No strings attached…

November 19, 2018

From today’s installment of the Jack’s Winning Words blog comes this –

“You are being manipulated.  You are the puppet.  They are the puppeteers.”  (Thomas Paine)

Jack used the popular kids show The Muppets to ask if you would rather be one of the characters or Jim Henson, the puppeteer behind a few of them.

One point that Jack was making in his post is the fact that we are both being manipulated puppetand being manipulative in our daily lives. We often hear the phrase, “He/she knows how to push my buttons.” That is just another way of saying that we are being manipulated by a puppeteer.

Advertisers consider themselves to be master puppeteers. They pull on the strings or push the buttons that they think will convince us to buy their products and services… and they are good at it. Advertisers have created whole new classes of personal or health problems that we never even considered and then provided us with the solutions to those problems with the catch phrase, “Ask your doctor about…”

Politicians are master puppeteers, too. For the most part, they have settled on the fear approach to getting their messages across. The recent spate of political ads were designed to strike fear in the minds of the viewer if, heaven forbid, the other guy/gal ever got elected. Our families would not be safe, our healthcare would be gone and the debaterscountry would go to pot (in some cases literally), if those scoundrels made it into office. The non-fear messages were just about as ridiculous – “elect me and I will go to Washington and single-handedly solve all of the problems.”

But, what about us? Do we act as puppeteers with those around us or are we being manipulated? Have you used the phrase, “She has me wound around her little finger?” You could be talking about a child, a girl friend or a wife. In abusive relationships one partner uses physical threats and actions to manipulate the other. Sometimes we useabusived wife deceptive behavior at work to gain an advantage or to “butter up” the boss. Maybe you are the boss and are allowing office flirting to influence your decisions. Are you acting as the puppeteer or being manipulated like a puppet?

Many have developed a healthy skepticism about ads on TV or elsewhere and most are too aware of the dangers to fall for the old scams that promise “you just won a million dollars, it you send us $1,000 to handle the processing of the award”.  I doubt that you’d be manipulated by the email that starts out, “Your grandson has been arrested in Abu Dahbi and needs you to bail him out.” Still, we feel the pulls on or heartstrings when the ASPCA ads for the abused little animals are shown and maybe we do pull out the checkbook and write a small donation for that.

The point of Jack’s post was that we should be more aware of the situations in life where someone is trying to manipulate us, or where we find ourselves trying to manipulate someone else. We would certainly prefer to be in the role of puppeteer than to be dangling on strings while someone else is in control of our emotions or actions. It is important; however, that we also realize when we are in a situation where we are manipulating someone else. We may think it is “for their own good”; however, any timethinking hard that we choose the role pf puppeteer we are being manipulative and really doing it for our own good, not theirs.

Keep in mind that the choice that you think you would make in that situation is made from your own perspective. They see things from a different perspective, one that may not allow them to see all of the alternatives and potential consequences. The better way for you to help is to try to help that person see the alternatives and consequences of their decision to allow them make the best decision for themselves in whatever choice they are facing. Anything beyond that is just being manipulative. Cut the strings. Don’t be a puppeteer, be a friend instead.

danceAs you go through the days ahead, see if you can identify those situations in which someone is trying to manipulate you or the times in which you find yourself trying to manipulate someone else. Just being aware in both cases will make you a better person, companion and friend, because you have chosen not to be manipulated and not to try to manipulate others. Let others dance to the puppeteers pulls on their strings. You have no strings attached and dance to your own tune.

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Where are you headed?

November 7, 2018

In today’s post to the Jack’s Winning Words blog this saying attributed to Buddha is used – “If you do not change direction, you may wind up where you are heading.” 

Renowned philosopher Yogi Berra had a different take on life’s direction – “If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.” 

Both quotes speak to the need for one to make decision’s in their life about the direction that they are headed in. Yogi’s point is that you shouldn’t just drift along in life and see where it takes you. Buddha is saying that you are in control of where you end up through new-way-forwardthe decisions that you make.

Yesterday’s election was labeled Decision 2018 by many of the network news organizations and the results of the elections saw the country make a conscious decision to change direction in Washington, at least in the House of Representatives and in many state houses, too.

Every now and then, everyone needs to pause and reflect on where they are headed and whether they need to or want to change direction. That moment of self-reflection can begin with the simple question, “Am I happy with my life?” Answering that simple question will not only force you to think about your current situation, but also about the direction in which you are headed. The questions, “If not, why not?” and “What do I need to change to be happy?” will come quickly to mind. If the answer to that initial question boredis yes, then give some thought to what it will take to maintain or even increase that happiness. In either case, the answers that you come up with will provide some new directions for you to pursue.

Remember that happiness in life is not a destination, but a journey; that journey may often require course corrections to get you back headed in the right direction. Where are you headed? What changes might you need to make to get closer to that goal today? Where do you look for help and direction? Ancient mariners learned to look to the heavens to find their directions. You, too, can look to Heaven for directions to get back on course. Pausing to woman-prayingstart each day with a prayer can help you reset your compass and get you started in the direction of happiness and contentment. I’ve found that the simple prayer, “Lord help me make good decisions today” helps me get off to a good start each day.

What is guiding your life? You can find the best guide through prayer.


Choose to vote…

November 5, 2018

The quote on the Jack’s Winning Words blog today is “Your life is the result of your choices.  What will you choose today for your tomorrows?  (Robert Allen)

Jack used that quote to talk about voting or at least not whining about the results if you don’t vote and you don’t like the outcome.

While we may not agree on anything else about this election, I think all of us can agree that we’ll be glad when it’s over and those obnoxious political commercial cease ruling (and ruining) the airways. If the ads are to be believed, we have choices between the debaterssleaze-bags and the dirt-bags; between fanatical, bigoted storm troopers on one side and Communist sympathizers on the other; between those who would stand by and watch your sick child die and those who would steal the future from that same child. The party colors may be blue and red, but the political contrasts stand out in stark black and white. The only reaching across the aisle being done here is to reach out in anger for the throats of the opponents.

Lost in all of the rancor and bombast is the welfare of the people of the country. Taking care of the nation’s crumbling infrastructure or providing for the health and welfare of those less fortunate and in need takes a seat at the absolute back of the political buses of both parties, which are focused almost solely on gaining or maintaining political power. Of course, both sides claim to be protecting America from the ravages of the other side’s radical politics.

Still, if you listen carefully, there are a few voices of reason out there among the candidates that give us hope. Sure, they are running under the banners of one party or the other; candidates have to do that to have any chance at all in our political system. voteHowever, some of these more reasonable candidates have expressed their independence from the platforms and leadership of the party under whose banner they are running. They have shown that they are more in tune with the needs and desires of their constituents than the just being toadies to the party line. In itself, that is enough reason to get out and vote on Tuesday. Make the choice about your tomorrows by voting on Tuesday.


Life happens…let go and move on

October 29, 2018

A recent post to the Jack’s Winning Words blog used this little quote – “Life is not like Burger King.  We can’t always have it our way.”  (Randi Zuckerberg)

One can imagine that life is unfolding in front of us in a totally random way; or, perhaps, take the approach that the things that are happening are God’s grand plan for how things are supposed to happen. I’m not a believer that God somehow micromanages everything that happens to everyone. Taking that position would seem to go against the concept of free will, which is an important tenant of Christian faith. There are sayings like “Everything happens for a reason”, which seem to be pointing towards God having a say in everything that happens. I don’t buy that either.

What I can buy into is God’s hand in how we react to the things that happen to us in life. The ability to accept things and move on and the ability to forgive those who may have caused us pain or harm and move on with life are different ways to react in which a strong belief in God plays a key role. In both cases, a key requirement is the ability to give up the self-delusion that we are in control of things.

If we admit that we cannot control the things that happen in life; then, what’s left for us to do? The main thing that we do control is how we react to those things that happen to us or around us. Some people spend a great deal of time and energy (mental and zombie apocolypsephysical) preparing for things that they imagine might happen. The recent fascination with the concept of a zombie apocalypse is an extreme example; however, there is a huge contingent of “survivalists” in every corner of the country who are planning and preparing for apocalyptic events that they “see” coming. They have stockpiles of food, water and guns to provide for and protect their families when the imagined worst happens.

A more likely day-to-day happening in life is for one to be faced with some disappointment that comes our way. It may be a social snub of some sort, a loss at a game, or perhaps something at work that doesn’t play out as we had hoped.  No matter what the disappointment or defeat is; we have a choice of how we react to it. The best coulda woulda shouldareaction may be one in which you say to yourself, “Oh well, I guess that wasn’t meant to be” and move on. The worst reaction is one in which you wallow in self-pity, self-recrimination or self-doubt. Those reactions are all the first steps toward self-loathing and depression. Don’t go there. There may well have been things that you could have done differently; but, you didn’t; so get over it, learn from it and get on with it.

How do you find the strength to deal with adversity and move on in life? That’s where your faith comes into play. Accompanying most setbacks in life is a sense (fear) of being alone. Sometimes this is self-imposed isolation, because we try to keep our remorse or woman-prayingregret or shame or hurt to ourselves. Perhaps we have no “significant other” with whom we can share these feelings. In either case, don’t forget that you are ever alone. God is there with you and ready to share and offload your burden. All you have to do is ask God for help and accept that help; in order to experience the peace that surpasses all understanding. Try it. Use the little prayer that I often use – “Not my will but Thy will be done”. Let God lift your burden from your shoulders. Let it go.

Peace be with you. Move on.


Start off each day with a smile

October 24, 2018

The headline for today’s post came from the Jack’s Winning Words blog for today.  Jack started off writing about Confucius and ended with that line.

That piece of advice resonates on several levels. Starting your day with a smile forces you to consider your attitude before you encounter people. Stand in front of a mirror smirkand smile at yourself. See if it doesn’t immediately force the question, “What am I smiling about?” into your mind. The mind has the interesting ability to immediately find an answer to that question. You will either remember something that is smile worthy – something that happened to you or something that you saw or something that someone said to you – or you will look at that smiling face in the mirror and stop taking yourself so seriously. In either case, it will set a tone for the start of your day that is way better than walking out to face the world with a frown on your face.

Most people don’t realize that their “at rest” face (the default look that just sets itself on your face) is not all that friendly looking or inviting. Most at rest faces droop into a frownHenry Thomas Buckle or an unhappy look. It’s not that yo are mad or really unhappy, it’s just that your at rest continence does not have a pleasant smile on it. Ask a friend to take a picture of you sometime in a normal setting when you are not expecting it to see how you look. You may be surprised how unfriendly you this-is-melook.

So, make the effort to start each day with a smile. Not only will it make you look more attractive and inviting to others, but making that conscience effort will make you feel better, too. You may also find that more people say hi or try to start a conversation with you. They are curious why you are smiling and want to share whatever is was that made you smile. That will make you smile even more.

So, before you leave home this morning; find a mirror and put a smile on your face. Waitanimated-light-bulb-gif-22 for your mind to let you know why you are smiling and then carry that with you the rest of the day.

You’re already on your way to having a great day!


Now they’re just insulting the people…

October 20, 2018

Our American political system seems to be slipping ever deeper into the hyper-partisan hole of hate, bigotry and distrust into which it has dug itself. The campaign ads get more and more hateful and sleazy as voting day draws near. The gloves come off (if they were ever on) and the last vestiges of truthfulness and integrity are lost in the stampede to sling mud towards the opponents, no matter how outrageous or hurtful the messages ugly face.pngmay be. This is the ugly face of politics.

The politicians and their advisers think that they are “stirring up the base” by playing to the hate and fear messages that seem to resonate with the radical groups on either side. Rather than insulting the opposition, what these hate ads really do is insult the intelligence of the probable voters. They reduce the process to one of trying to pick out the least sleazy candidate to vote for in any election or the least likely to lead us into doom.

samuel Taylert ColeridgeI’m reminded of a quote that I saw in the Jack’s Winning Words blog – “Experience informs us that the first defense of weak minds is to recriminate.” (Samuel Taylor Coleridge)

I suspect that Coleridge would have found many weak minds among the slates of candidates in modern politics.

I will be glad again this year when we get by the election and can return to the more pleasant experience of the TV ads informing me over dinner about all sorts of medicines to help with gross bodily functions or diseases. Those are less likely to turn my stomach than the current crop of political attack ads. It is probably too late to save most of the politicians, but another piece of advice from the Jack’s Winning Words blog also comes to mind –

(Mark Twain) “Never lie to someone who trusts you, and never trust someone who lies to you.” Mark Twain

I wonder what Twain would write about our current political scene if he were alive today. I’ll bet it would be a fun read.

Heaven help us all to get through this mess we call an election.

 


What do you see in your mind?

October 15, 2018

In today’s post to his blog, Jack’s Winning Words, Jack Freed used this quote to write about the wonder of our minds – “To different minds the same world is a hell and a heaven.”  (J.B. Priestley). Jack’s post talked about how our brains perceive things and he shared a book, It’s All in Your Head, that modern school kids are using to explore how their brains work. A fascinating statistic that Jack cited is that science only understands what about 10% of the brain does, with 90% still to be discovered.

We use such phrases as “in my mind’s eye” and “it’s all in your head” to describe how we perceive and react to the world around us. Some people’s brains work differently. Try todepression2 imagine having two minds inside your brain, one which sees the world as heaven and one that only sees darkness and hell. A bi-polar person may actually be living that experience, although only one of the minds may be in control at any one time. Schizophrenics may house many minds, perhaps with more than one “mind” fighting for control at any given time.

The mind is where fantasy and reality are supposed to be sorted out and kept in order, but for some that process doesn’t work well and we say of them that “they are living a fantasy world.” For some an imbalance in the brain may drag them into the dark pit of depression. Fortunately, for people suffering from depression, science has discovered solutions that can maintain a better balance within the brain and allow them a more “normal” life.

It is interesting that we have evolved to the point where our brains are contemplating insightthemselves and how they work. Much of the work in this area of science has focused upon how the brain controls various functions of our bodies or how it gathers, sorts, stores and recalls the information that it encounters in order to build our knowledge base. Yet to be understood is how the brain is capable of original thoughts. It may be that most of what we think of as original thoughts are really just well organized paths of discovery of the origin of something or the solution to a problem.

An even more interesting question is did our brains invent the concept of God or did God invent our brains so that we could “see” Him in our minds. Having been a Star Trek fan from the very first episode on TV, I can conjure up a vision that talking with God is like the Vulcan mind meld, with God playing the role of Spock. Imagine how far back God must have to throttle His mind in order to have a conversation with the small minds thatwoman-praying He encounters here on earth. When you talk to God through prayer, what do you “see” in your mind’s eye? Does God sound like James Earl Jones when he answers you?

It is inevitable that religion and science intersect, even in contemplating or own minds. I like a little saying from Einstein – “Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.” As scientists study our brains and the minds that they house, they will come to dead ends where the next steps can only be explained by religious belief. Where science stops is where God begins. Perhaps we should spend less time contemplating why things are as they are and spend more time just appreciating the beauty of things as they are. Stop and look at the beauty all around you. Anne Frank put it this way – “Think of all the beauty still left around you and be happy.” 

It is in the appreciation of that beauty that you will “see” the hand of God in your mind. Have a beautiful day!