a faulty view. I thought it was safer there riding in the dark than on the streets with the cars. It was a dedicated trail for bikes and pedestrians. However I was violating the speed limit by riding over 10MPH on the trail, which is not hard to do on a bike. My friend Dan told me he runs on that trail over 10MPH. Also I realized that a lot of pedestrians use that trail at night and it was difficult for me to see them. But the conversation on the bus made me more aware of what I was doing. Because of this, when I rode my bike along that route after class, I paid closer attention to my surroundings and noticed that there was a marked bike lane on the shoulder of the road. I had not seen the ďbike onlyĒ markings on the street before. Now I can ride that route as fast as I want with a clear conscience and within the law. That fits more with who I am and feels better.
What I have learned about God, is that God is always talking to us and that God speaks to our hearts. This meeting on the bus touched my heart and made me change what I was doing. We have to be willing to listen to the Spirit of God talking to us in many forms. Even through a meeting of a complete stranger on the bus.
May 22, 2004
I don't want to play 20 Questions!
There was a woman who went to a psychic for a psychic reading and the psychic started talking to her. When the psychic asked her a few questions, the woman became upset and said shortly, ďI donít want to turn this into a game of 20 questions!Ē Then she added, ďNo offense, but Iím a private person.Ē
The Psychic understood how she felt but at the same time she was crying out for someone to listen to her. The psychic told her that a few questions were normal to verify feelings. The woman replied, ďItís ok. No worries, never mind.Ē They never got to the heart of what was troubling her. The psychic then asked her about her work and she said it was Ďa touchy subjectí and she did not want to talk about it. She only wanted a reading about her boyfriend on the Internet who was not talking to her since they had a serious discussion about meeting for the first time. She did not want to open up and get personal, let alone deal with the issues that were causing her suffering, but she wanted an answer from a psychic about her boyfriend. She never got to the answers because of her preconceived ideas about how psychics should act and respond and she wanted the answer she was willing to hear. So many people do not want to face their own fears and attitudes and donít want to take responsibility for their own choices. So they turn to someone like a psychic for insight and guidance. If someone else is telling us what we feel and who we are, then we are relieved of that responsibility. When we refuse to play 20 questions with ourselves, and we turn over our responsibilities to others, then we are closing off our chances for real growth and healing. All of our experiences exist for a reason, and wisdom is there for us when we are ready to look inside ourselves and change.
May 21, 2004
Blown Off Course!
When I was preparing my mind today for the course I would be riding my bike, I did not realize that it was an eventful choice. I was indecisive about it right up until I got on my bike and started riding. I decided to take a longer route that would give me a little more exercise and vary my routine.
The route took me South for about a mile then turned West. As I rounded the corner I was met with a very powerful head-on wind. By the time I traveled another quarter mile the wind was stronger and I was tired already. This part of the route was familiar to me and I knew a shortcut home so I decided to cut the ride short. There would be other days for long rides I rationalized. I really didnít feel like riding today but I knew that I would have enjoyed the ride once I was out there and committed to it. I ended up cutting my route down to about a third of what I had chosen to ride initially.
When I was only about a block from my house, I noticed an old friend I had not seen in a very long time out in her yard pulling weeds. Still gasping for breath, I pulled up and called to her.
We talked for about 20 minutes and I felt like it was a liberating experience for both of us. She needed to get a few things out of herself and felt alone in some of the struggles she was having. After I returned home, I reflected on what had happened. Thatís when I realized that I had not been blown off course at all! I was blown Ďoní course. I thought, ďGod works in mysterious ways.Ē It was still up to me to be observant and see my friend in her yard and choose to stop. But I also laughed and thought that if didnít stop I probably would have had a flat tire right there!
May 20, 2004
No-one wants to be lonely
Many people have a fear of Nursing homes. Many people have problems adjusting when their Spouse dies or when their children grow up and leave the home. During crisis we often feel like we are the only ones who are facing those challenges. I read yesterday that one of the biggest problems in marriage is loneliness. People can be lonely even when surrounded by others.
This morning as I was getting ready to leave for work, I observed our dog. She likes to be close to us and get attention from us. Itís kind of funny, sometimes I canít even type on the keyboard because she sticks her nose under my arm to get me to pet her. This morning she was following me around from room to room and when I went outside to get my bike out of the garage, she came out with me and was over by the garage with me, watching me. She followed me back into the house and sat next to me while I was making my lunch. When I was ready to leave, she went into the bathroom and laid down on the rug. I think she feels safer in there. She always goes there when itís thundering outside. You might think Iím going to tell you how lonely she is and doesnít like to be left alone. I think thatís part of her personality, but where Iím going with this is really about my relationship with my wife. After I arrived at work I called her to chat. We talked about the dog and what my observations were. She was happy to hear that someone else noticed the same things. We talked about how our dog has changed since we got her from the humane society 6 months ago. We give our dog so much love and attention that she's probably getting spoiled now. haha.
We all want to be loved and accepted and have someone to share our thoughts with. We donít feel alone when people can really see our point of view. Just sharing our observations with each other and finding out that someone else feels the same way is a big part of feeling together.
No-one wants to be lonely. We can really listen to each other. This is something we can do. In the process we feel a little more connected.
May 19, 2004
Upsetting our Balance
This morning when I woke up I was very tired. Last night I worked until 9:15pm, drove for a half an hour to get home, then went online to meet some new friends in their chat room and do some other work. I had set a limit to how long I was going to be online so I could still get enough sleep. However when I started talking with several people I realized that there was a need to keep talking. It was very good and was a blessing to all of us. But I went to bed at Midnight. One problem though, was that I still had to get up at 5am to keep a commitment with my daughter. So I got up with only 5 hours of sleep.
For some people 5 hours of sleep is enough, but I discovered a long time ago that my body and mind doesnít function well on less than 7. There are exceptions of course, but in general I need a minimum number of hours of sleep to maintain proper balance. Otherwise the day can get really long! Staying up late was something I chose to do, but it upset my balance and effected my levels of energy for the day.
One morning at about 7am when I was getting ready for work it was raining outside. Every day I ride my bike to and from work. That day I did not feel like getting wet, but the thought of going without exercise for the day was kind of a let-down. My body is starting to get stronger and Iím starting to enjoy the progress and the experience of riding daily. I know that one day does not make a huge difference but if it were to rain two days in a row, Iíd be missing two days of exercise. Normally I would have ridden in the rain, since I discovered that I donít melt haha. But I was tired that day also and my motivation sagged. I decided to take the day off from riding. I was ok with that, but I also knew I had to regain my balance and energy levels.
Physical imbalance can lead to emotional imbalance. My motivational levels dropped when I was tired and I did something I wouldnít normally do; skip a day of exercise. I discovered that much of my past was based on decisions made when I was out of balance. When I was younger I suffered a lot from hangovers and late nights. The next day I was worthless.
A friend told me not too long ago about how he stayed up all night working on a project and the next day he had to go help a friend chop and split wood. He was not much help to his friend. Luckily his friend saw it and made him go lie on the couch for a couple of hours. He was out of balance.
It seems that the older we get the more important our physical and mental balance becomes. If we want to enjoy and live fully each day, it helps to understand and respect our balance. When we upset it, we miss out on part of the joy in living.
May 18, 2004
Making it through something tough
Isnít it funny how some of our fondest and most vivid memories are the ones where we have just overcome something difficult or challenging and emerge victorious? We remember clearly the struggles and battles we face, and the results of working through it. It adds to our growth, it adds to our wisdom, and it makes us happier. Facing tough experiences in life doesnít seem like fun while we are in the middle of it, but rising out of the ashes like the phoenix, we realize a much greater purpose behind those struggles; That is a transformation of our hearts and minds into something new.
Today A friend was talking enthusiastically about an outdoor biking adventure he did with his daughter. He said the first day was cloudy and heavy with the feeling of doom to their trip. They started out and no more than 10 miles into it, it started to rain. It rained harder and by the end of the day it was still raining. It wasnít a warm rain either. The temperature for the day did not reach the expected 65 degrees. It was much colder. They finally reached their first destination and they ate hot soup and hot sandwiches. They were drenched. The second day was the same, and their spirits began to droop and they wished they had not come on the trip. They asked themselves, ďwhy are we doing this again?Ē Many people dropped out that day, but he and his daughter stuck with it, determined to finish. But on the third day everything looked better. The sun broke through the clouds and gradually warmed up the air and their enthusiasm. They didnít give up and they made it through something many people gave up on. They were exhilarated by what they had just done and it effected the rest of their adventure. Somehow they were changed by this difficult experience.
I smoked for about 10-15 years and tried several times to quit. I knew it was bad for me, I felt itís effects. Logically I knew it was robbing my brain of vital oxygen, weakening my lung power and overall reducing my vitality, but I could not overcome this addiction. For me this was a struggle of epic proportions that when I finally made it, I knew I had done something amazing. I know it has effected the rest of my life.
Tough times seem to be part of life, and the results of victory over these struggles come in many forms. One of them is the power of knowing that we CAN. We are no longer being held captive by ďI canítĒ and this knowing motivates us to be more than we thought we were.
May 17, 2004
We are all in this together
There are about 5.7 billion people on this planet. We are only one. So life cannot be just about our self. When we are born and growing up, we are dependent on others and when we are very old we are dependent on others. Between that time we often forget how dependent on others we are. We are even dependent on the Earth and the atmosphere and the air we breathe. Chief Seattle said, ďThis we know: All things are connected. Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons of the earth. Man did not weave the web of life: he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.Ē Take a look at who makes the clothes you wear. Where was it produced? Who worked in that factory, who built the machines to produce the clothing? Who harvested the cotton or wool or made the materials? Who transported the materials to the factory? We can ask ourselves if we did any of that. In most cases we have to answer no. Someone else did. We might have paid for the clothing but without all of the others that produced and sold it to us, it would not be on our bodies right now. Why do we forget our dependence on others? We are all in this together yet we often pretend we are alone.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama said, ďAll living beings, starting from insects, want happiness and not suffering. However, we are only one, whereas others are infinite in number. Thus, it can be clearly decided that others gaining happiness is more important than just yourself alone.Ē
Our happiness is important and equal to that of all others, and we are not alone in this desire for happiness. Since we are all dependent on others and others depend on us, we can contribute to our interconnected lives by giving to others happiness. We can truly say then that when we do that we are giving happiness to our self.
One of the surest ways to find happiness is not by seeking self-pleasure, because it does not last, but to give it to others. What do we really have that we can offer others? Ourselves. We come into this life as one small part of the whole, but each of us has our own unique gifts, talents and resources. How we contribute ourselves is up to us. We are all in this together.
May 16, 2004
My wife and I went out to eat for her birthday last Thursday night. I called her earlier in the day to see if she would like to go out, and she at first said no because she was tired and had too many other things she wanted to do that night. I said, "ok, we can do it tomorrow night or some other time." But about a half an hour later I received a text message on my cell-phone aksing, "Can I change my mind? How about Khan's Mongolian Barbeque?"
My heart was thrilled! I Love that place!! They have a buffet of vegetables and meats and noodles and special sauces that you select yourself, then take to the chefs to prepare on a big round grill in front of you. They have a big Jar for tips, and a sign that says, "Tip the Chef and Ring the Gong for Good Luck." When the gong is struck, they all turn and bow and say, "Thank you, thank you."
It's a fun place and the food is good, and it's all you can eat, although most people can only eat one plate of food because when you select your food, looks are deceiving. You just pile it all into a large bowl as you are going along the buffet, and then they grill it and put it on your plate. The bowls are bigger than the plates, or the eyes are bigger than the stomach. haha.
We had such a wonderful time talking and eating that we did not want to go home just yet, so I offered to go with her to the bookstore, which was just down the street from Khan's. That's one of my wife's favorite places to spend time and money. It's one of those large chain bookstores that has everything from books to music to movies and a coffee shop inside. She was thrilled with the idea so we went.
We each intently browsed around the store, as if hunting for a long hidden treasure. It was fun and interesting. As our usual custom has been, we both shopped, then brought our items to the coffee shop to share them with each other before we made the purchases and left.
As we were standing in line waiting to order our coffees, I heard this angelic voice singing a song, presumably over the store's audio system. It was captivating and clear;
"If I could take this moment forever,
turn the pages of my mind,
To another place and time,
We would never say goodbye..."
My wife looked at me kind of strangely as I asked her to order my coffee and told her I'd be right back. It took me a few minutes but I finally returned to the table with a CD in hand. Haha, I wasn't hearing angels in my head. It was the voice of an Angel I heard though, as a final message and ending to a perfect evening! Never say goodbye.
The rest of the evening was peaceful and full of wonder as I looked at her books and listened to her explain about the authors and the books she's read. Too often in life we get too busy and forget about the importance of sharing our lives with each other. Sometimes we need Angelic voices to remind us.
(If anyone is curious, the absolutely amazing voice was provided by 16 year old Hayley Westenra from New Zealand, http://www.hayleywestenra.com )
May 15, 2004
Why are you learning Korean?
A coworker and I arrived at work at the same time yesterday. We both ride our bikes to and from work and we often have a few minutes to talk in the morning when we arrive. As we were in the locker room changing and were talking about how we spend our free time. This issue of time is big. It pervades everything we do it seems.
He was talking about the activities heís doing, like playing on a softball league, taking bicycle tours, performing and practicing his music, and so on. Heís also an avid language learner and speaks nearly fluent Russian and Spanish and loves languages. Currently his efforts are in learning German. But today he told me that he was thinking about giving up on German because he didnít have anyone to practice with, and that maybe he would pick up French because he knew more people that he could practice with. Pretty good logic if you want to learn a language it seems. Practice is important. As we are growing up learning our native language, we practice every day without thinking of it as practice.
After our conversation I thought about how time consuming language learning is. I study Korean every day and have been for a couple of years, yet still feel like Iím at a beginning level. I also find that with language learning, the time we put into it is directly proportional to the rate we learn. But even with time committed to it, my coworker was struggling with German. There is something more behind it; I think that is our purpose, our motivation for doing it.
Yesterday I picked up some Korean food and met my Korean-American friend for lunch. She was adopted when she was young and she doesnít speak Korean but wants to learn it. However she feels like she is under a lot of pressure from Native Korean speakers. She explained to me how she was blocking her language from her mind and canít get beyond this block. She feels like she has to learn it to be complete, and the Koreans she meets help build up this feeling in her by trying to draw her back into the Korean culture. Her motives for learning Korean in the past have been to conform to otherís expectations of her to be a ďgood Korean,Ē as she explained to me.
When I was picking up the food for lunch, I ordered in Korean and the lady was surprised. Then her first question was, ďWhy are you learning Korean?Ē Every Korean I talk to asks me the same question. Most of the time I just give the standard answer, in Korean of course, ďBecause itís interesting.Ē But my purpose for learning Korean is deep rooted in compassion for others. Itís hard to explain to other people, but it motivates me to study every day, and to keep learning no matter how hard it is or how long it takes or what kind of progress Iím making. My intentions are to learn Korean (among other languages) for the rest of my life.
My wife called me in the afternoon and we were talking about how my day was going and she told me that she also told someone today that I was learning Korean. They asked her, ďWhy is he learning that?Ē And she answered with, ďI donít really know why, but something piqued his interest.Ē Itís true, I am interested in learning about the language and culture and history of Korea. Finding languages interesting is one of the gifts I have been given in life. Thatís part of the toolbox I have to work with in my life. Each of us has been given many unique gifts, talents and resources. What to do with them is our choice. How we live life and use our time is our choice. Why I study Korean is a choice. It is purposeful for me and deliberate. I learn Korean for my friend, and to help other people. If I passed on tomorrow, I would have fulfilled my purpose in learning Korean in my daily interactions with Koreans and If I live another 20 years, I will fulfill a greater purpose as the mystery of my life is revealed.
I have found that itís a good practice to seek and understand what our purpose is, even if itís a purpose like, ďjust because.Ē Our purpose helps us, motivates us to carry on with it, even when life gets difficult.
May 14, 2004
Not What we do, but How we do it.
Too often we get confused in life about what to do and why we are here and what our purpose is. Each of us has been given different, unique personalities, resources, talents, families, location, skin color, facial and bone structure, strength, agility, size, hair color, mental abilities, gender, etc. Much of this comes with the package. We donít chose our family or where we are born, or what natural talents we have.
Since this appears to be true, then each life is unique and has itís own unique contribution to the lives around it. For us to devalue that and say everyone has to conform to one standard of life, is devaluing our own life. We too would have to live up to this universal standard. What if we are too short, or have the wrong color hair, or cannot do math as quickly as another person, or cannot paint or draw or understand computers?
Too often our society tries to make special groups for people to be Ďin.í These groups have special requirements. And often we buy into it, thinking we have to belong to a special group to be successful at life. We even build these inner circles around us and have others join us. Or we keep searching for the Ďrightí inner circle to be in. Some people never seem to find it.
If everyone is unique and we each come with different packages, then life cannot be just about conforming or fitting into one mold. God could not love one person over another. One person cannot be more valuable than another because of what they do or which group they belong to. If life is all about Ďwhatí we do, then where is the list of preferred occupations or tasks? Is it what society holds up and esteems? Then we would all have to be movie stars, football players, Politicians, Olympic athletes, and beautiful. I donít know about you, but I would make a terrible linebacker and my last acting job was in eighth grade in the school melodrama. I got my lines right, but letís just say that my stage movements became a highlight of the performance.
So if there is not just one thing we are supposed to do, then maybe whatever we choose to do in life is ok. Then what criteria do we use to evaluate our own spiritual growth and life success? How about how we do things? How we live?
I saw Andy in the park today. Andy works for a restaurant on the other side of downtown from where I work. Andy comes about 8 blocks just to spend his lunch brake in the beautiful park with running water, birds and squirrels. Andy works to help support and care for his dad He told me all about it before. The first time I met Andy it was obvious to me that he was developmentally delayed, but I have to tell you, Andy has one of the most beautiful souls Iíve seen. He always has a smile for everyone, heís committed to helping his dad, and heís a hard working man. We talked about his dad a lot today, and about Andyís life. My conclusion is that Andy found his unique gift to the world and is using it to the best of his abilities, and that is Love. I would say for Andy it did not matter what job he was doing or what he did for hobbies, but it did matter to him how he was living. I think we can all learn something from Andy and not worry so much. Yes, we each have our own special calling or purpose, but even that is secondary to how we go about doing it. Often we find that the end goal is not really the important part of life, but the process of living that matters.
May 13, 2004
Best use of Time
Time is an interesting thing, that we never seem to have enough of. But in some cases time seems to drag on, slowly. As we get older we feel the effects of time and see our own physical mortality. Passage of time happens whether we like it or not. As human beings we are limited by time, and so far have not been able to find a way around it. I asked God why, out of all things created, we have limited time on earth. Why are human beings, who are created in Godís image, with so much potential and talents and gifts, created with such a limitation? To God who is all-encompassing, the beginning, the end and all that is between, there must be a reason.
Our lives sometimes become a blur. Last night we ate dinner and then I worked on my wifeís computer to try to solve a problem. Then we went out together to run some errands; I got a haircut and we went to the bike shop to get some parts for my bike. They didnít have the right size tire for my old Schwinn Continental, so we went to another bike shop. Then we went to another store to return something we bought a few days ago that was defective. When we got home it was almost 9:30pm. I worked on my bike for about a half an hour and then went online for a little while to check messages and write to some friends. When I went to bed finally it was about 11pm. 5am comes really early! haha.
These days I work full time, go to school at night, work a part time job on the weekends, do homework, and try to spend the rest of my time on other people. Iíve often asked myself and God what the best use of my time is. I know intimately how limited it is, and we are never sure even if we will have another day to live here.
How much time do each of us have? We donít know. Some die in their cribs, and some die at 40. One of my biking friends told me that he saw his best friend die right in front of him during a bike race. He was hit head on by a car coming around a corner too sharp on a winding mountain road. One of my mentors died recently at a relatively old age and left behind 16 grandchildren and a legacy of helping and teaching thousands of students a trade with a topping of chess.
So, what do we do with our time if we only have a day? Does it make us less petty? For me, looking at time this way reminds me to live today, to not sweat the small stuff, and to let the people I love know that I love them. Each of us has our own destiny and time allotment. Each of us has many choices to make every day of our life. How we choose to live it is up to us. What is the best use of our time? Itís nice if our Choices reflect who we really are and when we look back on our lives, we will be able to say from the heart, I wouldnít have done it differently. Each day counts. Be aware, love each other, live. Donít let the ruts get too deep, have hopes and dreams and work on them, find work that you love doing, find partners you enjoy spending time with and enjoy talking to and let the people around you know that you appreciate them.
One thing I know and feel is that however long our lives in this form are, itís a beginning. And how we begin determines how we proceed. Take the time to start eternity off on a good foot. If we stumble along the way, we can pick ourselves up and begin again, making better and higher choices. We all choose how to use our time anyway, but by doing it consciously and purposefully we find the best use of our time and know we couldnít have done it any better.
May 12, 2004
I feel like I'm being talked down to
I was having a discussion with a friend, and as we were going back and forth talking about one topic that she was struggling with, she asked me, ďAre you a public speaker?Ē I answered no and she explained that she felt like I was talking down to her, that the way I was speaking felt like I was slapping her in the face. I didnít quite know how to respond to that, except keep talking and explaining why I was saying what I was saying. To me it was a discussion about a subject that causes many people a lot of suffering and I was trying to explain my views so they were understandable. My views on this subject were different than her views. My intentions were to help her see a better way, to help her to make better choices for herself. To her it seemed like I was talking down to her. We kept talking for a while, then she said, ďok, I got it.Ē But I think she just did not want to talk about this subject. We worked through it and then moved on to other things. The tension was gone, and we were both blessed by the conversation.
The question came to my mind, what happened?
It could be a self preservation mechanism and when our views are contradicted or challenged then we tend to get defensive and we tend to take it personally. This is an attitude also, and is kind of counterproductive to our own growth and spiritual development. One of my favorite quotes is, ďOne is taught in accordance with oneís ability to learn.Ē This reminds me that I will always be a student, and I only learn as much as I am willing to learn and am able to learn. When we leave home for the first time, when we leave school and go to work, when we change jobs or get an MBA, or when we leave this earth, we are not done. These passages are just a beginning.
Iíve felt like Iíve been talked down to a lot, by people who knew a whole lot more about subjects than I did and some that didnít. But I discovered that usually the defense mechanism rising up in me was a dragon defending my views. This dragon prevented me from learning and also really seeing the person I was talking to.
We donít always have to agree with other people to get along with them. Weíll learn, theyíll learn, and weíll all change when we are ready to change. When one person feels like they are being belittled, challenged, or talked down to, it could be their own egoís or it could be the other personís arrogance or methods. Both of these are good areas inside ourselves where we usually find room to learn and grow. When we increase our ability to learn on all sides of an issue, then we are all blessed by the conversation.
May 11, 2004
Final Exam Cram
Last night I took a Final Exam for my Korean class. I was pleasantly surprised that it was easier than I thought it would be. I am happy with the results of this semester although I need a lot more practice with the Korean language to improve my speaking abilities. I had the most trouble with the oral exam. We had to converse with a partner and with the Professor about selected topics. It seems everyone was nervous about this, which I think is natural for learners of foreign languages.
Most of you know the pressure of final Exams, and what it takes to really feel prepared. For me itís been a while but it comes back quickly. Haha. I first attended the U of M in 1985, and have since done many other things. Iím currently employed full time doing something totally unrelated to my major. But I love my work and life. Coming back to school and studying is really invigorating at 41. That probably seems old to you and that would not surprise me, since many of my classmates are the same age as my children.
I took Monday off from work so I could hang out in Coffman Union to study with some classmates for the Final. I could feel the tension and the panic as simple things became difficult, and things we solidly knew disappeared like vapors on the wind.
I donít have final exams on the job, except for an occasional software certification test, and some other mandatory training which includes a test. There are some tests Iíve had to take over the years, but not as frequently as every semester. Being a little removed from the college life, I think it has helped me observe things a little differently than when I was here at age 22. Here are some things I did not know then that helped me this time:
* Panic is natural Ė no-one wants to do badly and fear of failing can be an ally in preparing for finals, if it motivates us to work hard. It works against us if we lock up and do nothing. Accepting fear as natural and not beating ourselves up over mistakes can go a long way to maintaining our sanity. Just drive on and learn it better, knowing that the fear will be replaced by action and will disappear after the final.
* Early preparation is good. Waiting until the last day is not the ideal situation for preparing for a final, or for any type of deadline. There are always complications or things we donít understand about the material.
* Priorities Ė everything has a time and a place. Making the time to study is difficult. I find so many distractions and responsibilities in my life, thatís itís hard to really dedicate large chunks of time to studies. Itís all a matter of priorities though. When I was at the U about 20 years ago, my priorities were not on my classes, or on truly learning what I was being taught. I had to work, I had a family and I had to balance my studies with everything else going on. My priorities showed in my grades. A lot of this is attitude and timing; wanting to be there and doing the best job we can do. That meant putting other projects and activities on hold while I prepared for finals. Itís really hard to do sometimes. But why are we here?
* Itís Temporary. This too shall pass. The cramming and the stress of Finals are ok when we know itís only temporary. We can use this as an additional motivator to work a little harder than normal during finals. We can rest when itís done.
* Destroying/Maintaining our health. Many people change their health patterns during finals. Itís not good for our bodies or minds. Changing our health patterns because of stress is counterproductive. For example, I saw several students who started smoking during finals, and some who drink a lot of caffeine (when they normally drink none), and some who stop exercising and eat more junk food. Maintaining our health and getting enough sleep is important, but if we donít have the time to properly prepare we are more tempted to use drugs to push our bodies harder. I found that itís more beneficial to work harder at maintaining my health during finals and not going out of my normal diet, exercise and sleep patterns. My whole body and brain function better.
* Studying with friends is way better than studying alone. Sometimes it helps us correct errors in our notes and we can see how others are remembering key points. If nothing else, itís much more fun and helps alleviate the fear and tension.
Life goes on after Finals, and 20 years later youíll still be learning new things and many of you will change careers or jobs several times. Keeping life in perspective and balance helps us to have peace inside and get through the cram sessions and exams. Even if exams donít go so well, we can use that as a learning tool. Call it experience and move forward, doing it better.
Most of all, be kind to yourself and try not to be self-defeating. Pat yourself on the back for the amazing feats of memory you do each time finals come around.
May 10, 2004
Lighten up! Or Light up?
Over the weekend I was reading some posts in a web group I belong to. One person posted a cartoon joke that seemed kind of offensive to me. It doesnít really matter what the joke was, it could have been anything. To me it was similar to racial jokes, to ethnic group jokes, to sexist jokes. In our society, we have heard many of these jokes, which seem innocuous enough and we often find ourselves laughing at them. But what are we laughing at and why? Too often jokes like this are at the expense of someone else. And, we often do it when we are not part of the culture or group we are making fun of.
So, I posted a note explaining how I thought it was offensive, and I even put a caveat on the end, saying I wasnít angry and that I knew that someone would tell me to lighten up but that I was speaking from the heart. If I put myself in their shoes, I probably would not like a joke like this. The very next post was someone telling me to lighten up, that it was just a joke, and no harm was intended.
When I was a child, growing up it was nothing to hear jokes about how stupid polish people are, or how lazy blacks are, or how dumb blondes are, or how untrustworthy Native Americans are, or how they are a bunch of drunks or Indian givers. Iím sure my parents and Aunts and Uncles didnít mean any harm to others and overall they are good, loving people. But they are jokes that now donít seem as funny. Probably because they arenít really funny when we realize what we are laughing at and why.
Many times when confronted about the jokes, Iíve heard Ďwhiteí people tell Ďblacksí that they should lighten up and have a sense of humor. But then again, those telling the jokes arenít on the receiving end of them and donít see any problem with them. Itís all in good humor right?
At a time with so much conflict, violence and hatred between people in our world, we can ignore the meaning behind these seemingly harmless jokes, and lighten up, as someone told me to do, or we can light up, and speak from our hearts. If we donít speak what is in our hearts, who will? I tell you that Iím not against laughter and humor, which is incredibly healing and helpful to us. Just not at the expense of others. Have a heart, light up, show others you walk the talk. We are all in life together.
May 9, 2004
Thinking before we speak
Living in fear of putting our foot in our mouth, or being a fool can be avoided if our intentions and motives are clear. Thinking before we speak is beneficial to us. Itís better than not speaking for fear of being made a fool. When we think about what we are doing and saying, we can speak with intention and not just say things to get attention. But the key is in not just thinking about what we are saying, but also in why we are saying it. If we speak from the heart and treat everyone with dignity and respect we probably wonít say foolish things we would later regret.
Not speaking for fear of being incorrect is a different situation than not speaking for fear of saying something foolish that we would later regret. Many people are afraid of saying something that is factually wrong or that others will disagree with. Itís embarrassing because no one wants to sound stupid. This is based in fear also, and if we find ourselves doing this, we can look at why we feel we need to be right. Getting the error out in the open can actually help us to remember the facts better. If our goal is to learn, itís better to correct the error isnít it? If we are wrong we can take a healthy approach: admit it, own it, and learn from it. Mistakes happen due to lack of knowledge. For example, Iíve taken many language classes and the majority students in every class will not speak up when called on to translate or when the teacher asks someone to try some grammar in a sentence. Itís a natural fear of making a mistake. However, there are a few students in every class that seem not to have this fear, and they are usually the ones doing really well in the class. Do they make mistakes? Yes. frequently. But they also improve at a faster rate. When they are corrected a lightbulb goes off. They get it and retain it.
Not speaking for fear of offending someone or having what we say come out the wrong way is also a fear that we have. However, this fear can be alleviated by being aware of our own intentions and motives for saying something. If we are speaking from the heart, with love, treating each other with dignity and respect, and being genuine, it does not take a long time to analyze what we are saying before we speak. It is being aware of who we are and what our motives are. For many this is not an easy task, because often our own underlying motives are unclear to us.
The answer to diminish our fears is in knowing why we are saying something, knowing who we are and letting our speech reflect that.
May 8, 2004
Regardless of what they are doing, what am I doing?
A small-business owner was constantly worried about the competition and what they were doing and couldnít understand how those businesses were making it. Every time the subject of increasing business was brought up, the business owner redirected the conversation to talking about the competition. When asked what was being done here to increase business, the reply was, ďThere is not much I can do. Everything I can do to increase business is not worth it. Itís too expensive to invest a lot into marketing and the return is very low. We have a very low profit margin and it takes a long time to recover that money.Ē
That is a good point but it doesnít solve the dilemma of not having enough business. Wondering and worrying about how the competition is doing or if they will stay in business doesnít help increase customers either.
Sometimes our solutions are not easy and we donít know what it will take to resolve the problems we are having. But instead of worrying about what others are doing or not doing, creating our own path and our own solutions seems more productive.
At work the other day one of my coworkers was trying to get a project done by a tight deadline of the next afternoon, but discovered that there was a problem using some files that someone else had prepared. It would have been easy to blame the source of the files for making us fail at our task, and easy to complain about what was done. When we are feeling the pressure sometimes it makes us want to focus on the problems and who created them, instead of focusing on finding a solution. But in this case we worked on redirecting our energies to find an easy solution to the problem and we did.
Having the right attitude and focusing on finding solutions helps in a lot of situations.
Worrying about other peopleís religious views is kind of the same thing. Why are we so concerned with what others believe and are doing , when we ourselves must find solutions to our own lives? Is our focus constantly on worrying about what others are doing? Are we really walking the talk? We can always ask ourselves, ďRegardless of what they are doing, what am I doing?"
May 7, 2004
It's not my responsibility
Today I saw a bumper sticker that said, ďIf you are not appalled, then you are not looking.Ē
Not looking ties into the attitude that ďItís not my responsibility.Ē
We can see problems all around us in our neighborhoods, our society, our state, our country, our hemisphere, our world, and say that we donít like it. We can say we want change, but if we say, ďItís not my responsibilityĒ what will be accomplished?
Itís easy to blame other peopleís Ďchoicesí and say that itís their responsibility to fix it.
But it doesnít solve the problems and it lacks compassion. With this attitude we are constantly reacting to problems and dealing with the symptoms of the real issues and never resolving them.
A good saying to think about is, ďIf not me, who? If not now, when?Ē
Another good saying is, ďwhat we do to others is what we do to ourselves,Ē which is a revised version of the golden rule: ďDo unto others as we would have them do to us.Ē
This always beats blaming others and letting them fend for themselves. At least we can say that we tried something to solve the problems we see.
Each of us comes into this world with unique, special talents, gifts and resources, and every day we get to choose how best to use those and choose what we can create. When we look out into the world and see problems, instead of saying, ďhumanity is getting worse.Ē We can choose to say, ďI am humanity and itís getting better because of my choices.Ē At least we can control our contribution to society. And that is our responsibility, what we have been given to work with. And there is hope in that.
May 6, 2004
Lunch in the Park
Today itís threatening to rain, but Iím going to bike to work anyway. I should be able to make it between the raindrops if I ride fast enough right? haha. A friend once told me that if itís not raining when you leave, you stand a 50 percent chance of getting wet, but if itís raining when you leave you will get wet. So donít give up riding because of the forecast. Enjoy the ride now. This statement has proven to be helpful to me. Iíve only been rained on once in the last year, and it was a pleasant ride in the rain. I did not melt and I did not worry.
I remember a very nice day less than a month ago. The sun was shining, the wind blowing lightly, and it was the first real warm day weíve had this Spring. The birds were out and people were outside moving around. A very nice day. I had lunch in the park with my wife that day. She came downtown and met me outside. We walked together and talked, and bought some lunch at the deli, then found a nice rock to sit on in the park. It was beautiful and enjoyable. We have to take advantage of these nice days and enjoy them. Enjoy the people around us while we are with them. Just like the seasons, there is a time for everything, and everything comes and goes.
One of my coworkers was saying that morning, that the weather will be bad, that this is the last nice day of the week. ďItíll be cold and rainy after today,Ē she said. She was watching the newscast the previous night. To me it seemed like a gloomy prediction. I thought, ďbut itís beautiful right now! And this is the first real nice day weíve had!Ē Learning to see, enjoy and appreciate the beauty right now, instead of focusing on the bad that is about to happen is a matter of perspective and awareness. Itís like seeing the cup half empty or half full. Itís being aware of what is good about right now. Iíd rather have lunch in the park with someone I love and relax in the sun than worry about the rest of the week. When I do that, it will actually give me the memories, hope and energy to face the oncoming weather, no matter what it is.
May 5, 2004
How are you?
Almost every day we use the expression, ďHow are you?Ē Sometimes we ask with genuine concern and care, sometimes itís just an expression we use as a greeting. The responses are also sometimes just an expression we use as a greeting, such as, ďIím good, how are you?Ē
Today one of my coworkers said, ďHow are you?Ē and I felt like launching into an explanation of how things are going. Iím really busy these days, and have a lot of commitments that Iím struggling to keep up with, and physically Iím tired. But I donít confuse that with my spiritual well being. Overall Iím doing really well and am happy. My reality is so different from many others. I donít suffer from many problems in life. They bless me and I grow and learn from them, and Iím thankful for everything. So my standard answer could be, ďIím good,Ē or as one of my former neighbors and one of my co-workers used to always answer, ďIím perfect.Ē
Whenever he would answer with, ďIím perfect!Ē I could sense it was an affirmation for him, an attempt at positive thinking. I would not choose to answer with ďIím perfect,Ē because it seems a little conceited. But I canít complain about life either. Itís more of a state of acceptance of who and what I am.
The bottom line for me is that in my heart I should be genuinely interested in other people, and willing to really know how they are doing. Many of us are going through life avoiding too much detail and too much connection with another person. We think that if we get too personal, we might be obligated to help them, or to spend our time with them. I have found that ďHow are you?Ē is not about just exchanging some greetings with each other in a polite manner, but about being genuine. When we do that with each other itís really a way to be more real, more alive and more connected.
How are you?
May 4, 2004
The Loss of Billy
Today I was talking to my friend Samuel in India. I have not spoken to him in two months because he went back to his hometown to visit his family. It was very nice talking with him on his return, but he gave me some sad news. Billy passed on. Billy is Samuelís cousin who lived in NE India, who ran a school for orphan children. I talked to Billy several times through email and he sent me photos of the children and a language book and dictionary to help me learn his native language.
He also asked me to help him with money, but I had to say no, because I did not have the resources at the time. I told him that I would keep him in my prayers and would send him money when I could. But I never got that chance.
I had not spoken to Billy in about 6 months. Now Billy comes to me and says, ďItís not too late to help those children. That work will still be there.Ē He also says, ďPlease find someone to help my children. They need a father and a mother.Ē
Billy left behind two young children, a girl and a boy, who Samuel brought back to Billyís fatherís house in his hometown. Billyís ex-wife had left them prior to his death and did not want the children. So Billy had been raising their children by himself. When he passed on, one of his teachers at the school took care of his children until Samuel arrived. Losing Billy was a loss to this world. The loss is always felt by those who remain. If any of you would like to help Billyís children in some way, please send me an email.
Billyís passing on is a reminder that none of us know the exact timing of our own death. It could be tomorrow by accident, or a heart attack, or a mugger. Last Semester one of my friends at the University was in a car accident, hit by a drunk driver and was unable to continue school. Who knows? It helps to keep life in perspective so we donít forget to live fully while we are here. Right now I can keep Billyís family in my prayers and see if I can make a difference in their lives somehow.
May 3, 2004
Today I found out that my supervisor was fired. One of my coworkers was really upset about that. Our supervisor was well liked and seemed to have her heart in the right place. Not knowing all of the reasons or details, I can only listen to what people are saying. My coworker was telling me that our supervisorís boss has not liked her from the very beginning. And now she had enough grievances to fire her. I was also told that almost everyone in our workgroup is going to quit because of this. They all liked our supervisor and are angry that it happened this way. She listed off the names of the people who are going to quit, mostly the ones who have been there a long time and have worked more closely with our supervisor. The mob mentality is going along with the decisions of the majority of people in the group, whether you believe in it or not.
Often we have the underlying motive of Ďgetting backí at the person who is responsible for a given situation or the company. Since the company is not a real person, but a collection of people, we rarely succeed in the goal of retribution.
When I was in High School I had a job pulling the tassels off the top of the corn stalks. This prevented the corn from cross-pollinating with other breeds of corn. Each Crew would bus out to one field together and start detasseling the corn. One day someone got mad and decided to quit. Then he incited everyone on the bus to quit with him. I went along with it, but to me it was a shameful way to leave. I later thought about this experience a lot. I was out of work for the rest of the summer, and the job really wasnít that bad to me. I learned a lesson in it: Make decisions based on my own feelings, my own needs, and learn to tell the difference between my feelings and motives and the mob mentality.
May 2, 2004
Changing Perspective through Time
Almost every day the people in my workgroup take a walk together outside for exercise and fresh air. We talk about family and friends and whatís going on in our lives. Itís a very refreshing break from the work day and the re-circulated air in the building. Today we talked about aging and time. A couple of my coworkers are much older than me. It is interesting and understandable that their perspectives on life have changed over time. One of our colleagues told us a story about one of her coworkers at a previous job, many, many years ago, when she was younger and just starting her career. The man she talked about was an older Engineer who had just been laid off. He seemed actually to be happy about it, and ok with losing his job. When she asked him what he will do, he replied, ďIím planning on finishing my basement.Ē And she seemed a little shocked about this. She asked him how long he had lived in his house, and why he did not do this before. His reply was, ďWeíve lived in this house for 25 years. But there was no time. I was always too busy working and taking care of other things, than to spend the time to refinish the basement. Something else always seems to come up. Now Iíll have the time to do it.Ē
At that time, our colleague explained, she could not understand how he could live in the house for 25 years and not get it done. Especially since they were in the process of remodeling and doing projects around their house, and felt pressure to get it done. But now, 20 years later, she can understand what he meant. Sometimes we look back and wonder where time went. What we do not understand when we are young, we should be able to see when we are older. Our perspective changes. We see things differently when we have not experienced as many of the ups and downs and circles of life. For that man, working on his basement was not the highest priority while living there. 25 years later he was getting a chance to do it. My colleague could not understand how he could not find time to do it in 25 years. It sounds like a lot of time. But now she is older and looks back and can see how quickly time goes when we are engaged in living our lives. She told me, ďNow I understand why.Ē
Itís a good lesson for me in Midlife to be observant of how Iím living my life, how Iím spending my time, and to be tolerant and understanding of myself and others when I look back at how much time has passed. Our perspectives do change over time, and our priorities change. Seeing this now is a valuable lesson.
May 1, 2004
Today I went to a computer software seminar. I went early because I wasnít sure how heavy traffic would be going into downtown. There were only a few people mingling around when I arrived and the sign-in table was not set up yet. So, I helped myself to some juice and a roll they had set up. I observed that in strange situations, people tend to clump together with the people they came with or stand by themselves.
I observed myself doing it also. Gradually people started coming in, and I recognized some old friends and colleagues. They either came over to me or I migrated toward where they were standing, and broke in when it was convenient. It was nice to see them. Another man came in, who recognized me first, and came right over, and said, ďJohn! How are you!Ē and with a big grin, shook my hand. It was nice to see him too after about five years. We talked about what he was doing and who he was working for and exchanged email addresses.
Another man I know a little better and talk to a little more frequently was also there. We also talked about some other things, besides work and software. That was even better. A little more personal.
As we were talking a thought came to me. When we are faced with unfamiliar situations we feel a lot better when we see some familiar faces.
To many of us, the afterlife is a great mystery. It scares us. And we hope the stories weíve heard are true, that someone we know will come and greet us and guide us to our green pastures. Many of us have heard jokes about people going to heaven, standing around the pearly gates, waiting to be checked-in. St. Peter is there greeting people and either letting them in, or not. Checking to see if you are on the guest list or if youíve been good enough to get in. We had to pre-register for the software seminar, and they were expecting us. Our name was on the list. With heaven we are not always so sure. But talking to God ahead of time helps. Knowing God before we even cross over to the other side, gives us an immediate benefit. Being on more friendly, familiar terms with God, is like having a familiar face there waiting for us. We are already pre-registered, God is expecting us. Sure itís an unfamiliar situation, but weíll feel a lot better when we see some familiar faces. In the crowds, God will find us, we will find God and weíll smile and relax at the sight of a familiar face.