Friday, October 15, 2010

Random Thoughts Volume VI

I took my granddaughter to Huber's Orchard last Sunday as I do every year at this time. It looked like autumn and it smelled like autumn but it felt like the 4th of July. We're still breaking heat records in the summer that won't leave. Despite the heat we enjoyed riding the farm wagon out to the fields and walking among all the pumpkins. I think my granddaughter has artistic talent. She loves to draw and wants to write a book with me. She told me I can write the words and she will draw the pictures. We may actually do that someday. At the very least she may someday take all the daily musings I have written and get them published, hopefully with her drawings. Last night we wrote a short story together about Jack Skeleton, the main character in the Tim Burton movie called "The Nightmare Before Christmas". The next time she comes to my house I will surprise her with a copy of the movie. That's what grandparents do.

"How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving, and tolerant of the weak and the strong, because someday you will have been all of these".
-George Washington Carver

I have always liked this quote and have strived to live this way. My life has provided me many opportunities to do these things. As a grandparent, who is more patient now than I was as a parent, I can be tender with my granddaughter. My Dad spent the last year and a half of his life in a nursing home so I was able to visit him, feed him, and occasionally show him compassion in moments that were probably embarrassing for him. As a supervisor I have dealt with individuals over the years who strived to excel but weren't always able to actually do it. In all areas of my life I have dealt with the low self esteem and fear the weak sometimes have as well as the sometimes bloated egos of the strong. As my life progresses I am no longer young and even now my children joke about me being "over the hill". In some areas where I was strong in my youth, I am weak in my middle age. If one is blessed to grow old, life comes full circle and youth is balanced with old age, strength is balanced with weakness, and, hopefully, compassion given is compassion received.

"We often add to our pain and suffering by being overly sensitive, overreacting to minor things, and sometimes taking things too personally".
-The Dalai Lama

This is a quote we all should take seriously. It's some of the best advice you will ever get. At the heart of Buddhist teaching is the idea that we are the cause of most of our own suffering because of the way we react to things. Most of our suffering is in our own heads. At one time or another all of us have probably been overly sensitive to a perceived slight. I know I have occasionally overreacted to things that were quite minor when viewed with the wisdom of hindsight. If you don't believe that people sometimes take things too seriously, ride up and down in the elevators of your office for a few hours and listen to the conversations. If I was allergic to complaining I would get sick most of the time when I ride the elevators in my office. Most days we all need to chill out. As a general rule we should not believe anything we hear and only half of what we see. Reality is almost always misunderstood.

"Courage does not always roar. Sometimes it is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, "I will try again tomorrow".

Most of us would not think of ourselves as courageous. I have never saved anyone's life nor put my own life in danger to help another. However, I hope I would be courageous if I needed to be. I've been thinking a lot about the miners in Chile and their long ordeal trapped underground. These were just regular guys doing their job on an ordinary day and then a cave in occurred. They've been underground since August 5th. It was over two weeks before anyone knew if they were even alive. They are now being lifted to safety as I write these thoughts. Hopefully, they will all be with their families by the time you read this. Courage, however, in not always this dramatic. I believe it also takes a kind of quiet courage just to be faithful to the demands of your life and to the people around you. Just like the miners took it one day at a time, living in faith and hope, we must also do the same. Life is tough. It can wear you out. At the end of a day we can feel quite weary in mind, body, and spirit. Still, most of us go to sleep thinking "I will try again tomorrow" and when morning comes we have the strength and quiet courage to meet the demands and challenges of our lives.

"Always do right. This will gratify some people and astonish the rest".
-Mark Twain, writer and humorist

I would add a few words to this quote to make it perfect. I would say, "Always do the right thing". How do you know what the right thing is? Well, in many things, like work, you need to use your intellect and data to make judgements and decisions. When it comes to people, however, intellect and data are not always the best criteria for decision making. Intellect and data have sometimes pointed me in one direction while my hear points me in another direction. I can be quite rational about work decisions. I understand numbers and the logic of numbers often tells me what needs to be done. Life gets much more complicated when dealing with human beings. Sometimes the right thing is in conflict with the rational thing. Our heads and our hearts often play a tug of war. In the end, whether we are at work or at home, our intuitive selves usually know what's the right thing to do. This intuitive self is supported by our own values and moral consciousness. I believe if you trust your inner voice you will "always do right".

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