Enduring love is better than momentary passion…

March 30, 2015

‘Passion is momentary; love is enduring.”  – John Wooden

I’ve posted comments here a few times about the difference between passion (in the sense of the physical attractions and interactions between people) and true love. John Wooden’s little quote certainly applies to that scenario. The momentary enjoyment of passion for someone may masquerade as love in the minds of the participants for some time, maybe even years; however, eventually it is not enough gloss over the things that are missing without a base of true happy ceoupl silouettelove. Saying “I love being with you” (in the sexual sense) is not the same as saying “I love you”. It is the realization of this mistake that eventually leads divorces. Eventually there just isn’t enough sex and pleasure from it to cover up the things that aren’t there in the relationship. Eventually the haze of lust lifts and the warts that were hidden by it show through or the scars that were caused by other aspects of the relationship are no longer hidden.

Love, on the other hand, grows out in the open, midst the warts and the pains, the ups and downs in the relationship. Love embraces and builds upon the concept of friendship. People truly in love will often self-identify their life mate as being also their best friend in life. Don’t misunderstand that I’m somehow saying that you should substitute being a friend with your life mate for a healthy sex life. This is not an “either or” thing, but it needs to be an AND thing. There are many other dimensions to a loving relationship that also need friends holdi handsto be cultivated and developed; such as trust, dependability, honesty, openness, vulnerability and understanding. Look into any failed marriage and you will see that some or all of those things never developed between the partners. Those things are also traits of someone whom we would call an adult; someone who has grown up. It is not uncommon for the behavior of one of the parties in a divorce to be characterized as childish and that is probably true, that man or woman just never grew up and never accepted the role and responsibilities of an adult. For them being married was a big game of “playing house” in between the good parts in bed.

To get back to the basketball coach tie-in, I’ve often heard that this or that player has a true love of the game or the sport. They are not just passionate about it; most athletes have a passion for the sports that that participate in; however those who truly love the game embrace it at a different level and that dedication is something that coaches and other’s can see in them. It is an appreciation for the game’s history and traditions. They are recognized as students of the game. They study it. They appreciate its finer points and they understand where it came from, where it is and where it might go (in fact many of them go on to take the games to the next level). Many of these athletes end up as coaches of the game that they love. They had a passion for the game while they were actively playing it and they went on to turn that passion into a true love of the game.

In life, many of us never take that next step up from the passion that got us
loving coupletogether in the first place. We never explore more about our life partner than their body. We never care enough about what they want outside of the sex to understand why that isn’t enough. We never become friends, because we are too busy and too satisfied being lovers. How sad, if that is the case. The greatest opportunity that one will ever have in life to truly be happy may be with that person with whom you are already enjoying great sexual passion. If you cannot take that next leap of faith with them and truly open up and commit yourself to a loving relationship, then prepare yourself for the failure to come – the sex part is just not enough to carry you through. It’s interesting how many times I’ve talked to guys who were clueless that they were about to be divorced because they thought everything was going great (at least in bed) or who thought that having great sex would make up for everything else. It turned out there was nothing else and now they’re asking – “what happened?”

I can’t lay all of the blame on the guys here; because many women go into the relationships that fail for the same reason. The women, however, tend to be the ones who recognize that they want and need more from the relationship that just the passion. Some speak up about it (the clueless guys call that nagging), but some just suffer in silence until they reach the breaking point. I guess if I had some advice for them (and here I’m stepping way outside my comfort zone) it would be not to keep quiet; maybe nagging is the wrong way to do it, perhaps teaching is a better way to look at it. Remember that I’ve already said that most of the guys are clueless as to what you really want in a relationship, so it is up todog you to help them understand. Watch a few puppy training shows on TV and figure out how to use the “correct and reward” system that the trainers use. If that sounds too simple or silly, it isn’t. There is no more loyal companion, willing to give you unconditional love, than a well trained puppy/dog. (Don’t get upset guys, remember the reward part and it only gets better if you can learn and embrace how to play your part.)

Enough already about dog training. I may be wandering too close to the kinky sunday walkside by going there. The point is still that you need to develop the relationship beyond the passion in order to get to a truly loving relationship. That requires work. Those who do work at it are the ones who celebrate their 50th wedding anniversaries instead of ending up in divorce court. Live in the moment, enjoy the passion; but, make the effort to  build an enduring relationship with the one that you want to be there to celebrate that 50th anniversary.

Listen up people…

March 27, 2015

Today’s quote from the Jack’s Winning Words blog is -“You can’t fake listening.  It shows.”  (Raquel Welch)

A corollary to that might well be – “When you listen, do it for the sake of understanding and not just to build a reply” – as seen on various motivational sites.

The point of both is to focus upon really listening to the other person. I’m sure that mostlistener of us have faked listening to someone, perhaps our parents or a teacher or some other authority figure. They usually catch on and we get the question, “Did you hear what I just said?” Most people answer, “Yes, I heard you”; but, were they really listening to what was said or just hearing the noises that we call speech?  Most don’t appreciate how obvious their lack of attention is to the other party. It shows.

I must admit to being guilty of the second little quote more often that I’d like. It is the distraction of concentrating on a retort that causes one to interrupt the other person by starting the reply before they are finished with their initial thought. It’s rude and shows people talkinga lack of respect for them, but it happens all the time. You see this behavior a lot on TV when two or more people with differing views are placed together and asked about a topic that they disagree about. Often is just becomes a shouting match as each tries to jump in and make a point before the other has finished a thought. We have become a nation where raising the volume of out comments is somehow associated with making them more important or believable.
I’ve met a few very good listeners and it is interesting to watch them in conversational settings. Probably one of the best listeners that I’ve met is Pastor Doug McMunn of the Milford United Methodist Church. If you are ever in a conversation with him you can just see that he is listening – it’s that obvious.Just as you can tell when someone is fakinglistening it, you can also see the level of effort being put forth by a good listener to make sure that they are hearing and understanding your words and the thoughts behind them. Good listeners are almost always very good questioners, too. Since they have focused upon what was being said, they are able to pick out the points that might need clarification or expansion. Bad listeners most often miss those points and may draw bad conclusions or jump to bad decisions based upon their partial understanding of what was said (or what they think that they heard).

So, what can you do to become a better listener?

  • The most important thing, I believe is to commit that you will focus on what is being said for the time it takes; that you will not let your mind wander off into formulating your reply or your next question; but rather take in what is being said in the current moment and focus upon understanding it. One very important way to do that is to focus your eyes on the speaker. It is harder to become distracted if you are looking intently at the speaker. Don’t get creepy about it, but don’t start looking around the room at other people or things.
  • Try to pick out and organize in your mind the salient points that the speaker is trying to make. Conversational speaking almost always includes verbal fillers -“You Know” – or verbal pauses and bridges that may tend to obscure the thought that the speaker is trying to get across and sometimes it takes considerable effort to cut through that clutter to get tot eh central points that the speaker is trying to get across. Stop the speaker and ask for clarification if something that was just said doesn’t make sense to your or perhaps you just didn’t understand it.
  • Let the speaker finish their thoughts before you jump in with any reply. Most conversations have natural points at which a speaker will stop, because they have finished as are now turning the floor over to you for comments or replies. They may even provide you with the verbal clue that it is your turn to speak by asking, “What do you think?”

It’s at that point that you may need to take a few seconds to digest what they have said and formulate your reply or questions. Just that short pause to reflect on their words will let them know that you were really listening. Not all comments require a response or further questions; so saying something like, “Well I understand where you’re coming from on that and I’ll have to think about it” is as good of a reply as any. Other non-committal retorts might include “Well I didn’t realize until now that you felt that way. I’ll have to think about it” or perhaps, “I didn’t know that and I’ll have to look into it further.”  Of course there’s always the old stand-by , “Thanks for sharing that with me.”

man thinkingBeing a good listener is a commitment to discipline that you have to make for yourself. It takes discipline to stay focused, but you owe that focus to the speaker just as much as you would want them to focus upon what you might have to say. Your time and theirs are both important, so don’t waste either. Be a good listener to what they have to say and hopefully they will replay your efforts by listening well to your thoughts, too.

Have a great day and listen up people…

Grab life by the tail

March 26, 2015

“The person who grabs the cat by the tail and holds the cat upside down for twenty seconds gets a hundred times more information about that experience than one who may have read about it in a book.” –  (Mark Twain) – as seen on the Jack’s Winning Words blog.

If Mark Twain were alive today he might have said that on his Facebook page and then catthe SPCA would be all over him for espousing animal cruelty. What he was saying, of course, is that really experiencing life is much more interesting and educational than just reading about it. Twain might likely also hate Facebook, Twitter and most of the rest of what passes for living today. Twain would likely be shouting at those that he found with heads down and eyes focused upon their tiny screens – Grab life by the tail!

There are always distractions that tend to keep us from experiencing life. Sometimes there are also fears or concerns that cause us to avoid life, or at least those things in life that scare us. Sometimes you just have to suck it up and go for it. I enjoy the TV show The Voice, not only because it is good entertainment, but because it shows us little vignettes of people doing just that – overcoming their fears and getting up and performing before audiences that most have never been in front of before. That is usually one of the big things that the coaches must work on with the performers. In fact, most are not performers; they’re just people who sing very well. Most have some experience singing in small venues – churches or local bars – but few have any real stage experience before appearing on this show. On The Voice they get their chance to grab life by the tail.

So, what are you doing with your life? Are you taking every opportunity to share it with those that you love, or do you sacrifice that for what you think is necessary to get aheadfirst bicycle ride and earn more money? Are you there rooting for your kids at the games and plays and concerts, or apologizing later for having missed another important day in their lives? Are you taking the time for a hug and a kiss with your significant other each day or coming home late, after the lights are all out and wishing that someone had stayed up to see if you made it home? Are you letting your life partner know what you need and want from them or just going to bed angry that they can’t figure it out?  Maybe you are letting life slip away, instead you should  grab life by the tail.

Notice, if you will, that that the little phrase, “grab life by the tail” is a very active phrase. kid jumping in poolIt is not passive, It does not say “watch life go bye.” It does not advise you to, “allow life to happen.” Twain was not a passive fellow. He lived life with gusto and his advice to others is to do the same. The picture that comes to mind when one grabs a cat by the tail and lifts it in the air is not one of a passive cat, which just hangs there and accepts the situation.  Cat’s aren’t like that and one can imagine a very active (perhaps even frantic) scene, in which there are many experiences to be gained and stories to be told in later years. Life needs to be like that. You need to be making stories today that you’ll enjoy retelling for years. Grab life by the tail.

Does this mean that you should do stupid things like you might see on “reality” TV shows? No! It means not avoiding doing things or trying things because you are stopped by Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt (FUD). Living a timid life that is constrained by FUD is life in a self-imposed prison. So, rather than allowing life to happen around you, get out and make life happen in front of you. Start today. Grab life by the tail!

Come up for air and look around…

March 22, 2015

“Don’t let making a living prevent you from making a life.” – John Wooden

John Wooden was both a great basketball coach and a great life coach to his players. I suspect that the philosophy he expressed in today’s little saying was something that he worked hard at making his players understand. It is all too easy, especially in one’s younger years, to become focused, even driven, by the challenges of making a living and accumulating possessions and wealth.

There are few lessons in the schools that one goes through on the way to adulthood that are focused upon getting one’s life priorities in order and understanding the value of human relationships as opposed to material goods. Quite often it is well into adulthood, or maybe even during the declining years of life, before many really
father daughter wedding danceunderstand what is truly important in life verses the transient feeling of success that comes from that new possession or that extra money from a raise. Sometimes it occurs when a child finally moves away and you realize that you missed most of their growing years in pursuit of that next monetary reward. Sometimes it’s when you’re dancing with your daughter at her wedding. Sometimes you just awaken one morning and think, what the hell happened? Where did my life go?

If you sit and reflect back on life, the things that stick out or come to mind seldom have to do with the jobs and success you’ve had in them, but rather it’s about the people and the times that you enjoyed with them. You realize that what life you’ve made that ishappy wife and childmeaningful, you’ve made with those that you love and who’ve loved you in return. They did not give you that love because you got a raise or promotion at work; they opened themselves up to you because in those few moments that you focused upon them, there was joy and fulfillment. Don’t you wish that you had more of that and less of the things that you’ve accumulated?

"Image courtesy of Simon Howden / FreeDigitalPhotos.net".

“Image courtesy of Simon Howden / FreeDigitalPhotos.net”.

In my real estate business, I get to work with people just starting out in life and those winding down at the other end. I find that couples at the far end of life who finally embrace the concept of downsizing and living a more simple life that is focused on each other are usually much happier than those whose lives are too busy with a focus upon“getting ahead.” That’s all quite natural. It’s usually only later in life that accumulated knowledge finally reaches a critical mass and turns into wisdom and out of that wisdom comes an understanding of what’s really important. That’s what Coach Wooden was trying to pass on to his players in today’s little quote. I suspect that the reaction was often, “Yea, right. Well, I gotta go now.” Youth is almost always impatient and arrogantly dismissive of advice from the older generation.

There are all sorts of “Stop and smell the roses” pieces of advice to be found in hundreds of famous quotes and all of them seem to point back to the need to come up for air from time to time and look around you and understand what’s important in life. It’s usually not what you’ve been focused upon doing as you try to “get ahead.” One might ask; ahead of what or of whom and why. I understand the need to make a livinghappy ceoupl silouette and to provide for your family; but keep in mind that “providing” for your loved ones also means giving them more than just possessions; it means providing them with some of yourself – your time, your attention and your  love.  It means taking the time to make a life, not just more money. So spend your time wisely this weekend. The job will still be there next week, but the opportunities that you have to accumulate experiences and share your love with the important people in your life will have passed. Come up for air and look around. Have a great weekend.

It’s all about the pursuit of your purpose…

March 19, 2015

I forget why I was there, but I saw this quote on web page of quotes recently –

“Life finds its purpose and fulfillment in the expansion of Happiness” – Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.

I thought about it and decided that I might twist it around a bit and say – “Life finds fulfillment and happiness in the pursuit of purpose.”

I’ve posted here before about having a purpose in one ‘s life and actually most people may have more than one purpose going on and they don’t all have to be helping handsserious, “change the world” types of purpose. Parents often express purpose in the raising of their children and making sure that they make the best of themselves that they can. As the children grow up and leave, many shift their life’s purpose to helping others. I suppose that there is purpose in pursing happiness; although I’m not so sure about feeling a sense of fulfillment out of that pursuit. I suspect that happiness and a sense of fulfillment might better be described as being by-products of the successful pursuit of a purpose in life.

The dictionary definition of purpose is – the reason for which something is done or created or for which something exists. In life, you could substitute someone into the definition to come up with “the reason for which someone exists.”

For many just the continuing struggle to exist at all supplants purpose. Survival isn’t really purpose, but it’s all that many people have time for in life. For those who are blessed with a life in which the basics needed to survive are taken care of dispairthe next level of consciousness often hungers for some purpose to it all. For some that comes easily; those driven by a passion to serve and help others. For some it is a lifelong quest in search of something about which to become passionate. Many pass through phases where they mistake the pursuit of excellence in a sport or a hobby for purpose. Some allow the pursuit of wealth or power to masquerade as purpose in their lives. Many confuse their love and feelings of responsibility for a life-mate or for their children as their purpose. Certainly there is purpose in protecting and providing for both and a sense of fulfillment and satisfaction at a job well done for them. At the end of the day, all of these people find that something is still missing in their lives – real purpose.

So, before I go too far down that deep philosophical path, suffice to say that finding your purpose often means finding a way to serve others, to put others needs before your needs and to set aside prejudices and fears about those who may be differentcaring or in need. I have met a number of people who have not only found their purpose, but who have embraced it with a passion that is evident in everything that they do. Sometimes these are people who volunteer at organizations like Meals on Wheels or Community Sharing. Sometimes these are people who have dedicated their lives to working with and saving those who have troubled lives. Sometimes they are just relentless fund-raisers for worthy causes and sometimes they just dish out soup at shelters.

You can kind of tell when you meet one of these people because they are usually handshakealways happy, even when they are dead tired from the toils involved in pursuing their purpose. They’re happy  because they are also people who are feeling fulfilled at the end of each day and who are excited about getting up the next day and doing more. How many of us can say that about our daily lives?

Maybe most of us just haven’t found our purpose yet. I get glimpses of purpose during periods of volunteer work; but I can’t honestly say that I have found my purpose yet. I’m pretty sure that I won’t find a single, big, show-stopping purpose for my life; but, rather, that a bunch of things that I can have passion for and find fulfilment in doing may be what I sense that I’m missing. Perhaps writing about it and about things like the human trafficking problem that I recent wrote about is also a part of my purpose. I just feel like there is more; so, I continue to search.

Have you found your purpose(s)? I you have, good for you; and if you haven’t, keep searching.

You may choose to look the other way…

March 17, 2015

“You may choose to look the other way but you can never say again that you did not know.” ― William Wilberforce

That saying ended the presentation by Christie, a human trafficking survivor, at last night’s event at the Milford United Methodist Church in Milford. Christie was by far the most compelling speaker because she was sharing her own experiences of having been trafficked when she was a pre-teen and her more recent experiences as she ministers to and tries to save children who are now going through that experience. She could not help but tear up while telling her story and hers weren’t the only eyes that weren’t dry by the end of her 10 minute presentation. Her tale of being gang raped and beaten while she pursued her efforts to rescue others and her devotion to continuing to try were sobering and inspiring. You may choose to look the other way…

The information presented about this problem probably shocked most in the audience – that Michigan is the 4th leading state for human trafficking (some say it is 2nd) was an eye opener. The fact that, in Michigan there are as many young boys forced into lives of prostitution as young girls, was certainly a surprise to all who heard it. The explanation of what constitutes human trafficking – someone taking advantage of the vulnerabilities of another for purposes of making a profit – certainly widened the audience’s view of the problem. The point was made that victims can be anyone and anywhere, and that many don’t fit neatly into the stereotypes that many have of trafficking victims. You may choose to look the other way…

The fact that almost half of the human trafficking in Michigan is labor oriented instead of sex oriented was also something that most had not thought about. Certainly we have seen stories locally about families who have imported slave house workers. Michigan’s large, but mostly unregulated farm labor industry, is certainly a contributor to the trade in human beings, with migrant workers being easy targets; however, the victim might also be the waitress who brings you your coffee at the local fast food place. Our long and relatively open border with Canada and our relatively good transportation infrastructure (current potholes aside) also contribute to Michigan being a prime location for this human trafficking and as a pass-through state for children being transported elsewhere. You may choose to look the other way…

Christie also touched upon the ways that some rationalize not doing more about this problem, such as the thought that these victims could just walk away from this life if they chose to do so. The lack of understanding that it takes to embrace that point of view is almost at the same level as that shown by the Missouri Senator who claimed that women who have been raped can somehow shut down their own reproductive system to avoid getting pregnant and so they ought not to be allowed to seek abortions in cases of rape. The boys and girls and the adults who fall into these human trafficking traps are held there by physiological and sometimes physical means that few can understand. Many victims also become drug dependent and their owners/pimps become the source for that and everything else that is meaningful in their lives at that time – drugs, food, shelter, protection and, many believe, even love. Christie shared that most of the time it takes three interventions (rescues and rehabs) to finally get a boy or girl truly free. Many times these victims suffer from a form of post-traumatic stress syndrome which we commonly associate with wars and soldiers. Many have have been living a life of daily trauma for years, so just turning that off and going on with a “normal” life is impossible. You may choose to look the other way…

One of the final points that Christie made is the need for a change in the attitudes of the general public towards these victims; starting with the acknowledgement that they are truly victims and not living those lives because they want to. Christie asked the audient, “Do you know of any child who has ever told you that they want to grow up and be a prostitute?” Do you know anyone who aspires to be a drug addict or to be gang raped? How many children that you know want to go out into the fields and pick fruit for 12-14 back-breaking hours so that they can go back to their one room cabin with 6-8 others and have a meager meal before bed? These are most often vulnerable children who see no way out of the places and circumstances that they find themselves in; and not responsible adults with the choice to walk away.  How do we greet them on the street when we see them? Do we stop and ask if we can help or do we look the other way and hurry past them? You may choose to look the other way…

Oakland County Councilperson Eileen Kowall also spoke about the work that was done on this issue while she was the local State Representative. Apparently Michigan, while high on the target list for human traffickers was only so-so in terms of the laws that were on the books to deal with the issue. Eileen served on a task force that Governor Snyder put together to review and strengthen the laws that could be used to combat the issue and increase the support and services for victims. You may choose to look the other way…

The bottom line on all of this is that it’s a big problem, it’s a local problem, it’s our problem. It is ugly and unlikely to get better without a lot of hard work from a lot of people. These practices flourish in the dark spaces in our society, those places that we have been reluctant to shine a light upon and in which we have been fearful of becoming involved.  I hope this post helps you understand the problem a little more because – “You may choose to look the other way but you can never say again that you did not know.”

For more on the problem and some local groups that are trying to make a difference, click on the links below –








“You may choose to look the other way but you can never say again that you did not know.”

Slavery and human trafficking…it can’t be happening here; this is Oakland County, Michigan!

March 14, 2015

I live in Oakland County, Michigan, arguably the most affluent county in Michigan. Yet I also live in a county that is in a hotbed area of modern day human trafficking and slavery. No, I’m not trying to say that boatloads of slaves are somehow making their way through the Great Lakes to be sold to Detroit-area slave owners for back-breaking work on the farm.  Modern day human trafficking is much more likely to involve young girls being sold into lives of sex trafficking or ignorant young people from foreign lands being sold into lives of servitude by their parents.

Why didn’t I know about this and how can it be happening without being noticed?

Modern day human trafficking often slips under the daily newscast radar unless someone is killed or causes some huge scandal for a prominent member of the community. Many of the victims live out their misery in the seedy parts of town and are only seen out at night plying their age-old trade. Some are literally held slave chainsas hostage/servants within the homes of their “owners”; maybe occasionally seen through a window or at an open door by a neighbor. Many of them do not speak English, nor do they understand what people might be saying to them. Some of them started as confused and frightened runaways and are now far from home and totally dependent upon their captor/owners for everything in their lives. Some were actually sold into slavery by their parents, which may be the ultimate betrayal of parenthood obligations. They are alone, fearful for their lives and unable to see any way out. No wonder we never see them or hear about their plight.

Many of the “owners” of modern day slaves are well to do members of their communities- doctors or business owners. Many are first generation Americans young prostitutewith strong cultural ties to their homes of origin. What we fail to understand sometimes is that what we call slavery is an accepted practice in many of those countries. That doesn’t make it right; just helps to explain why it happens. It is sometimes easy for a wealthy immigrant to reach back into his native land and “buy” a servant to do the housework and a whole lot cheaper than paying for a local maid service. It is also relatively easy to keep an ignorant young person who doesn’t speak the local language isolated and under control.

Yet, a few of these modern day slaves do make it out. Sometimes they get lucky and are swept up in police actions that just happen to include the place where escapethey are being held.  Sometimes neighbors just stop believing the false stories that their owners made up to cover their presence and they report their suspicions to the authorities (if one can find an authority with any interest in pursuing such matters). Sometimes the victims finally screw up enough courage to run away from their captors and find someone to whom they can turn themselves in.  Some hear about programs like MAP (Michigan Abolitionist Project) and find a way to get in touch with them. It is almost beyond belief that we still need a group of abolitionists in modern America, but we do.  John Brown’s body may lie “a moldering in its grave”, but the slavers have returned.

I had the opportunity to meet one such survivor/victim at a Chamber of Commerce event at a local credit union  that featured a speaker from the Vista Maria Home in Dearborn Heights an one of the slavery victims whom they havegirl crying helped . You sort of stand there listening in disbelief as the story of the young victim’s life unfolds –  a pre-teen runaway who ended up being sold into the sex trade in the Dearborn area. You want to believe that “this can’t be happening; not here; not in this day and age”; but it does happen It is happening every day and it needs to be stopped and the victims helped to recover their lives. None of us can continue to pretend that this problem doesn’t exist in America or in our own back yards.

You will hear about the experiences of one such survivor of the local salve trade at the upcoming panel discussion Youth Trafficking / Modern Day Slavery in Oakland County on Mar 16. The panel begins at 7 pm. Doors open at 6:30 to visit tables hosted by organizations involved in various aspects of anti-trafficking support. The event is being held at the Milford United Methodist Church, 1200 Atlantic St., Milford, MI 48381 and is co-sponsored by the North West Oakland Optimist Club and the Milford chapter of the Michigan Abolitionist Project MAP/NOAH. The panel will include Oakland County Commissioner Eileen Kowall, Kelly Carter, an Assistant Attorney General for Michigan; Chrissy a Survivor; and a MAP Representative.  If you thought that this is just a problem in Africa or the Middle East, think again…it’s happening right here in your own back yard. Click here to view the poster for this event. My advice is to bring some Kleenex because the things that you will hear might make you cry. The hope is that they will also make you mad and make you want to help.

Don’t let your mind become tethered…

March 13, 2015

“Imprisonment of the body is bitter; imprisonment of the mind is worse.”  (Thornton Wilder – The Ides of March)  – from the Jack’s Winning Words blog. Jack went on to write – I once had a tour of Jackson State Prison.  After that experience I realized what a severe penalty it is to be sentenced to “life in prison.”  But worse than “life”, is the locking-up of one’s mind.  “The mind is a terrible thing to waste.”  Society needs to address the problem of mind-robbing sub-par schools and the problem of mind-robbing diseases.

I have written here before about the ability of the mind to soar, even if the body is imprisoned or it is trapped in a dysfunctional body – see post.  I agree with Jack that the sub-par school systems that some are relegated to in our society wastes the minds that flow through them by limiting the training and support that allow those minds to grow, experience and learn about the world. At the other end of life the mind-robbing diseases like Alzheimer’s seem more like a cage that is getting smaller and smaller as more and more of the memories that make up one’s knowledge base drift away, until one is left in the child-like state of a newborn. I agree that more research and more work is needed on both of those issues.

Another issue that I’ve also written about here before seems to me to also be a dui tetherrather large threat to imprison the mind or perhaps the better analogy would be to put the mind on a tether. In Michigan the police use what is called a DUI Tether or SCRAM bracelet, which is as device that is worn usually around the ankle and which can detect any use of alcohol by the wearer. Click here to read an article about how it works and is used. The threat that I’m referring to is our smartphones. Many people have become tethered to their smartphones to such an extent that they actually feel phantom vibrations even when not carrying the phone and suffer a form of separation anxiety if they somehow forget their phone. Even worse, in my mind and admittedly in my case, is how slavishly we react to any call or message or other demand that our phone might make upon us.

The whole texting while driving issue is just one indicator of that inexplicable need to respond to anything that happens on our phone. I often stop and think, “Does it really matter that I respond right now to that text message, in the middle missed callof whatever I’m doing, or can it wait a few minutes?” Does the fact that my phone just buzzed in my pocket, indicating that a new eMail has arrived mean that I must put it out, even while trying to navigate through rush-hour traffic, to try to see what it’s all about? Is that call from some number that I don’t have in my contacts list really likely to be important enough to answer in the middle of dinner? The answer to all of those is obviously No; however the reality all to often is that I do it anyway. I have become tethered to my phone (or by my phone). My mind, in a manner of speaking, has been imprisoned by this beast.

The use of, and your devoted service to, your cell phone can be compared to an addiction. Like any other addiction, it is hard to break. I suspect that a scientific phone with msgstudy of the problem would discover that some endorphin of some sort is released in our brains when we respond to the phone ad that we get used to and actually start craving that endorphin. Maybe it has something to do with wanting to feel connected somehow to other human beings. I’ve seen people spend their entire time at the gym, cycling through various machines and the treadmill, and never get off the phone. I’ve witnessed (in exasperation because it happened right I front of me) a person take a phone call in the middle of a wedding ceremony and actually spend time talking while the preacher was reading through the wedding vows. And I’ve almost been hit a few times by motorists who ran a stop sign at a corner because they were on their phone texting and didn’t see the sign or me. Those were people who had lost control of their own minds to their phones – they were tethered to their phones.

So, now, when I go to church on Sunday morning I leave my phone in the car. I suffer the anxiety of being separated from it for a few moments and I still look at it the instant that I get back into the car to see what I might have missed (never anything important it seems); but I no longer respond to a buzz in my pocket in the midst of the sermon (although, I’ll admit that I’ve experienced phantom buzzes in the midst of the service from time to tome) . It’s a start and an admission that I’ve made to myself that I had become tethered to my phone. I still have work to do on that.

How about you? Are you tethered to your phone? Do you feel those phantom vibrations every now and then?  Do you still check to see what it is that just came in, even in the midst of driving? If you forget your phone at home, do you turn around to go get it or just tell yourself that you’ll check it when you get home? Have you ever spent a hour of more talking on the phone while you were doing other things?  There aren’t Phone Tethered Anonymous groups; but, perhaps there should be.  It’s something to think about over the weekend. Maybe you could put down your phone and get outside for a while without it. After all, that’s what voice mail is for. Have a great weekend.

Life off the wheel…

March 12, 2015

When I was in college (yes, that was a long time ago) I had a white rat for a while. I’ve long ago forgotten who gave me the rat or even what I called it at the time, hamster wheelbut it did come with a cage. In that cage was what is more often called a hamster wheel – a wheel that the rat could get on and run. And run he did, sometimes for hours and unfortunately usually at night. The wheel squeaked when he ran and sometimes kept me aware at night, which eventually led to me giving him to someone else.

Back in those days, and occasionally even today, I think about the rat and what he was doing on that wheel. Was he running for exercise or did he believe that there was somehow a better life up ahead, if only he could make it to the top of the wheel?  Without giving the rat too much benefit of the doubt about his ability to comprehend his situation and the futility of the wheel, his constant striving does provide an interesting analogy for life. To some extent most of us are running on the big wheel of life and constantly trying to reach the elusive top of the wheel.

man rushingMany of us might be able to easily relate our daily lives to the hamster wheel. We run and run and run and really seem to get nowhere. Yet that next rung on the wheel is just ahead and after it the next and if we run hard enough, maybe we’ll get to the top of the wheel. What do we expect to find there? Most of us probably couldn’t even formulate and answer to that question. Mumbling something like, “a better life” or “happiness,” is essentially a cop-out and a sell-out to all of the commercials that we see and hear each day that exhort us to stay on the wheelwomen looking at watch and keep running. Our entire consumer-based society is built upon the notion that the rats will keep running on those wheels and striving to get to the top. From the earliest days of our lives we are encouraged to never give up; and to keep running, to keep trying to get to the top of our own personal wheels.

Some jump off the wheel at an early age. They are different, weird, they don’t quite fit in. Some end up as what we call bums, some end up as artists and are excused from wheel-duty because of their talents. Some just slow down their factory workerspace, but stay on their wheels, accepting a life of constant toil without much reward. They are often called “the working poor”, by the people who own many of the wheels. A few just jump off and wander out beyond the boundaries of society, living “off the grid”, as well as off the wheel. Interestingly enough, almost everyone ends up off the wheel. These are the people who are now too old to spin their wheel. They may have retired or they may have just gotten too tired to run on the wheel any more.  Some have even discovered that the goals of the wheel were not worth the effort; that reaching the top of the wheel that you were on doesn’t lead to happiness, it usually just leads to yet another wheel.

I’m kind of at that stage in my life. I’ve been running on various wheels for various companies or various goals for many, many years. I got to the top of one wheel a few times, only to have to jump on the next wheel. I’ve also had a few walking manwheels pulled out from under me, when companies that I worked for were bought out or went out of business, so that I had to move to a new cage. A few years ago I got off the corporate wheels and onto one that I could run on at my own pace (real estate sales) and one that I knew had no greater reward at the top, other than more money. Now, like deciding how much time to spend at the gym, I can decide how much time to spend on the real estate wheel, chasing that next listing or buyer. It’s nice to have at least that amount of control or to think that you do. The reality is that anytime that you have to say you work for (any name but your own here) you are running on a wheel and in a cage owned by The Man. Without launching into a huge diatribe about society in general, suffice to say even those who are self-employed must live within the rules and laws of The Man and thus live with only the illusion (some might say the delusion) of being off the wheel or out of the cage.

Can you just get off the wheel?  Can you really do that? Probably not; at least not entirely. After all, you have to live somehow, so you have to work for someone exercise wheeldoing something to earn enough to live on; I get that. But the point is to not let that wheel become your entire life; not to let it define you. It’s just a job. It’s how you earn a living, It’s not who you are. That’s something that you control. It’s not a cage and it doesn’t have a wheel; unless you let it. You may have to don your hamster suit and get on the wheel for a few hours every day; but once the whistle blows at the end of the day, be free, be you, run after meaningful things, not just the next rung on the wheel.

So, what is the answer? How does one get off the wheel and escape the cage? The answer is amazingly simple – just chose not to play the game of the cage and the wheel. Change the rules. Reset your goals and redefine success for yourself. Forget the chase for things and rediscover the joy to be found in relationships. Trade accumulating possessions for meeting people. Trade power and money fordreams love and caring. Trade longer periods of running on the wheel for  periods of meditation or serving others. Stop pursuing perfection and start showing affection. Life is too short to spend all of your awake time on the wheel. Get off, slow down, leave the cage and engage with other people. Give and receive love and learn to savor those moments. You don’t really ever get anywhere on the wheel, but life can be an exciting and interesting journey when you get off the wheel and start really living it with those around you. Yes, there really is life off the wheel and it can be great.

Be blessed, not stressed…

March 10, 2015

“Too blessed to be stressed!”  (Seen on a coffee mug), from the Jack’s Winning Words blog.

The concept of being “blessed” doesn’t necessarily have to take on religious meaning, but most people associate it with that thought. At its most benign level  it means acknowledging what you have, starting with life itself and adding on from there. One often sees on the nightly news people who have just lost everything that they possessed claiming to be blessed to be alive. They have been stripped of all of the trappings of life, but have come to realize that all of those things matter less than life itself and the lives of the loved one that you may have around you.

Much of the stress in our daily lives does seem to be rooted in spending time worrying afraidabout things that have yet to happen or things that we don’t have, but wish that we did. Almost all of the worry about things that have yet to happen is born in our vivid imaginations, our ability to conjure up the worst case scenarios and play them out in our minds. Things seldom turn out to be as dramatic or dangerous as we imagine them to be; nor, on the flip-side, does the achievement of material success ever turn out to be as sweet as we dreamed it would be. We stress about things because we are not content o live in the moment and be happy with the blessings that we already have.

So; what to do, what to do, to avoid the stress. One might start by sitting quietly and appreciating all of the blessings that we already have, starting with the fact that you made it to another day. Then, add the people around you whom love you and who yousmiling man love and your blessings begin to mount. If you are not homeless, add that in; if you are then perhaps you have found shelter for the night and that is a blessing.  If you had food to eat during the day, even if it was not as much as you had hoped, it was a blessing. If you are not naked, then your clothes are a blessing. One could go on and on, totaling up the little things in life that one has that may be thought of as blessings. You’ll probably be surprised at the length of the list of your blessings and the fact that spending time on being thankful for them leaves you little time to stress over what you don’t have.

Of course, it would be naïve to ignore the hunger and poverty, the illnesses and evil and the injustices in the world around us; so maybe you could spend some time thinking about what you could help to do about some of those issues. Actually doing something might equip you with a purpose and a mission for your life and a life with purpose seldom has time for stress. One might say “I’m busy trying to do good things; I have no time to devote to thoughts about bad things.” Stress is a phenomenon that soup kitchenbreeds best during idle times and those with a mission in life have little of that time to devote to it. You see that type of story every so often in the news too; about the lady who is poor but who devotes her life to running a soup kitchen for people who are even poorer and who seems to be very happy – she doesn’t have time for stress in her life, she’s too busy being helpful and happy. Perhaps this quote from Leo Aikman sums it up best –

“Blessed is the person who is too busy to worry in the daytime and too sleepy to worry at night.”

So, have a blessed and happy day. You made it to today and that is a great start. Now go find your mission in life and you’ll be too busy to worry.