Posts Tagged ‘philosophy’

cabin-sm

Like many of my fellow patriots I had no wish to watch the slow-motion train wreck of the Presidential election, so since October of 2016 we have been hunkered down in our SHTF “bug-out” cabin in an undisclosed wilderness waiting for the post-American fallout to clear. We assumed we were well supplied and prepared to outlast the inevitable Hillary Clinton presidency (and the subsequent loss of liberty, freedom, and the collapse of our once proud nation) but SOMEBODY seriously miscalculated the pop-tart inventory. Also, I’m out of beer already (no surprise) and our DVD collection is wearing thin.

Since I am making this trip to pick through the ruins of civilization to remedy those “basic needs” shortages, I decided to charge up the old electronic devices on a lark and was surprised to find the Wifi and cell-phone coverage is still functional. How odd.

Well, now. It seems that even the Internet is still up and running. Let’s just scroll through some old headlines here to see how bad things got before the end of Western civilization.

This can’t be right…

He… he won? How the hell…

Well, even so, he’ll never keep those outrageous promises he… wait just a friggin’ minute. He’s done what? Huh.

So. There you are. I’m speechless. And, frankly, giddy with relief. I guess all I can do now is quote the late Gilda Radner: “Never mind.”

P.S. What am I going to do with a room full of MREs and a metric ton of toilet paper?

voting 2016-05-24 10.24.11Today is what some might consider a “minor” voting day in Georgia, in that it’s a local general election/primary poll. No one is voting for president, the US Senators and Representatives on the ballot are only battling other members of their own party, and most of the candidates for lower offices are unchallenged. But we still have a responsibility to fulfill today.

The notion that “voting is a right” has long been a matter of debate. What is not up for debate is that it is a civic duty. But our first and foremost civic duty is to be informed, aware, invested, contributing members of society.

I implore you: keep America’s integrity intact. Do not attempt to  fulfill your duty at the ballot box until you have first fulfilled those other important duties. If you have not done the research, it is instead your duty to stay away from the polls. We don’t need the ignorant, the half-awake and the barely involved deciding our future.

 

Man-blowing-dust-of-an-old-book-Shutterstock-800x430

It’s beginning to feel like the time has come again to bring this page out of mothballs, dust off the accumulated debris, and launch some new content. Summer is fast approaching, so I’ll have some hiking posts to write. There are a lot of new restaurants our there (some of which are only new to me), and I’m still interested in exploring and reviewing them. We are nearly six months away from the Presidential election, so there’s a lot to cover there (some of which may even be original). I may even get to chronicle my bride’s progress as she builds her side business to mammoth proportions so that she can keep me in a manner to which I would enjoy becoming accustomed. Who knows what direction this journal may take?

My intent is to work up to a regularly periodic post schedule, but until I get into that habit things are certain to be sporadic. Don’t worry if some time passes between one post and the next.

Readers will, I hope, be entertained by my hiking, restaurant, and business articles. Religion and politics, however, have become blood sport of late. I hope you find my analysis of these contentious subjects useful and interesting, and that there is much upon which we agree. I would love to hear your comments, as well. And even if you disagree with the things I write here, that’s okay – we can probably still be friends. If you use the comments section to give voice to your displeasure I’ll try not to let my feelings get hurt. And if you promise to not think less of me for these opinion posts, I promise not to think less of you for being wrong. 😉

See you soon!

-Red

There are connotations about the word “success” that differ based on who hears it. Some hear it and think, “Admirable goal! Top of the game, target to shoot for, best, achievement, purpose, triumph!” Some hear it and think, “Forget it! Over-achiever, out of reach, lucky, brown-nose, snob, locked out, blocked!” And still others think, “It depends,” or, “I’ve made it!” or, “Success in what, exactly?” You’ve probably had a thought pop into your own head while reading this – take it out and examine it a moment.

Isn’t it true that the first images you think of when trying to define success are the superficial stereotypes: money, fame, fancy homes, important career? Erma Bombeck noted the same thing: “Don’t confuse fame with success. Madonna is one; Helen Keller is the other.”

So you go a little deeper, and you add things like good friends, happy family, good health, strong marriage. Bet even those things are only the outside appearance of success.

So you go even deeper: real happiness, a rich spiritual life, finding your soulmate. Many would think, “Ah, at last we have come to our true definition. After all, we can’t go any deeper.” But I don’t know if these are quite it. All wonderful evidences of success, yes; but not success itself.

Maybe the English language has failed us here. Or maybe the meaning has become diluted, muted and polluted. I know I want success, but I couldn’t convey it to those around me without risking their prejudiced ideas about what that means. Even in my own mind, I sometimes wondered if my efforts at success weren’t somehow self-aggrandizing.

Then someone used another word in the same context, a similar one in content and value, one that hasn’t yet been bleached of its richness:

Significance.

Significance is the place where real, non-superficial success fetches up. Every single example of real success that I can think of boils down to becoming significant. Making a difference. Being someone or doing something that matters. What a goal! Who wouldn’t aspire to that? And isn’t that what I always meant in my heart when I described success to myself?

These words are not typically found together in the thesaurus; that is, they do not share an identical definition. But I think they point in a parallel direction, except that I don’t know of any negative cultural undertone attached to the word “significance”. The meanings of the two words are close enough that some historic quotes gain fresh new life when you take out “success” and use “significance”:

Some people [succeed/are significant] because they are destined to, but most people [succeed/are significant] because they are determined to. (Henry Ford)
Action is the foundational key to all [success/significance]. (Pablo Picasso)
One secret of [success/significance] in life is for a man to be ready for his opportunity when it comes. (Benjamin Disraeli)

Significance seems more important, more noble than mere success.

One last note: if you are a lover of language, you might have already noticed that the verb form of success is “to succeed”, which indicates action. There is no popular action verb form for significance. To succeed is to do, and to be significant is to be (or become). If only the English language had a word for “to become significant”! “I will strive for becoming significant” is far too clunky and even changes the meaning a little.

But even without the help of the exactly correct words I have begun updating my mindset to accommodate this new outlook, and have incorporated it into the efforts I make to reach my own level of success significance. I may not always succeed attain significance, but I will have given it significant effort.

What does success mean to you? Do you have friends or family to whom success a dirty word? Share it in the comments below.

I’ve never been much of a worrier. My typical reaction to impending doom is to ignore it and hope it goes away.

This strategy has worked well more often than it ought to have. I think it may be because I’m not actually ignoring it, even if that’s how it seems. Instead of panicking and flapping around like a landed trout, I send the problem down to the subconscious to find a solution; meanwhile, my outward countenance has nothing to do, which gives the appearance of calm in the face of adversity. My conscious mind sees my apparent calm and figures there must not be anything to worry about. Eventually (sometimes days or weeks later) the hardworking brain cells in the basement send up a workable answer and I’m ready to act.

This never fails to surprise those who know me well. The action step usually happens just after everyone has given up on me and decided I’m not ever going to do anything.

I suppose that I’m just reluctant to take an action unless I’m sure it will be effective. Which lever do I pull? Which knob to turn? Where to steer? When to wait? What to watch for? Sometimes there seem to be no options, and sometimes there are too many. But anxious fretting has never been an effective strategy. If I worry, it’s very short lived; if I think something might go wrong, I’ll try to fix it if I can, and then there’s nothing left to worry about.

Watching people worry makes me crazy. It just doesn’t factor into analyzing the problem, working out a logical response, or even that other useless activity, finding someone to blame. The most perplexing examples of worry are those in which a person is worried about something they cannot change. What’s the point of that?

At a religious leaders conference called The Nines, Pastor Steve Robinson of Church of the King in Mandeville, Louisiana, gave a talk called, “Worry is Temporary Atheism.” That’s a powerful idea. I understand this to refer anxiety over things beyond your own influence. The concern that our future is potentially and permanently awful, and that God can’t or won’t get you through it.

Faith in God has an amazing capacity to strengthen resolve. There are thousands of stories of people who get through the most horrible situations and credit it to their belief in an afterlife and in a loving God.  But even if you don’t believe, is there really anything so terrible that you can’t find a way to live with it? Even unbelievers find ways to persevere. It’s astonishing how strong people can be when it’s required.

So is worry a useless emotion? I think so. It is fear of an unknowable future – and the unknowable part is key, there. Think about it: if you knew precisely that a specific awful thing was going to happen, you would stop worrying about that (and start worrying about the unknowable things resulting from it, probably). If you were worried about losing a finger while working on an engine, and a genie came along and proved to you that yes, in fact, you were going to lose your left index finger, what are you going to worry about after that? You stop worrying that you might lose a finger, first of all. But then you start worrying about the details your genie left out: “Will it get infected? Will they be able to re-attach it? Will I ever play the piano again? How will I pick my nose?” Suddenly, “Will I lose a finger” doesn’t even make sense.

Is there anything about the future that is knowable? Sometimes, but that doesn’t seem to solve the worry problem. You can worry about your kids, your health, your relationships, your career and your finances, but to what end? You can influence those things, but at some point the results are out of your hands. Worry will never change the results. You have to trust that you’ve done what you can, and let it go.

Do you ever struggle with worry? Have you developed a strategy to avoid anxiety, especially over those things you cannot control? Can faith and worry exist together? Share your story in the comments section, below.

Earlier this week a meme that I ignored for awhile was making the rounds on Facebook where a friend gives you a number and you must answer, as your status, a few basic poll questions about yourself when you were that age. For instance, my sister wrote:

My number is…17
I wanted to be: in Europe ALL summer
I was scared of: NOTHING, ‘cept maybe getting a hole in my waterbed
Favorite show(s): Fame
Favorite food(s): mom’s spaghetti, dad’s grill, Luigi’s pizza, Big John Steak n Onion
Favorite drink(s): Coke in glass bottles

Later in the day, I read a post from the blog of Michael Hyatt (former Chairman of Thomas Nelson Publishers) titled What Do You Wish You Knew Then That You Know Now? (which was actually a guest post from Adam Donyes.) Somehow this captured my imagination in a way that the Facebook thing did not. The connection to me was the idea of looking back at who you used to be, once upon a time.

The Hyatt post had the potential to be a dreary excavation of a person’s lifelong regrets (in his terms, folly), but it was not. Instead, it was a study of success. The author’s premise was that age brings wisdom – the kind of wisdom that makes you say things like, “I didn’t even know how much I didn’t know.” (Let’s face facts: was there ever a time in our lives like our college years, where we were sure we had all the answers and frankly, knew it all?) His train of thought logically progressed to another idea – mainly, that at this present point in his timeline there is surely a similar body of knowledge and wisdom as yet undiscovered. So:

“Rather than accept the fact that folly was inevitable, I spent the past twelve months polling fifteen respectable men I admire – men that have lived lives of integrity, men who are faithful husbands, and have been deemed successful in their chosen vocation… The question I asked these fifteen men was this, ‘What are three things you know now that you wish you knew when you were thirty?’ I was hoping that these men would share the folly they had experienced as leaders and in life, so that I might not repeat their mistakes.”

(The results are great. You should check them out.)

It got me thinking about the person I once was. My number is… 23.
I wanted to be: a wealthy college graduate
I was scared of: dying alone
Favorite show(s): Anything on Comedy Central
Favorite food(s): Danish meatballs, pizza, lasagna
Favorite drink(s): Beer. Lots of beer.

I now look upon that guy as “Least likely to live up to his potential.”

And, a la Adam Donyes (with a little Marty McFly mixed in), what would I tell that 23-year old guy were I to meet him in 1989?

  • Stay out of debt. The idea that you need to build your FICO is a trap.
  • Sell your TV. Nothing good ever came from the hours you wasted in front of it.
  • If you want good friends, be a great one. To everyone you meet.
  • The best cure for laziness is activity. Work like hell while you can (i.e., when you’re young), and start investing the extra – even if it’s only $50 a month.
  • The trick to quitting the smokes is that only the first three days are intolerable. After that it gets easier. (And you know it would have been better not to start.)
  • What steps did you take this week to be that “wealthy college graduate”? Do something next week to make sure your answer isn’t “nothing” again next week.
  • Call your grandma.
  • Yes, there really is a God. He loves you, and cares what happens to you. He’s also a lot smarter than you are, so you should probably let him decide what path you should take. Ironically, there’s a lot of freedom in that.
  • God has someone special in mind for you. But not until you both grow up. A lot.
  • Atlanta Braves tickets are likely pretty cheap right about now. 1991 is going to be an excellent year to grab a suite for the season.

Granted, that last pearl of wisdom is probably of no use to the youth of today, but the others are golden. Or pearly. Whatever. The point is that if I had spent more time pondering, “What is the wise thing to do?” and less time searching for “What is the fun thing to do?”, I might have saved myself a ton of trouble and a decade or two of wasted effort.

The takeaway? These are still excellent pieces of advice that I can use, even today. If I continue to adhere to these principles for the next 25 years perhaps I’ll have, instead of advice, a list of things I’m glad I did right. One can hope.

Did you ever look to someone older and wiser for clues to a better life? Ever engage in the whimsical fantasy of traveling through time to speak to your younger or older self? Tell me your story in the comments section.

(See parts one and two here.) The previous six lessons have played out; now let’s tee off on the seventh on our way back to the clubhouse.

Sometimes things just go wrong (but it won’t keep going wrong)

I’m not a golf pro, and I don’t watch golf on television where the analysis is constant and often very technical. So sometimes a shot will head in a completely unexpected direction. I’ll watch my ball travel out of bounds and stand there gawking, baffled as to why it happened.

When you know what you did wrong, it’s a simple matter to begin to correct it. But where do you start if you’re clueless about your mistake? It’s important not to let that kind of thing derail us. I’ve found that if the problem is that subtle, it’s often just a fluke. It probably won’t happen again. Just drop another ball and swing away. This is even more important in life off the golf course.

Sometimes things keep going wrong

In part one, I talked about the “death spiral implosion” that can occur when one bad shot follows another. If you combine this phenomenon with not knowing what went wrong, it can be enough to make you want to quit altogether.

My approach for times I don’t have a specific “fix” to apply to a recurring problem is to become unconventional. In the movie “Bull Durham”, Susan Sarandon’s character has to get the pitcher’s mind off his streak of wild pitches. She makes the pitcher (played by Tim Robins’s) don a garter belt under his uniform, and he becomes so distracted that he stops worrying about wild pitches and begins firing the ball right down the middle.

While I don’t recommend stowing garters in your golf bag, any unconventional play can work. Bet your caddie that you can hit the next shot 50 yards using just your putter. Keep a sleeve of pink golf balls in your bag and tell the guys, “I’ll use these, since I can’t seem to get past the ladies’ tees anyway.” Tee up the next shot barefoot. Once the tension of your “losing streak” is broken, your “A” game might just return.

Good times are better with a friend

If you’ve ever tried to play a round of golf by yourself, you’ll know there are a several things that make this a very different experience. Your mind wanders; you tend to rush to the finish (and each shot, as well); the temptation to take mulligans and do-overs becomes intense; and it’s somehow just not enough that you’re outdoors enjoying beautiful weather in a beautiful setting.

In fact, solo golfers are so rare that their presence is disconcerting – even alarming – to other players. Inevitably every twosome or threesome they see will invite the soloist to join their group. It’s as if they consider it offensive to be alone there, or some evidence of sociopathic behavior. Or maybe it’s just that the groups understand what’s being missed, and compassion is the thing that moves them towards an invite.

Humans are social creatures, and almost everything that brings humans happiness has a social element to it. It’s just more fun sharing the fun with a friend, and the friend in turn makes the experience more remarkable and enjoyable.

The 19th hole: Conclusions

Like life, the game of golf has elements of work, play, integrity, meditation, problem-solving, philosophy and friendship. Some days you struggle, some days you’re golden, some days you get rained on. If you pay attention, you can get a lot out of it. And usually there’s a beer or two involved.

If I can derive so much philosophical insight from just one round of golf, how much better would the world be if everyone spent some time on the course every week?