Monday, December 30, 2013

"Fanatics do not have faith - they have belief. With faith you let go. You trust. Whereas with belief you cling."-- Yann Martel

This sounds true to me.
Belief seems such a brittle thing.  Kids "believe" in Santa Claus, and there is an expectation that he will put presents under the tree.  Belief in Santa diminishes with disappointment (wrong toys) and age.
Having faith in something is a bit more flexible.  We have faith that there is something outside of ourselves because it mirrors that intangible thing within us that feels true.  Therefore our faith grows as we do and does not diminished or become a disappointment, for that would be akin to losing faith in ourselves.  

Saturday, December 28, 2013

"Doubt is not the opposite of faith; it is one element of faith."-- Paul Tillich

Real faith is not blind.  Real faith takes in doubt and weaves it into the patterns of thought that define it. There is a certain harmony of design that becomes clearer when the darkness of doubt mingles with the vibrancy of faith.  Both are necessary in this tapestry of life, because both become clearer when in concert with each other--but only one feels true.  Without doubt, faith is empty indeed.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

"Faith is a passionate intuition."--William Wordsworth

Have you ever had the feeling that you "just knew" something.  There was no way you could know, but you had such a visceral experience of "knowing" that it felt like guidance--a voice in your head (God or your higher self, however you chose to refer to it) spoke to you so strongly that you couldn't help following that "passionate intuition" with the clear knowledge that you were doing the right thing for yourself.
That, my friend, is an act of faith.

Friday, December 20, 2013

"Faith has to do with things that are not seen and hope with things that are not at hand."-- Thomas Aquinas

Yes! Thomas nails this one.
Faith also accepts what is, knowing that all paths lead to where you need to go, hope is the desire for change combined with the devout wish that the path will be short and easy.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

"I think the greatest taboos in America are faith and failure."-- Michael Malone

Call me slow, but I've got to puzzle this one out.  Taboos are the "thou shalt not's", so faith and failure are the two things that Americans feel are "sins" (for lack of a better word)?
Failure, yes, I completely agree that in contemporary American culture,  failure is a sin.  Why else do we worship money and power--but faith?
I guess Michael never watched Fox News, where faith in the Christian god is a prerequisite for being an upstanding citizen, as is having money and power.
"Sinners", according to fox pundits, are not those that have both, but those that have neither.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

"I hold that religion and faith are two different things."-- Pat Buckley

Me too, Pat.
As we saw in yesterday's quote, faith can be secular.  No God need be attached.
Trusting yourself, trusting life; those are forms of faith built on a solid foundation of direct experience.
Believing in yourself, like believing in a higher power, is slightly different than having faith in yourself.
I'm reminded of the little engine that could.
The cry of the believer is "I think I can, I think I can."
The cry of the those with faith? "I know I can, I know I can."
See the difference?

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

"That bedrock faith that I could write was what blinded me to attempts to discourage me."--Lynn Abbey

We so often think of "faith" as a belief in a higher power.  How refreshing that Lynn acknowledges the most dynamic aspect of faith: faith in oneself.
Why dynamic? Because faith in oneself compels action. It's often what inspires us to give our gifts--the works of art, novels, dances, music--in short, any and all kinds of out-of-the-box thinking or inventive ways of being that shed light and bring excitement to our lives.
Lack of faith can stifle motivation, disabling the talented and wise from giving their own unique gift to the world, and the world is the poorer for it.

Monday, December 16, 2013

"As your faith is strengthened you will find that there is no longer the need to have a sense of control, that things will flow as they will, and that you will flow with them, to your great delight and benefit."-- Emmanuel Teney

This quote is all about trusting oneself and trusting life.
It's a big sigh of relief to those of us who want to stop rowing upstream.  How exquisite it would be to put down the oars, relax into living and go with the flow.
We will never know what's around the next bend in the river, yet so many of us are so afraid of the future that we work strenuously to get away from what's next.  We turn our backs and row against the current, longing to either return to "simpler times" or just stay where we are.
It takes a lot of work to resist change, so imagine the relief of just letting go and letting life take us where we need to be.
All that takes is faith.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

"Faith is reason grown courageous."-- Sherwood Eddy

Reason is like the string holding a kite.  Faith is the kite.  Reason keeps faith anchored to the earth. Faith lifts reason to new heights, allowing new perspectives, vision and expansion.  Without the kite of faith, the string of reason is the prisoner of gravity.

Friday, December 13, 2013

"In the affairs of this world, men are saved not by faith, but by the want of it."--Benjamin Franklin

As children, our desire for presents required us to not get on Santa's naughty list.  We behaved, because we had faith--that Santa existed, that he knew "if you've been bad or good" so we were "good, for goodness sake."  Presto: Presents!
Like children, when we long for a desired result but can't reach our goal, we might look for help outside of ourselves, perhaps thinking there is something more powerful "out there" that might work in our behalf.  We decide to have faith, changing our behavior for the sake of that powerful being, maybe becoming better people as a result, hoping for help in reaching our goal.
Maybe we reach the goal that prompted our behavior change. Maybe not, but perhaps the end result-becoming better people ("saved" according to Ben)--is enough.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

"The faith that stands on authority is not faith."--Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ralph's got a point. If you've got to point to something to justify your beliefs, you have none.  No beliefs, that is, and also no faith.  Faith stands alone.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

"Faith is the strength by which a shattered world shall emerge into the light."-- Helen Keller9

Helen Keller is the master of strength in the face of a shattered world.  Look at what she did despite her disadvantages! She had such faith in herself that she moved quite literally from being trapped in the dark to emerging into the light of inter-communication.
She discovered a powerful way of interacting with the world, and that's all about faith.  She knew, she had faith, that despite her blindness and deafness there was a world out there worth exploring.
That's true for us all.

Friday, December 6, 2013

"To me faith means not worrying."-- John Dewey

I love this quote.
If that's all that faith does for you, it's enough in my opinion.
Sure, it smacks of Pollyanna, but what's wrong with that?
"Don't Worry, Be Happy" is more than just a song or the words of Meher Baba.  It's genuine a spiritual principle.  Adhered to, it makes life a rich, full experience instead of the endurance contest that most "realists" believe it is.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

"Faith is not something to grasp, it is a state to grow into."-- Mahatma Gandhi

We have faith when we're children in that we have a connection to the magic of life.  Often with maturity comes disillusionment and we grow out of faith.
As adults, we know that fairies and Santa Claus aren't real, but we also know in our bones that there's something out there that beckons us, a feeling that life is richer than we know.
The emptiness of adulthood when compared to our childhood is a great motivator, and we spend a lot of time trying to fill that hole with bad habits and religion.
Reconnecting to the great mystery of the world is, as Gandhi implies, an evolutionary process.  We can't really "get" it by joining a church or dropping acid, but we can slowly, slowly feel our back to the wonder of faith by tapping into the magnificence of who we truly are.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

"Faith is to believe what you do not see; the reward of this faith is to see what you believe."-- Saint Augustine

Saint Augustine recognized the power of our minds to bring to us what we expect.
We prove our worldview to ourselves over and over again, every day. It starts when we wake up in the morning.  If we feel great, we expect a great day, and usually have a great day.
When we wake up feeling crummy, well, the crumminess continues. It takes a leap of faith to decide that, despite the strength of our negative emotions, changing how we feel can change the tenure of our day.
Take the leap and see what happens.
It's up to us to change the world we see, and we can do that by simply changing our minds.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

"A casual stroll through the lunatic asylum shows that faith does not prove anything."-- Friedrich Nietzsche

This is one of those glib quotes that so often passes as wisdom when you hear it from someone you respect, but only if you're at a dinner party and have had one or two too many glasses of wine.
In the cold sober morning and coming from Friedrich, here, it's a real surprise.
What is the logic from which this gem springs? What does "Faith" have to do with lunatic asylums?  Does Friedrich assume that if we "really believed" or if religious faith actually "worked" that lunatic asylums wouldn't exist?
The strength of this quote probably lies in his definition of "faith", but even if we knew the context this little quote is still a weak and paltry verbal snack tossed off because it sounds good and, like party food, it's loaded with flavor but has very little meat.

Monday, December 2, 2013

"Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase. "--Martin Luther King Jr.

The month of December seems the perfect time to look into this thing called "Faith".  Is it blind, does it help us, does it hinder, does it bind us to the past or launch us into the future?  These are the questions that I hope will be answered by this inquiry.
MLK gets us off to a good start as he very simply describes what faith does: it keeps us going even if we're not sure where we're heading.  

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

“We live in a system that espouses merit, equality, and a level playing field, but exalts those with wealth, power, and celebrity, however gained.” ― Derrick A. Bell, Ethical Ambition: Living a Life of Meaning and Worth

Boy, I can't add a thing to what Mr. Bell says except this: this quote clarifies an odd discrepancy in our thinking.  This is good, because change can only occur when we see that it's necessary, and the obvious divergence of our ideals over our actions that this quote exposes is fodder for reflection and reformation. Way to go, Derrick!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

"We can stand affliction better than we can prosperity, for in prosperity we forget God."--Dwight L. Moody

For the most part, Dwight probably has a point.
We tend to see the almighty as a parent who will bail us out when we run into trouble so we whine and beg (read: "pray") to our deity of choice when times get tough.
When times are easy, who needs a spiritual or parental handout?
But let's look at this from God's P.O.V.  Don't you think that, like a parent, he or she would get a little tired of the childish tantrums and tears we display when we don't get what we want or we're hurt in some way? Don't you think God would welcome our forgetfulness when things go well for us?
I think he/she would say what a harried parent would say when their two-year-old has finally gone to bed:
"At last, some peace and quiet!"

Monday, November 25, 2013

"The question of peace, progress and prosperity, it's a motherhood statement, all of us like it."-- Sellapan Ramanathan

Ahhh, Sellapan, are you telling me you think that "peace, progress and prosperity" are sentimental notions like mom and apple pie?
Sure, "all of us like" these notions; and, hey, everyone has or had a mom.
There are those of us, though, that aren't that sentimental about their moms, who might even resent you putting words like "peace" in the same category as "motherhood".
Any teenager will tell you that "motherhood" and "peace" are NOT NECESSARILY words that go together. And as for adults, well, ever had a mother-in-law, Sellapan?

Saturday, November 23, 2013

"The Roaring Twenties were the period of that Great American Prosperity which was built on shaky foundations."--Paul Getty

Yesireee.  Flappers, the Charleston, and prohibition.  Oh, and there was also a little matter of an unregulated stock market.  Boop Boop ba Doooooo!

Friday, November 22, 2013

"It is easy when we are in prosperity to give advice to the afflicted."-- Aeschylus

Beggar to rich guy: "Buddy, can you spare a dime?"
Rich guy to beggar: "Get a job"
Beggar to rich guy: "Can't get a job. No Money."
Rich guy to beggar: "Whatta ya mean?"
Beggar to rich guy: "I need clean clothes to get a job.  No money for clothes.  I need a haircut to get a job. No money for a haircut.  I need a phone to get a job.  No money for a phone.  I need a residence to get a job. No money for a home.  I need transportation for a job.  No money for a bus, much less a car.  It takes money to make money."
Rich guy to beggar: "Then get a job."

Thursday, November 21, 2013

"Confidence is the key to prosperity."--Tony Blair

Confidence is the key to everything.
When one is confident, doors open and lovers fall into one's arms.
How could a confident person not be prosperous?  They have the gift of seeing mistakes as minor annoyances and personal setbacks as just another way of looking at a problem.  They let nothing get in their way, thereby continuing to make progress towards any goal.
You can't fake confidence.  The falsely confident person seems egotistic and annoying.  The truly confident person's unflappable optimism and eagerness for life makes them a joy to be around, and they make you feel confident too.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

"Give us equality of enjoyment, equal right to expansion - it is as necessary to our prosperity as yours."-- Robert Toombs

Enjoyment and expansion!  Beautiful words, and not often understood as necessary to prosperity.  Most of the time, doggedness, nose to the grindstone, perseverance, greed, single-mindedness, and selfishness are the words and phrases we think of when we imagine what it takes to become prosperous.  We rarely think of "enjoyment and expansion", yet those emotions might just be the crux of true prosperity.
Reading Robert's quote, I notice that the ingredients for true prosperity are the same as those for happiness; and after all, isn't the reason we want to be prosperous is because we think we'll feel happy when we become prosperous?
What if we can draw prosperity to us, not by all the "negative" virtues cited above, but by feeling enjoyment and expansiveness? I'm sure you've heard this phrase: "Do what you love and the money will follow". Perhaps it's really true!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

"To provoke dreams of terror in the slumber of prosperity has become the moral duty of literature."--Ernst Fischer

Are beliefs like this the reason why artists are, metaphorically, starving?
There's such arrogance in this quote that I can't help but admire.  It's so well-said, but so wrong-headed. I mean, really, talk about painting with a broad brush! Let me count Ernst's erroneous assumptions:

  1. The "slumber of prosperity" implies that a well-off person is too comfortable to be conscious and therefore can't possibly see life as it truly is. 
  2. If that's the case, it's best to be poor because only the poor understand suffering well enough to provide those "dreams of terror" that is the "moral duty of literature".  

It sounds like pretty shrill, unreadable, one-note literature to me, guaranteed to keep the author as poor as he must want to be.

Monday, November 18, 2013

"While prosperity is in some ways related to money, it is not caused by money."-- Shakti Gawain

There is a wider, truer definition of "prosperity" than being merely financially well off.
True prosperity doesn't depend upon the contents of your wallet, stock portfolio, or bank account.  A person who feels truly prosperous looks at the world with gratitude. They can see the gold in the stars and all the jewels one could want in the color of the sunset and know that the beauty of those things are what make one rich beyond measure.
This is essence of real prosperity: when you know in your heart and soul that you are a part of a generous and abundant universe.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

"Prosperity makes friends, adversity tries them."-- Publilius Syrus

This is the kind of thinking that confuses "friends" with "acquaintances".
A real friend is not made by prosperity.  A real friend can be found among those for whom your relative worth is a matter of indifference. Adversity does try friendship, but in a way the miller tries the wheat, by separating it from the chaff.  Like the chaff, acquaintances fall away when faced with the thresher of adversity, the wheat--your true friends--remain to nourish and sustain you in times of trouble..

Friday, November 15, 2013

"Higher income taxes are a razor guillotine poised to descend on the bare neck of prosperity."-- Thomas H. Kean

Really, Thomas?  Really?
Perhaps if you define prosperity as "I got mine and the rest of you can go hang", then, sure, income taxes are a bad idea.  They don't let you keep the money you reap.  But if you have a wider definition of prosperity, one that includes the health and welfare of the society in which you live, then you don't begrudge high taxes. All of us have--or may have--need of the roads, schools, libraries, parks, government, armed forces, post office, social security, food stamps, medical care, housing for the needy, etc. etc. that tax payments fund.
Most of the countries that are on the "10 Happiest" list also have higher income tax rates than the United States--which, by the way, didn't even make the list.
I guess these happy people don't realize that their "bare necks" are in danger.  Either that, or, they believe that a truly prosperous society provides for one and all.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

"It is impossible now to be an island of prosperity in a sea of despair."-- Bono

This is so true! With the internet, the plight of those suffering from war, natural disasters, and predatory governments is easy to see.  One must be hard-hearted indeed to ignore the downtrodden while enjoying one's own riches.
Many of the wildly and mildly rich do open their wallets widely, donating to worthy causes in the hopes to ease at least some of the world's pain.
But many don't.
These compassionately myopic and nearsighted folks might actually deserve our compassion. What pain they must have experienced for them to feel they must armour their hearts and build moats around their souls in order to survive.
True, they may live in a castle, but they spend their lives in a dungeon of isolation, anger, and fear.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

"We cannot seek achievement for ourselves and forget about progress and prosperity for our community... "--Cesar Chavez

It's a package deal. It's impossible to separate the needs of one from the needs of many.  
Mr. Chavez acknowledges that we're all connected, and he's right.
Simply put, were it not for the labors of ordinary people, the rich wouldn't thrive.
The rich pay the workers who build the factories and connect the factory to the marketplace with roads and telephone lines and computer cables. Orders can then be placed for the necessary raw materials to be purchased from farms and other factories. Then trucks and trains deliver the raw materials to the factory so the workers can make the product, which is then shipped out on trucks, trains, and planes so customers can buy what is offered.
If the rich scrimp on the payroll, the workers, builders, truckers, farmers, foresters, factory workers, architects, engineers, pilots and their families don't prosper.  If they don't prosper, the customer base disappears, the rich get poorer, and the whole shebang collapses.
All for one and one for all makes a whole lot of sense.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

"Prosperity has brought complications. Our lives are busier, faster, more stressful. They're nostalgic for a simpler, slower time."--Matt Ridley

Don't blame prosperity, Matt!  
Life, not prosperity, brings "complications".  
When people talk about the good old days, I bet they're actually referring to the time when they were children and had no responsibility for organizing their own lives.
Life was "simpler and slower" when our parents had to worry about putting food in our mouths and clothes on our backs. Now the buck stops with us, and our lives are naturally busier, faster, and more stressful as a result.  
Heck, prosperity might be a welcome relief to most of us!

Monday, November 11, 2013

"War paralyzes your courage and deadens the spirit of true manhood."-- Alexander Berkman

I imagine that this is what the bumper sticker on my neighbor's car is referring to, the one that says "there are no unwounded soldiers".
When you're ordered to go into a horrible situation and have no choice but to kill or be killed, or when you are too frightened to choose a human and humane response and must therefore act in a way that sickens and disturbs you, or when you decide that the people you're fighting are not really people, then you know that you're innocence has been ripped from you and the result is a wounded soul.
I hope we as a culture are prepared to care for these wounds. If we have no compassion for these soldiers, we must stop sending them to war.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

"There is no way to prosperity, prosperity is the way."-- Wayne Dyer

Wayne points to a spiritual principle that few of us actually believe: that prosperity is natural to us, and that it's our erroneous perceptions that keep us from realizing how abundant and generous source, god, universal flow, however you perceive the all-that-is, really is.

I don't blame us.  We're fed a diet of scarcity all our lives.  Not enough money, resources, ability, safety, freedom, food, shelter, schooling to go around. We can't listen to the radio or watch T.V. without being reminded of how "little" we have.

Wayne begs to differ, as do many past and current spiritual teachers; including Jesus who said:

". . .Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow without laboring or weaving, yet not one of you is arraigned as beautifully as these."

Consider how effortless life would be if we could make this leap of faith.

Friday, November 8, 2013

'Learning is an ornament in prosperity, a refuge in adversity, and a provision in old age.'--Aristotle

Aristotle posits a philosophical answer to the conundrum I find time after time when I come across prosperity quotes: prosperity, as fun, desirable and exciting as it might be, has the potential to be quite damaging to a person's character.
What to do?
Aristotle suggest that we learn. Learning helps us clearly see the grand scheme of the human condition. When we open our minds to the infinite variety of life how could we be selfish and self absorbed? Easily, if we've closed our hearts.
The mind is a great tool for intellectual development, but using what one's learned wisely is the province of the heart. If you see great poverty and and suffering but don't care, all the learning and mental prowess you possess won't entice you to open your wallet.
It takes empathy to be a decent human being, and even though learning can be "a refuge in adversity, and a provision in old age", it doesn't add up to much if empathy is absent.
The extraordinary combination of an empathetic heart and an opened mind: that's the recipe for a great human being.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

"War prosperity is like the prosperity that an earthquake or a plague brings."-- Ludwig von Mises

I wish people would make up their minds.
As I've mentioned before, quote after quote talks about adversity being necessary to bring out the best in people. I can't think of a more adverse situation than war--and a war is no different than an earthquake or plague in that there's usually a huge loss of life and property.
But there is a difference, in that war is unnatural.  Earthquakes or plagues are usually not preventable.  Wars seem so, and it also seems as if the main reason to wage war is to gain prosperity.  The aggressor wants something the aggressee has and goes to war to get it.
I'm thinking that greed, and not adversity, is the root of most wars, and therefore prosperity gained through war is much different than that an earthquake or plague brings.
With a natural disaster, we don't have any options, we don't have any choice, and we're all in it together. We dig in and find new ways to help our society on towards future prosperity.
In war, we do have options, we do have a choice, but greedy leaders force the reluctant populace into the miserable adversity of war.
The war machine may generate material wealth, but our moral bankruptcy casts a cold shadow on that kind of prosperity.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

"Some virtues are only seen in affliction and others only in prosperity"--. Joseph Addison

I've been picking through these prosperity quotes and noticing that a lot of them imply that when prosperity comes in the front door that morality goes out the back.  Now, I agree that adversity can bring wisdom, but it can also twist and pervert.  I also agree that prosperity can make you callus, but it can also ease the path to amazing generosity.
It all depends, doesn't it, on who one is and how life's twists and turns has shaped one. No two people will react the same to similar triumphs and tribulations.  What strengthens one might crush another.  It's best to look at the results rather than judge the circumstance.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

"To rejoice in another's prosperity is to give content to your lot; to mitigate another's grief is to alleviate or dispel your own."-- Tryon Edwards

Tryon really gets that we are all one.  The whole "no man is an island" thing is illuminated here.
It's culturally easy to be jealous of someone else's good fortune or too greedy to "mitigate another's grief" because our culture of the rugged individual keeps us believing that we're all on our own.  It's a very dog-eat-dog (my apologise to dogs) way to look at life, and keeps us suspicious of one another.
Random acts of kindness are the remedy.  They feel good to us and to the recipient, and when we feel good, we do good and when the recipient feels good, they do good, etc. etc.
As you can see, there's a chain reaction that occurs here that ultimately benefits everyone.
Start the ball rolling.

Monday, November 4, 2013

"I have always maintained that the one important phenomenon presented by modern society is - the enormous prosperity of Fools." --Wilkie Collins

Wilkie may not be historically accurate here.  I imagine fools throughout time, not just in "modern society" have enjoyed over-the-top prosperity much to the consternation of the general population.  There's a cynical question at the heart of this quote, and that is "Why them?"
I think that there's an important single-mindedness necessary that precludes an individual's prosperity in any field of endeavor.  Focused attention on political gain, making money, scientific breakthroughs, or doing amazing art, for example, more often than not lead to successful politicians, business people, scientists, or artists of any stripe.
The problem here is when you put your mind to one thing and one thing only, your ability to think in a more nuanced way about other areas of life can feel like a waste of time. To the scientist or artist, for example, focusing on the financial bottom line--like your successful business person might- instead of the science or the art seems like a foolish approach.  The business person might feel quite differently.  One would consider the other quite the fool.
But they need each other, and they both need the more nuanced thinker to point that out.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

"Any person who contributes to prosperity must prosper in turn."--Earl Nightingale

This is a lovely thought. It  hints of karmic retribution, i.e. the more you give, the more you receive.
It's an old adage, and in this materialistic age it's one that holds little sway over us.
How odd that in this time of over-the-top wealth, there is so much fear of scarcity.  One rarely gives if one is afraid of not having enough for oneself, and I understand that, but lately it strikes me that the ones with the most to give are often the most fearful of giving.
How wonderful it would be if people saw that their own best interests would be served by serving others. Someone said that we can never be truly free if anyone among us is a slave.  I say we can never be truly rich if anyone among is poor.

Friday, November 1, 2013

"Adversity makes men, and prosperity makes monsters."-- Victor Hugo

The winter months lie ahead-- metaphorically as well, for some of us--and feeling that we have the where-with-all to get through the cold season adds to our sense of well-being and security.
Prosperity can protect us from life's cares, but there is danger here. When one feels invulnerable, a warped life view can result; which can contribute to the idea that others suffer because they are morally unfit to thrive. Empathy evaporates, unconsciousness creeps in, and the heart turns into a block of ice.
Monstrous indeed!
Victor points out that the cold snap he calls "adversity" might well wake us from the hibernation that resulted from our prosperity--reminding us of our shared humanity and encouraging us to help create a world in which all might thrive.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

"Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore."--Andre Gide

What coast are you edging along?  Is your island of safety that unsatisfying relationship or job?  Then you know what kind of courage it takes to let go of the known and venture into the vast sea of possibilities looking for the lover or career that truly suits you.
Don't despair. You're right to stay where you are if you haven't yet charted a course towards your new life.
The good news is, when you know what you don't want you can clearly see what you do want.  Ponder the contrast until your goal is obvious.
Now you have a treasure map; now you're no longer sailing into the unknown, for your clarity will unerringly lead you towards the satisfaction of your desires.
X marks the spot!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

"If you are lucky enough to find a way of life you love, you have to find the courage to live it."-- John Irving

I have a friend who loves being an office worker, but she's ashamed to say so.  Shouldn't a life that deserves a word like "love" be a romantic creative venture?
I don't think so.
It's a misperception that an ordinary life must be stultifying and unsatisfying.
It's weird that society has rules about what kind of life deserves our passion, but it seems to. Therefore it's important to ignore societal pressure and just love what you love and "have the courage to live it".
When you do this, you're doing us all a favor. You help us expand the definition of what a "good life" is and you inspire others to live their choices with grace and pride.


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

"Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want." -- Miguel Angel Ruiz

Why is it so hard to ask for what we want?  Why does a simple demand for clarity--or a statement of preference-- feel so revealing, so weak? We often prefer groping in the dark, hoping to find our own answers rather than ask a question that risks exposing our ignorance.
Why do we pretend we're perfect when we're not? Why is is so hard to be human?
Our arrogant desire to be "right" might be the very thing that's pushing us toward extinction. Perhaps having the courage to be humble, knowing we don't have all the answers, might lead us in a direction that guarantees our survival.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

"Do you really think it is weakness that yields to temptation? I tell you that there are terrible temptations which it requires strength, strength and courage to yield to."-- Oscar Wilde9

Oscar describes here the continual battle to be yourself when the social norms are against you.
In this quote he was probably describing his struggles as a homosexual in Victorian England.  You couldn't be good if you were gay.  His yielding to those "terrible temptations" landed him in jail for his perceived immorality.
Being "of one's time" usually refers to a person who has followed the era's "correct" social behavior and opinion. A visionary refers to someone who can see how the future might be improved if social norms change.  A person of courage is one who moves to change the restrictions and morals that turn harmless behavior into "terrible temptations" and thus creating more openness and freedom for us all.

Friday, October 25, 2013

"The weak in courage is strong in cunning."-- William Blake

Anyone with parents knows this, so I guess that means all of us.
How many times did we obfuscate, subvert, and divert attention to do what we know they didn't want us to do. We watched them like hawks to suss out how we could get around their attention and their questions. When asked directly whether or not we did thus and so, we LIED!
Cunning? Yes. Courageous?  Not so much, but in our defence we lied to keep everyone happy.  Our parents were much happier, because they wouldn't like knowing who we really were and what we really did, and we were much happier because we got to do what we wanted.
Win, win.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

"One of the marks of a gift is to have the courage of it."-- Katherine Anne Porter

I don't know if Katherine is right in all cases, but I would definitely change the "C" word from "Courage" to "Compulsion" when looking at the gifted.
It seems to me that people with a gift can't help but do what they do.  It's all they want to do, it's all they need to do, it's a focused attention to one thing that's almost superhuman.
With the gifted, excellence comes naturally.  They do what they do very, very well--as well they should. Their focus from birth is to express the gift they've been given and share it with others.
It takes work to fashion raw talent into fabulous, amazing art; work and dedication that's harder to maintain when you aren't "gifted".  The frustration of the merely talented when they compare themselves with the gifted must be overcome, for it takes courage for talented artists to keep going in the face of a gifted person's effortless competence and mastery.
I would say that the mark of a talented artist is to have the courage of it.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

"Necessity does the work of courage."-- Nicholas M. Butler

Yes, I guess it does.
When you absolutely have to, come hell or highwater, do what you are afraid to do, then you summon the courage to accomplish that task.  Necessity does do the work of courage then, but true courage means that you stand up for what's right whether you "need" to or not.  You do it because it's the only thing a person of integrity can do.

Monday, October 21, 2013

"Courage is almost a contradiction in terms. It means a strong desire to live taking the form of readiness to die."-- Gilbert K. Chesterton

And there are so many ways to die.
You can, of course, actually give up the ghost; but you can also die of embarrassment, die of shame, die of loneliness, and die for love, to mention just a few.  All metaphoric, of course, but so much more painful and enduring than simply croaking. At least when you shuffle off your mortal coil you don't have to feel anything anymore.
It really does take a lot of courage to put your pure sweet self out there for all to see and await the consequences. The "what ifs" are as myriad as the ways to die.  But the rewards for having the guts to reveal your shining soul through your work, your image, your creativity, and your opinion with as much truth as you can muster are well worth the anxiety.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

"Just as courage imperils life, fear protects it."-- Leonardo da Vinci

Just as our sense of touch makes doing something that might harm the body painful, so fear protects us from doing something foolhardy.
Being afraid with good cause is nothing to be ashamed of.  Looked at clearly, and without judgement, one can see that there is a proper place for fear in our lives. The problem comes when our fears keep us from living fully and joyfully.  It's at that point when courage is required.
Remember, though, that acts of courage are relative.  An introvert might need enormous reserves of courage to do what an extrovert does eagerly: enter a room full of people.
Don't judge or compare yourself to others. If you do, you might decide to override a justified fear response for the sake of your ego.  If you want to be a hero, remember that it also takes considerable courage to trust your feelings, honor yourself, and be who you really are.

Friday, October 18, 2013

"It takes great courage to be vulnerable. It takes enormous strength to be a real woman."-- John Eldredge

If  "vulnerability" means being in touch with and able to display emotion, than I say that women are comfortable with that. The realm of "emotion" is a familiar friend to them. I'll go farther. I'd say that women are supposed to be vulnerable--soft, penetrable, fragile and weak.
It takes courage for women to be hard, impenetrable, durable and strong.  That's flying in the face of the stereotype.  Men are supposed to be those things.
John's gender bias is showing when he claims that "real women" have the courage to be vulnerable, and that the proof of their womanliness can be seen in their relative vulnerability.
Poppycock!  Real women are all sorts of things, and maybe vulnerable too. It depends upon the woman.
I've got a radical notion! Let's have the courage to allow all human beings to be human--blessed with a full range of whatever emotions and feelings they need and want to express.
We've got to get over trying to fit men and women into a narrow ideal of gender reality; but if we're going with a stereotype, John, I'd say that it takes real courage to be a vulnerable man.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

"Acting is really about having the courage to fail in front of people."-- Adam Driver

Acting is about finding the truth of the part you play and capturing it so well that the audience understands your character fully.
Living is about finding the truth within yourself and having the courage to live that so clearly that everyone understands YOU fully.
Because there is always a danger that you will fail in your attempts to bring meaning and excitement to your character--if you're an actor--or your life--if you're you, courage is required; that and a new idea of what "failing" really is.
If you don't try anything new, you will never fail. If you don't try anything new, you will soon feel like you're not living a rich, full life.
Fail spectacularly.  Fail beautifully.  Fail, fail, fail, for each failure carries within it the seeds of your next, wonderful triumphs.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

"I never thought much of the courage of a lion tamer. Inside the cage he is at least safe from people."-- George Bernard Shaw

George has a point.
I think, when it comes right down to it, our fears--and therefore our need to be courageous--stem from our relationships with people.
In small, look at the bullying some of us faced from bad parents or the mean kids at school.  In large, look at the institutionalized social bullying of women, people of color, and the poor.
From these experiences we observe that our own kind can be pretty terrifying.
People are herd creatures, and when you're booted out of the herd, you lose the safety in numbers that keep the lions from eating you; although the pain of being ostracized is so acute that some might wish to just put their heads in a lions mouth and get it over with.
It takes the courage of  people like Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and many others (hopefully including ourselves) who address the needs of the "out" group and move them back into our growing, and gradually more tolerant, social mainstream.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

"I want to grow old without facelifts. I want to have the courage to be loyal to the face I have made."--Marilyn Monroe

This is a wonderful statement, a wonderful idea.  It's so true, on a deep intuitive level, that the faces we wear really do reflect our life experiences.
Marilyn never had the chance to grow old, but I bet she would have had the courage to leave her face be, therefore honoring her life.
Why are we ashamed of the lines of age? We earned every one.  They speak of our relationships, our fears, our joys, and our sorrows and our triumphs.  Our faces are our history.
Why do we decide that our history is unimportant--and further, that we are worthless if we're no longer youthful and/or beautiful?  Is our worship at the feet of Venus really more important than our personal history and integrity? Marilyn Monroe, the Venus of the 20th century, didn't think so.

Monday, October 14, 2013

"People don't follow titles, they follow courage."-- William Wells Brown

We've been trained to disregard the currents of energy that run between us.  We've been taught to admire who people say they are, rather than what they do (Ignore the man behind the curtain!)
But despite what we've been taught, I think we intuitively feel when someone is truly admirable. We sense a certain solidity and dependability in those who have the courage to follow their truth.
These are people who aspire to nothing more than personal integrity, for really, what else is of value in the world?
We trust that, and we trust them because they have the courage to trust themselves.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

"The secret to happiness is freedom... And the secret to freedom is courage." Thucydides

In a nutshell, team!
There is nothing better than to feel free, and freedom is more than just physical mobility. Freedom has an emotional component.  When your pain body or inner critic keep telling you who to reject, where you shouldn't go, how you won't succeed, when you should be quiet, and what not to do are silent, that's when you're truly free--and happy.  
Rejecting our deepest desires to win approval from, anyone, even people we don't even know, makes us unhappy, and having the courage of our convictions supports our evolution, transformation, and animation.
Cowardice betrays. Courage frees, and here just reread Thucydides' quote.
It really is that simple.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

"Wish me courage and strength and a sense of humor - I will need them all."-- Anne Morrow Lindbergh

The times are tough and seem to be getting tougher.
Anne provides us with the perfect tools to help us manage life's twists and turns--a recipe, if you will, for facing our problems and charting a way through them with grace and power.   .
And so, with her inspiration, I wish all of us "courage, strength and a sense of humour"--for in uneasy times like these we really do need them all!

Friday, October 11, 2013

"You will always be fond of me. I represent to you all the sins you have never had the courage to commit."-- Oscar Wilde

Oscar nails the love/hate relationship our culture has with artists.
It takes courage to be a social outsider, as most artists are.
Many fictional and historical heroes are also outsiders: Superman, Wonder Woman, Davy Crockett, Joan of Arc, Sacajawea, the list goes on and on.
What artists and heroes contribute to the culture is the ability to step outside of it, see it clearly, and propose creative solutions for the emotional and cultural ills they see.
Some might think that going outside the norm is a sin. Some have gotten killed in the cause of radical, and necessary, social change. That's why it takes courage to step out of mass consciousness, think for oneself, and take the steps needed to right the wrong or raise our consciousness.
Heroes and artists rock the boat.  They're not afraid of getting wet; in fact their natures require a refreshing plunge in the sea of possibilities from time to time--as do we all.


Thursday, October 10, 2013

"Creativity requires the courage to let go of certainties."--Erich Fromm

It's our old friend "creativity" again.
That's the topic we covered in quotes last month.
It's easy to see how creativity dovetails into courage, and visa versa.  "Letting go of certainties" is a prime requirement of both, and can make you feel like you're on the edge of a metaphorical cliff.  
Jumping is one option, and then the question arises: will you fall or will you fly? 
There is another option, of course, and that is to do nothing.
I've always wanted to fly myself.
How about you?

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

"From caring comes courage."-- Lao Tzu

How true, Lao Tzu!
Anyone who has been a parent knows that they will protect to the death this young life that is now in their hands.  Afraid of bullying authorities?  Maybe at one time, but just let that school principal do your kid wrong and he'll have you to deal with.
How wonderful that love, rather than fear, can be a compelling impetus to make the home, the schoolyard, the society, the environment, and the world a better place for one and all.
When you think about it, love has given birth to more life embracing moral codes than many religions.
To name just a few, we have the:
Love of freedom: which gave us the Abolition of Slavery
Love of fairness: which gave us Womens Suffrage and Labor Unions
Love of animals: which gave us the SPCA (among others)
Love of the world: which gave us the Environmental Movement
It's love that truly does change the world, and it's love that gives you the courage to inspire that change.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

"Courage is grace under pressure."-- Ernest Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway is famous for this quote.  He's such a romantic, and I get what he means.
It brings to mind a western sheriff, reluctantly but bravely mastering his fear as he stoically faces the bad guy, cool as the proverbial cucumber.
The response to pressure can feel a lot like fear, and fear is not usually "grace" full at all.
Fear has lots of manifestations.
It sounds like nervous stuttering when stating ones truth to an angry authority figure. It smells like sweat as one gathers ones resources to defend oneself from attack. It feels like a pounding heart as one's adrenaline kicks in as a response to danger.
How one deals with pressure need not be ideal (i.e. graceful) to be courageous. Just facing one's fears is courage enough.

Monday, October 7, 2013

"It takes a lot of courage to release the familiar and seemingly secure, to embrace the new." Alan Cohen

Releasing the familiar and embracing the new is what transformation is all about.  It's how we discover what works for us and what doesn't.  It's how we grow into our true selves
We often get stuck going nowhere--in relationships, career choices, etc.--because we simply lack the courage to strike out for what we really want: the sense of aliveness and purpose that comes when we know we're doing the right and perfect thing ourselves.
It requires a degree of self trust as well as courage to "release the familiar". We've often grown relatively comfortable with what we've got, no matter that it no longer satisfies us.  We've also been convinced since childhood by our parents, friends, teachers, and co-workers that it's better to be safe than sorry, but in truth and in the end, if we don't have the courage to go outside our comfort zone and change when change is warranted, then sorry is what we'll be.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

"Have the courage to say no."--W. Clement Stone

Such a tiny little word, yet, often, so hard to say.
No one wants to disappoint, or let down, or be an impediment to anothers wishes;, yet so often "no" is the answer that best reflects our own needs and desires--and those we need the courage to honor .
In this culture with its emphasis on a "going along to get along" conformity, we too often put ourselves on the backburner. We think we don't know enough to make the right decision.  We follow the leader, possibly ignoring a strong gut feeling that what we're saying "yes" to is not the best choice for ourselves or others.
For what if our "no" supports a better plan, a more humane choice, an opportunity to devise a more creative solution?
Your thoughtful "no" could lead to a better world.
Think about that.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage. --Anais Nin

Anais is absolutely right!
When we're worried about what other people think, we tend to walk the straight and narrow no matter how divergent our true path.  We think that we'll be OK when we bow to mass consciousness, but we end up feeling terrible, like we've given up something important.
And we have.
We are each here to offer our own unique perspective to the world.  Have the courage to expand yourself and the world we all live in by freely giving your viewpoints, creativity, and aliveness. That's what makes the world the vast and wonderful place it is.
Yes, you really are just that important.

Friday, October 4, 2013

"Efforts and courage are not enough without purpose and direction." --John F. Kennedy

Do you have dreams of a perfect world?  Do you feel in your heart that you have a specific "purpose and direction" in your life, and know that your dreams indicate exactly what those are?
If so, do you make an effort to make your dreams a reality?  Have you charted a course toward your true north and are you walking the path towards your heart's desires?
If your answer is "yes" to these questions, I compliment you not only on your courage, but also on your clarity.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

"Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point."--C. S. Lewis

C. S. makes a great point.  Courage isn't just the "form of every virtue", it shows us the form of who we are. It's hard for us to know if we really believe what we say we believe unless we're tested, and the tests often come in the form of ourselves against our world.
If we cave and let the world win, that shows that "approval" is the form of our particular virtue.
How painful it is when our fear of abandonment encourages us to abandon ourselves.
Courage helps us keep our steps firmly on our own path, say what we truly feel, and pass the test of personal integrity.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

"Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear."--Mark Twain

To be fearless is to be foolhardy.  When you have no fear, you are lacking a vital emotional element that keeps you alive.
It's like not having the sense of touch.  When you can't feel anything, you don't know when you've been injured, and when you don't know if you've been injured, death is dead ahead.
Fear keeps you cautious.
That's not a bad thing when you're approaching a pride of lions on your safari in Africa. You stay in the jeep and listen to the guide for instructions on how to make your way safely through that circumstance.
Too little fear means you jump out of the jeep and start to play with that darling lion cub. Ouch.
Too much fear and your imagination kills your desire. You don't go on the safari in the first place. You anticipate personal injury and possible death and stop dreaming of Africa before you even buy the plane tickets.
In short, too much fear and you stop living because you're irrationally afraid of dying.
Courage is when you are afraid, but you see that the fear blocks your way to something you've always wanted; so you analyze your desire and come to a full understand of the risks and benefits.  You then make the proper preparations and take the necessary precautions to minimize the risks, realize you're up to the challenge, and you go for it.
Bon voyage.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

"And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition".--Steve Jobs

Last month we discussed creativity, and I learned several things.
Creativity is natural, not the exclusive property of the artist.  Everyone is creative, in ways large and small, but many people confuse being creative with being an artist.
They are not the same.  Creativity doesn't take work, but doing a piece of genuine art does.
Creativity can also take courage, since often our creative impulses are pushed aside by all sorts of forces, both societal and personal, that want to keep us from growing and changing.
Therefore, in the scary month of October, The Daily Kris is taking a look at what it means to have courage. Steve Jobs starts us off.

Monday, September 30, 2013

"The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt."--Sylvia Plath

Boy, that's for sure!  Finding your way around your inner critic can be an arduous journey all by itself. Combine that with being concerned about what "they" might say, and you've got a one-two punch that can K.O. any creative notion.
How do you get beyond self-doubt and go for your dream?
As yourself these question:
  1. Who are you? 
  2. Who do you want to be? 
  3. Are the two different?  
  4. If so, then identify what  the differences are between the two?  
  5. How can you narrow the gap between who you are and who you want to be?
I bet your answers to questions 4 and 5 have something to do with courage.
It takes courage to overcome self doubt and fear of criticism, but that's what it takes to be a hero.  If you want to be a hero in your own life, have the courage to live the life your soul wants you to live.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

"Don't cancel the process of creativity too early; let it flow."-- Ross Lovegrove

I think the most creative people I know are the ones that trust their gut.  They have an idea and it takes hold of them--no second thoughts nor what-ifs-- and it sweeps them inexorably forward into production.
They can't help themselves. They can do no other than write that book, make that sculpture, film that movie, communicate that idea in whatever medium expresses it the best.
In short, they trust themselves, and, most importantly they trust the process.  They know that the end result is not the most important thing. What's important is what they stumble upon along the way.
Perhaps their idea will be their masterpiece, but it might not.  It might be just one of many important stepping stones along the way, enhancing their growth as creative beings.
In either case, the process is more important than the product; and the uncertainty of the end result is neither here nor there. What is important is the freedom and expansiveness they feel as they ride their idea like a whitewater raft on the roiling river of life.

Friday, September 27, 2013

"It is instructive, for instance, to trace the computer industry's decline in vision, idealism, creativity, romance and sheer fun as it becomes more and more important and prosperous."-- Robert Shea

Maybe Bob is right when it comes to an industry, but people tend to take comments like this personally. They get in the way of their own prosperity when they believe that success will enforce a "decline in vision, idealism, romance, creativity, and sheer fun."
When we decide that our prosperity will limit any of these things, we start to associate success with the diminishment of the very things that brought us our success in the first place.
I'm not saying that this never happens, I'm just saying that it shouldn't.  It implies that the goal of our creativity was success, and when we reach our goal we become corrupt and no longer can function creatively.
I think that creativity is it's own reward, and a little thing like success won't stop our desire to keep creating.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

"Problems are hidden opportunities, and constraints can actually boost creativity."-- Martin Villeneuve

Once again, Martin gives us a restatement of the old saw: "necessity is the mother of invention", but it's also a fresh new way to look at tackling problems.
Problems are often addressed with an eye to "solving" them.  Perhaps finding a way of working with them might be a fruitful approach. After all, the problem itself might be life's way of pointing you in a different direction.
A more creative approach might be to ask the problem what it's trying to tell you.  That might shed some light on your dilemma--and, who knows--the answer you receive just might change your life.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

"I spend a lot of time upside down. It increases the blood flow to the brain, so it really helps your creativity."--Daphne Guinness

This is actually very good advice.  I'm not sure if increased blood flow to the brain actually helps creativity, but seeing the world in a whole new way can be the result of turning yourself upside.
Getting a different perspective on any concept or idea can be ideal in any creative venture.  Redefine  your problem.  State what it is and use a thesaurus or dictionary (I'm not kidding) to find different definitions of familiar words or phrases.  It's a great way to introduce fresh new thoughts towards an original answer.
For a visual work, reframing an image-- seeing it in pieces instead of as a whole--can bring a different energy to the final concept, creating new energy where none existed before.
You can even turn your work over if you'd rather remain upright.  Do it, and you'll often find brilliant new pathways towards your creative goals.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

“When you make music or write or create, it's really your job to have mind-blowigang, irresponsible, condomless sex with whatever idea it is you're writing about at the time. ” ― Lady Ga

Ah, Lady Gaga!  Now that's a women who defines the word "job" as an invitation to all-out fun.
Don't we all breathe a sigh of longing and relief at La Gaga's words, and in our heart of hearts feel that someone has told us a huge lie--and that lie is that our survival depends upon our being bored to tears for (at least) 40 hours of the average work week, and too tired to do anything else the rest of the time?
Isn't that why we love and hate artists?  We both admire and are jealous of their freedom, so we take the arts out of school, we cut back on arts funding, and we find ways to denigrate and belittle creative types.
We admire their spirit but pay (most of them) nothing for their labors of passion and love.
We also wish we had the courage to be artists, for Lady Gaga reminds us why many of us decide to live the creative life: we're working hard to have mind-blowing, irresponsible,condomless sex" with whatever idea we're working with at the time.
You can't do that on your average nine-to-five

Monday, September 23, 2013

"There is no innovation and creativity without failure. Period."--Brene Brown

Why are we so afraid to fail?  Are we worried that we'll be ostracized by people whose opinions we care about? Are we afraid we'll be seen as losers or appear unattractive to those we wish to impress?  Are we afraid we'll lose that job, lose that lover, lose our lives, or, worst of all, disappoint our parents?
Why?  Why aren't we more fearful of losing our souls to our fear, of not becoming the excited, elated, creative people we are meant to be?
Why do we hide our light, when that light could be the very thing needed to guide others to their own true selves?
Come out of hiding! We need your authentic self, and if it takes a few failures before that emerges, so be it!
Fail spectacularly.  It's the one and only road to your true and uniquely creative self.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

"Clean out a corner of your mind and creativity will instantly fill it."--Dee Hock

More and more I'm realizing how much creativity depends upon freedom of thought.
When your mind is cluttered with shoulds, how to's, what mama said, what your friends and co-workers might say, and what your inner dictator says, you can't let your mind run free without it stumbling over a dusty idea or three.
And so much of what fills our heads are not just roadblocks to creativity, they're messing up your happy life, so get rid of all the thoughts that don't sustain and fulfill you, and you'll find plenty of room in your mental studio to work your creative magic!


Saturday, September 21, 2013

"An essential aspect of creativity is not being afraid to fail."--Edwin Land

Fear--and laziness--are the two things that get in the way of our progress.
Fear is the big one, and we minimize the fact of our fearfulness with excuses like "too lazy", "too busy" or "too tired".
If those excuses are not enough to staunch our fear, we start to minimize ourselves with songs of self-loathing like "not good enough" or "not smart enough" or "just not creative".
We'll tell ourselves anything so as to not feel the fear.
And how can we avoid feeling afraid?  Our culture teaches us that life is hard and dangerous and fear is the smart response to it--but we know deep in our hearts there's a lie embedded in that construct so we're, rightly, ashamed of our fear.
How can we get over being afraid?
The only way to show ourselves that there truly is nothing to be afraid of is to do that thing you're afraid to do--within reason.  No diving off cliffs or getting involved in chicken races, mind you, but challenges at work, in relationships, or in creative ventures are life-or-death only in terms of the ego.
You'll know if you're being run by your ego.  You'll feel afraid.
How can you free yourself from your fearful ego?  Be creative, in thought, word, and deed.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

"Creativity is just connecting things."--Steve Jobs

Creativity is not "just connecting things".  It's not like joining together boxcars behind an engine so a train can run down the same old track, or putting together a jigsaw puzzle to form a predictable, pretty picture.
No.  Creative thinking takes you off the beaten track, and it can be anything but pretty.
Creative thinkers are cutting edge, and those on the cutting edge are often thought of as weird loners, edgy rabble rousers, or subversives.  They connect the dots in unexpected ways, thinking through the cliches to come up with a new and exciting concepts, ones that can shake us up, mess with our life, and possibly chang our entire cultural framework.
Creative thinking takes courage, so be brave and think big!
We need your creativity.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

“Curiosity about life in all of its aspects, I think, is still the secret of great creative people” – Leo Burnett

If you want to be a creative thinker, you must to be curious about EVERYTHING, even all the rules, laws, and ideas that you've been told are true.
Question it all.
Run any idea that doesn't feel "quite right" by what you've experienced and see if it adds up. If it doesn't resonate, if it doesn't make you feel good, then it's not the truth no matter how many people say it is.
A creative thinker approaches life with fresh eyes and an open mind and heart.  For them, life is a laboratory and they are the scientists. They question, experiment, and come to their own unique understanding about everything that intersects their life. They don't accept anything at face value
How do they know when they've found the truth?
That's easy.  When they hear it, it sets them free.

Monday, September 16, 2013

"I think that everything is part of creativity - the more you create, the more you have ideas...". Melanie Laurent

I've been talking about how creativity is natural to all of us, and I believe it is.  There is one thing to keep in mind, though, and that is if you don't use it, you lose it.
It's like walking.  If you decide not to walk for a while, your muscles atrophy and you lose the ability to perambulate.
Creative thinking also needs to be exercised.
Maybe that's why people see themselves as not creative.  They haven't used the creative muscle since they became adults.  It's not gone, I promise you.  All you have to do is start to dream again and your mind and heart will breath a sign of relief as you begin to live out your creative promise.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

"I'm pretty lazy when it comes to creativity. I just want it to be easy and fun."-- Reggie Watts

Ah, people are always making creativity hard.  They confuse being creative with making art.
Making art is the hard part.  Creativity is the easy and fun part.
Sure, you're being creative when you think up some art project or piece of music, but you're also being creative when you pick out what you're going to wear in the morning, preparing a wonderful meal with the scraps in your kitchen, planting seeds in your garden--or in the minds of your children as you tell them stories or give them finger paints.
You'll know when you're being creative.  You'll recognize it by that rush of excited energy that says "Hey, let's do, put on, make, read, play with, go to, plant THAT and see what happens!"
No effort is required; just opened eyes and heart, an active imagination and the desire to do something interesting.
Now, is that so hard?

Saturday, September 14, 2013

"Contentment is a creativity killer, but don't worry - I'm very capable of making myself discontented."--Florence Welch

This quote presupposes that we can be content, and we can--but not for long.
We're human.  We like variety, no, we need variety and, as the old saw goes, necessity is the mother of invention.
We can get bored with contentment and so we look to spicing up our daily bread with a pinch of creativity.
In short, I don't agree that contentment is a "creativity killer".  Contentment can lead to boredom,  but boredom is a rich soil in which creativity thrives.

Friday, September 13, 2013

"Creativity is piercing the mundane to find the marvelous."-- Bill Moyers

A pithy and perfect quote from Bill Moyers.  It needs nothing added or subtracted from me--except for this: when he speaks of finding the marvelous in the mundane it reminds me of how much fun a little creativity can add to any aspect of life.  Pretending, making up a story, finding something beautiful where you least expect it, all of these small acts of creativity add a needed dash of enjoyment to everyday life.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

"Creativity varies inversely with the number of cooks involved in the broth."-- Bernice Fitz-Gibbon

Here's the deal with this: I think that there's a lot to be said for artistic collaboration.  However, if you don't have an art director, someone who holds the final vision in his or her head, you've got a battle of egos, and the cream doesn't necessarily rise to the top.
One of the things I've learned is that creative introverts are loath to express themselves in a pack of people, and their good ideas are not necessarily aired or heard. Creative extraverts would get the projects. Sometimes this is a good thing, and sometimes not so good.
If you want to get the best out of a group of creatives, provide a space that's supportive and judgement-free, where all and sundry feel safe to express themselves.  After all, fresh and creative ideas are as delicate as newborn babies.  They thrive only when they're nurtured.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

"Somebody informed me recently that the key to every art, from writing to gardening to sculpture, is creativity. I beg to differ."-Roy Blount, Jr.

I completely agree with Roy.  The key to every art is practice, practice, practice because, as in the making of any product, making a piece of art means more than just thinking it up.  It means having the discipline to follow your idea through to the end with as much expertise as you have available to you.
Creativity, as I'm learning as I explore this concept, is natural to us all.  Making art is not.  Making art takes work, devotion, dedication, focus, and energy.
Everyone is creative.  Only artists make art.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

"Whatever creativity is, it is in part a solution to a problem."--Brian Aldiss

And necessity is the mother of invention.  We've all heard this, but I think Brian is pointing to something deeper than that.
The creative impulse is all about making something new, and in the making of it we feel new things.  We feel more alive, more connected, and more in charge of our reality. The true power of who we are flows through us.
Creativity is the solution to the problem of emotional, spiritual and intellectual deadness. The richness in our lives, or lack of it, is a direct result of how creative we have been with the tools we have at our disposal: our strengths, our courage, and our determination to live our truth.

Monday, September 9, 2013

"Creativity is always a leap of faith. You're faced with a blank page, blank easel, or an empty stage". --Julia Cameron

This is the place that separates the children from the adults.
Children are usually more than willing to take that leap. They want to be where they can feel the most delicious and exciting energy.
Adults are often too worried about the effects of their actions.  They look too long and too hard about possible consequences before they leap, which sucks the energy out of any creative path.
Perhaps they worry that hey take might be jumping right out of their current lives.  Maybe that's not such a bad thing.
It's certainly what children want.  They want to grow and be bigger than they are.  They want to live in a place more magical than their current reality, so they take up brush and chalk and blocks and sand and army figures and dolls and they create a wonderful world for themselves where they can expand their consciousness' and live their dreams.
Blank pages, blank easels, and empty stages are made to be filled with delight and wonder.  Children know that, and are eager to scribble and paint and emote.
You know that too, so get in touch with your inner child and leap into living.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

"Creativity can be described as letting go of certainties.''--Gail Sheehy

Gail is right.  This is the approach that serves creativity best.
As soon as you're certain about anything--from a relationship to a concept-- you kill the aliveness within. When something is alive, it has the ability to change; to become something new and different.
When you don't allow for change you disallow creativity, because creativity thrives when you let go of certainties and realize that nothing is certain, and everything is possible.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

"The mind uses its faculty for creativity only when experience forces it to do so."--Henri Poincare

This is a very sad quote.  Henri speaks as if he had never been a child lying on his back on the grass and making up stories and animals out of the shapes of the clouds.  What experience forces a child to do that?
Creativity is effortless.
Our minds can't help but make associations and explanations from the information that surrounds us. That's its job.  It tries to make sense of it all, and it has to be sometimes wildly creative in order to translate the impulses received into a perceived and logical external reality.
Maybe this is what Henri means by the above quote, but there's no "only when". There's "all the time".
We really do create our own reality.  There's no "forcing" about it. We can't help it.

Friday, September 6, 2013

"Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep."--Scott Adams Read

Creativity, giving birth to something new, requires mistakes.  After all, there are no rules in the exploring of brand-new territories.
In the old sea maps poorly explored areas were labelled with the words "Here There Be Dragons".
The Dragons we run into when we try something new are the ideas that turn out to be mistakes.  They don't work; instead they fall flat. Bummer.
The discouragement that comes from having an unworkable idea sometimes quells the impulse to be creative. Most of us hate making mistakes, and we find ourselves taking off our armor and sheathing our swords because we lack the courage to face that particular dragon again.
We get "dis-couraged".  Don't.  If you do, you'll shut down a vital part of yourself, the part that longs to create, the part that I'll call your Inner Artist.
Art is not so much knowing what mistakes to keep--since what doesn't work is pretty clear--but which mistakes are not mistakes at all--they're new discoveries that juice your energy and light up your life.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

"The idea that motherhood is inherently somehow a threat to creativity is just absurd."--Zadie Smith

Absolutely true, Zadie.
If you think that creativity involves making some kind of product, and if you don't lose yourself in your studio or practice your instrument 8 hours or more a day you can't be creative, and children would demand too much of your time away from your art--then you're right.  Please don't have a kid.
But that's kind of a narrow definition of what creativity is and does.
After all, creating a human being is a pretty amazing creative act all by itself (hello), and it doesn't stop there. You have to be creative in a whole new way if you want to bring up a child effectively. You have to stretch mind and body to productively include this little person in your life.  You find yourself you thinking of brand new ways of coping and enjoying yourself that might never have occurred to you pre-child.
After all, when you're a parent your whole life changes, and your creativity in response to that is your ace in the hole.  If you're not stretching your creative muscles when they're little (and you will), just wait until they're teenagers.
And all that out of the box thinking just might make your Art (with a capitol "A") a richer and fuller thing; more profound.
Plus, with your wider life experience, you probably won't find yourself saying something as absurd as "motherhood is a threat to creativity".
You'll be wiser than that.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

"Creativity means to push open the heavy, groaning doorway to life."--Daisaku Ikeda

Wow.  Daisaku makes creativity sound really hard when, in fact, our creativity is instinctive and fills every second of our daily lives.
It's how we use our creative power that gives us trouble.
We wake up in the morning anticipating the day. Our  thoughts immediately start to create our present--and future--experience.
In simple terms, if we feel crappy and we don't work to feel better, we'll probably have a bad day.  If we feel great, that starts the creative ball rolling in a  more positive direction.
The hardest part of creating a better life is taking control of your experience; understanding that YOU--and what you're focusing on--are the essential ingredients in making your life work for you.  If you don't think you have that power, then you  become a victim of whatever bothers you.
You're not a victim.  You're in creative control, but the "heavy, groaning doorway to life" is not labeled "creativity:" It's clearly marked with the words "personal responsibility".

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

"Creativity makes a leap, then looks to see where it is." --Mason Cooley

Creativity is an exploration.  The words "be careful" have no place in this particular journey.  As was pointed out in an earlier post, creativity brings something new into the world.  There are no maps to this new place, You have to feel your way.  You can have an idea where you want to go, but the end result can look completely different than what you imagined.
It takes courage to begin this journey into the unknown, and it can be a little terrifying, but the fun and excitement of birthing a brand-new anything is worth the risk of self exposure, since what the creative person is actually doing is shining a light onto their own sweet self and saying "look, here I am!"
Ultimately, what you see when you "look to see where" you are is the truth about yourself--and for better or worse--everyone who cares to look can see it too.

Monday, September 2, 2013

"The chief enemy of creativity is 'good' sense."-- Pablo Picasso

A show of hands: Who here agree that the essence of creativity is to give something brand new to the world?
I agree, and that's why Picasso is right.  "Good sense" which is based on mass consciousness and social conditioning, has nothing to offer a creative spirit.  "Good Sense" serves only as a platform to stand on as you reach for a new and very personal take on what I laughingly refer to as "reality".
Want to go for something completely different?  Try nonsense!
I bet you're humming  the Monty Python theme in your head right now.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

"Thinking is the enemy of creativity. It's self-conscious, and anything self-conscious is lousy."-- Ray Bradbury

This month I'm going to explore the nature of creativity, and I found this quote.  A good beginning, I think, because it speaks to what so often and so easily ends the creative impulse: Thinking.
At least for me.
I've allowed myself to abandon some of my favorite ideas because I've thought about them too much.  I start with the idea itself, then I run it through a series of (yes, self-conscious) questions:

  1. Will it be fun to do? (On the face of it, a good, but really irrelevant, question.)
  2. Do I have the chops to do it? (Oh, come on!! Just Do it YOUR WAY, you idiot!)
  3. Will I be happy with it when I'm done? (Oh, now you're just being ridiculous.)
  4. Will other people like it?  (Warning sirens are going off!!)
  5. Will it make me money? (NO!! STOP!! DANGER, DANGER!!)
By the time I've reached #5 in my internal dialogue, I've all but disregarded my creative impulse.  Far better to let my idea show me what it wants to express.  Far better to just plunge in, enjoy the experience and let the future take care of itself!

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Friday, August 30, 2013

"Happiness is being on the beam with life - to feel the pull of life."-- Agnes Martin

Doesn't that just say it all?  To feel yourself floating on the river of life--totally going with the flow, not knowing, or caring, what's around the next bend and so immersed in the loveliness of the journey, so caught up in the direction the current is taking you and so in-the-moment that the only thing that matters is the ever-illusive NOW--that, to me, is the essence of happiness.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

"Happiness: a way station between too little and too much." --Channing Pollock

This quote reminds me of Goldilocks and the Three Bears.  Her search was always for that thing that was "just right", which brings us back to the notion of contentment being a big component of happiness; when the stars are in the heavens and all is right with the world.
It's important to remember, though, that your search for contentment must factor in the needs of others. Nothing can harsh your buzz more than waking up to the three bears.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

"They must often change, who would be constant in happiness or wisdom."-- Confucius

Happiness is a moving target.
As you change, as your life changes, so too do your ideas about what it takes to make you happy.
As children, we swam in our happiness like fish in water.  We knew of nothing else, but thought our happiness would increase if we could just have that toy or be friends with that kid down the block.
As we grow, we see that happiness is a choice-- not in companions or material goods but in our own state of mind.
As adults, we no longer assume happiness. Long ago we lept out of the fishbowl.
I guess we evolved.  We developed strategies that keep us breathing the oxygen of adult life, but we yearn to swim again, to have the passion, emotional freedom, and excitement we once had as children.
On the bright side, change is inevitable.  We can learn to be amphibious: breathing and blending the heady air of our intellectual nature with the deep water of our emotional body with ease and mastery.

Monday, August 26, 2013

"Happiness isn't something you experience; it's something you remember." Oscar Levant

First I found the quote above and then I found this:
"Nothing prevents happiness like the memory of happiness."--
Andre Gide
For obvious reasons, I had to include both in today's post.

Here's the flaw I see from both Andre and Oscar: their definition of happiness seems to require a certain event that you look back upon with longing.  
There is such a thing as unreasonable happiness, that which just springs from the day, as unquantifiable, unknowable, and completely ephemeral as every true emotion seems to be.  
You just feel. . .happy.  
It's definitely an "experience" (take THAT Oscar!) and (En Guard, Andre) it's not "a memory" of something in the past.
It just is, and it feels wonderful.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

"I was happy, but happy is an adult word. You don't have to ask a child about happy, you just see it."--Jeanette Winterson

Actually, you don't have to ask an adult about happy, either.  You also "just see it".
I'm bemused by the way people view adulthood, as if they've left the innocence and freshness of childhood behind them as soon as they pass a certain age marker.
Yet most adults, and I'm sure you'll agree with me, are just children playing dress-up.  Unless they've been really damaged emotionally, most still retain their wonder at the world around us, their vulnerability in the face of social encounters, their boundless curiosity, their excitement over something new, and their ability to feel unreasonably happy.
A happy adult is as apparent as a happy child.  You know one when you see one.  Maybe you don't see as many happy adults as you do happy children, but when you do it's clear by their actions and energy that this is a happy person.
Perhaps to be a happy adult you have to tap into your inner child, but is that so hard?
Let me ask you: in your heart of hearts, what's your real age?

Friday, August 23, 2013

"Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony". --Thomas Merton Read

". . .Balance, order, rhythm and harmony"--sounds like contentment to me, and contentment is wonderful.  So wonderful that I wonder if "contentment" is just another word for "happiness".  Maybe what I define as "happiness" is actually "bliss", since bliss seems to be an almost spiritual high--one that is hallmarked by its intensity.
If happiness is "not a matter of intensity", bliss sure seems to be, and anything that requires intensity is hard to maintain.
Contentment, on the other hand, can last for a while without much effort.
Maybe there's a happiness scale, one that begins with contentment, travels through happiness, and ends up with bliss.
Perhaps if balance, order, rhythm and harmony are your baseline maybe bliss is closer than we think.  Get out your thesaurus and let's chart a course.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

"Just do what must be done. This may not be happiness, but it is greatness."-- George Bernard Shaw

Yeah, right.
George sure takes the fun out of happiness, doesn't he?  He'd rather be great than happy, I guess.
"Just do what must be done" he says.
The dishes "must be done", but I know that ticker tape parades and paparazzi are not going to be my lot when I finish tidying up the kitchen.
Indeed, greatness has eluded me so far, and I've done a lot of "what must be done."
I even had a life coach who said to me: "Kris, life is not an endurance contest".  Doing "what must be done", day after day, in order to be great sounds like an endurance contest to me, and I don't see it as an effective route to  happiness either.
I must be missing his point.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

“For every minute you are angry you lose sixty seconds of happiness.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

We can be stubborn in our unhappiness. It's almost like we've decided that our unhappiness must follow certain rules and timetables.
If we've been slighted, if we've been hurt, if we've had an argument with someone, if we wake up in the wrong side of the bed, etc. etc. we cling to our negative emotions; and we often use them to punish someone else.
"I'm not speaking to him until he apologizes.  Oh, what he just said was really funny, but I'm not going to laugh.  I won't even smile.  I'll show him."
We've even been taught that unhappiness is a sign of respect.
For example, many cultures organize mourning.  There's rules about the time spent, the appropriate clothes to wear, the hair tearing, and the unhappiness that one has to display when someone dies.
We've institutionalized unhappiness, even turned it into a virtue, and the danger of that is twofold:
1. See the R.W.E. quote above
2. We lose our ability to feel what's really going on in our hearts.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

"Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know." Ernest Hemingway

I don't know where we got the idea that being happy was for idiots, but it's out there.
I think it stems from the belief that intelligent people realize that the world is going to hell in a handbasket and happy people just aren't keeping up with the news.
I'm sure that there's a lot to be unhappy about, but I believe it's a blip in the radar compared to all there is to be happy about. You just don't see a lot of happy news because it doesn't make the papers. Why?
Because happiness isn't as dramatic or exciting as war, murder, and rape.  It's dull, dull, dull.
Because it's so commonplace.  You can't sell papers with headlines like "Parents take Children to Playground",  "A Beautiful Baby Was Born Today", "A Young Couple Fell In Love", "A Beautiful Garden is Growing", "A Wonderful Pet Found A Forever Home" .
That's not news.  It happens all the time.
Get it?  Happiness is not news.
Happiness happens all the time.

Monday, August 19, 2013

“Happiness makes up in height for what it lacks in length.” ― Robert Frost

I love this quote.  It so accurately defines happiness.
Contentment, as we realized yesterday, is wonderful.  It's like the cat sleeping in the garden sun: comfortable, safe, and completely at peace. Who could want for more?
Happiness is like the butterfly flitting in and out of sight before it's gone to the neighbor's yard: beautiful, free, light, and ephemeral.
There is an uplifting of the heart in happiness that feels almost scary.  You know you'll come down, but while you're there it's so delightful!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

"The world is full of people looking for spectacular happiness while they snub contentment." ~Doug Larson

No snubber of contentment am I, especially on this lovely Sunday.  I'm ready to enjoy the delights of this beautiful day in which happiness is no longer an elusive quarry and contentment is already sitting on my lap enjoining me to go outdoors and carpe diem.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

"If your happiness depends on what somebody else does, I guess you do have a problem." Richard Bach

Ever find yourself saying, "If he (or she) just did (or didn't do) that one thing, I would be happy."
Join the club.
It would be nice if happiness were as easy as getting someone else to change, even though getting someone else to change isn't easy at all.
I know.  I've tried it.
In fact, happiness depends upon just one person, and I'm sure you know who that is: it's the person the three fingers of your hand point at when you point your index finger at someone else.
Do you really want to give the power to be happy over to someone else?
Of course you don't.
Take back your power and decide to be happy no matter what.

Friday, August 16, 2013

"Happiness often sneaks in through a door you didn't know you left open."-- John Barrymore

The sudden realization that you are, in fact, happy is a wonderful thing.
It's like a patch of sunshine in a dark woods.  You stop for a while and enjoy the beauty and peace you find there.  You didn't expect to stumble upon this tranquil spot, yet here you are; temporarily out of the woods of stress, confusion, dailiness, tedium, boredom, and all the sturm and drang of modern life.
You know that you can't stay there forever, but you can bask in this experience for a little while before the sun shifts and darkness falls again.
Best of all, you know that unexpected and unreasonable happiness really does exist, and that you'll have more opportunities to find sunshine on a cloudy day again and again whether you're looking for it or not.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

“Hope Smiles from the threshold of the year to come, Whispering 'it will be happier'...” ― Alfred Tennyson

Having a bad day?  Got some bad news?  Things going wrong?
It's often hard, and sometimes downright impossible, to be happy in the face of misfortune.
In times like those, it's best to go for hope.
They both start with an "H", and hope is certainly a better choice, energetically, than despair.
Hope is the dream of happiness yet to come, and as the song goes:
"You gotta have a dream
if you don't have a dream
how you gonna have a dream come true?"*

*from "Happy Talk"
 written by Richard Rodgers with lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

“Happiness is having a large, loving, caring, close-knit family in another city.” ― George Burns

Families are a complex mix of love, hate, annoyance, enjoyment, disappointment, refreshment, surprise and button pushing.  You never know what you're going to get.  The only person you can control in the face of this potential emotional chaos is yourself.
I heard an Aikido master talk about the difference between lightness and softness.
Lightness is like a shirt you put on that's patterned with all the strategies you've learned in order to adapt to whomever you're with.
Families can make you lose your shirt faster than any social entity I know.
Softness is bone-deep.  It's the REAL you.  Learning how to be and remain soft when you're in a challenging situation is the key to social happiness.
How do you do that?
Don't ask me, but if I stumble into a good idea, I'll let you know.

Monday, August 12, 2013

"...Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness."--Thomas Jeffersen

Life is a given, liberty we often have to fight for, but why must we "pursue" happiness?
We all have good reason to be happy. We're alive in a miraculous world full of amazing and wonderful people, things and experiences. Given that, shouldn't happiness be a given too? Yet we struggle towards happiness, pursuing it like greyhounds chasing the ever-elusive rabbit.
What if we just stopped running and simply assume that we are, indeed, happy?
Maybe the idea that we have to chase after happiness is the very thing that keeps happiness at a distance from us.  Maybe we should just stop assuming that our baseline emotion is unhappiness and decide, here and now, that happiness is where we begin and end.
Stop the race, stop the chase, and just be happy.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

"Life is not about making others happy. Life is about sharing your happiness with others."--ANGEL CHERNOFF

The Jimmy Durante song I quoted yesterday, Make Someone Happy, gave me pause.

Too often the attempt to make someone happy involves draining yourself of your own energy and aliveness.  I like the title quote, because it makes it plain that you have to be happy first before you can coax another towards happiness. It's like what they tell you in the airplane before take off:  Put your own gas mask on first before you help someone else with theirs.

You have to HAVE what you're giving before you can truly give it.

If you don't feel happy yourself, you can't make anyone else happy.  They'll feel the drain that they are on your energy and resent your attempts to do whatever you can, whatever it takes, to make them smile. Walk away from the unwilling. They will pull you in their direction faster than you can pull them in yours.

If you want to make someone happy, then daily assess your happiness quotient.  Is it a flickering candle?  Then focus on enlightening yourself before you try to light the way for others.  Is it strong and bright?  Then you'll share your happiness like the sun shares it's light, effortlessly, joyfully and freely.  

Friday, August 9, 2013

"Happiness runs in a circular motion. . ." Donevan

Actually, everything does.
It's called Karma by some, and the biblical metaphor (roughly) is "Cast your bread upon the waters and it will return to you seven-fold".  
Just what you would want with a bunch of duck-rejected soggy bread I'll never know, but I digress.
"Make someone happy and you will be happy too!"  sang Jimmy Durante in the movie Sleepless in Seattle.
There's lots of musical claims for this idea, but don't take a songwriter's word for it.  The only way to really discover if it's true is to test it out.  Make a conscious effort to study the effects of your actions on the people around you. When you smile, does the world smile with you? When you cry, do you cry alone? (yet another rough musical paraphrase).
Check it out, report back, and let's see if we can nail this one down.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

"Happiness is having a scratch for every itch."--Ogden Nash

Is it?  I don't think so.  Having a scratch for every itch means that everything you desire is yours.  That is not the definition of happiness to my mind.  That is the definition of boredom.  Comfortable boredom, yes, but boredom all the same.
Have you ever watched a child on her birthday receive a toy she really, really, really wanted; seen the excitement and the happiness suffuse her face, then an hour or so later hear her say "I don't have anything to do."?
We adults haven't outgrown that.  We love having something to look forward to, we love that unscratched itch.
Having an unfulfilled desire can be an uncomfortable experience, it's true; but at its best it's the beginning of the next exciting journey towards the fulfillment of another wonderful dream.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

"There is only one way to happiness and that is to cease worrying about things which are beyond the power of our will."--Epictetus

Like the past and the future. They are both beyond our ability to change or control.  The past is gone.  The future hasn't happened yet.  Both are outside the workings of our will.
Yet it's so easy to drag the miserable past into a similar present, the ghost of it chilling the heart and destroying our enjoyment of the moment.
Or we worry about what comes next and how this moment might affect our future.
Happiness is a moment to moment thing. Our power, our will, only exists in this moment.
This moment.
Ignore the past.
Disregard the future.
Choose to be happy now.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

"Keep Thinking About Pollyanna."--Richard Diebenkorn

Yesterday we talked about the tyranny of the mind.  Keeping the mind in line is the first step on the way to unreasonable happiness.
Maintaining an optimistic framework is one of the ways we do this, especially when we're starting something new.
Beginning anything requires optimism. You won't begin anything if you don't feel like you'll further yourself in the process. This idea is captured perfectly in the title of this blog, which is artist Richard Diebenkorn's 8th rule in his "Notes to myself on beginning a painting."
Pollyanna is the goddess of optimism.  She looked at every person and situation in the best possible light. She didn't let negativity enter her mind.  She expected the best, and was never disappointed.
Optimism keeps your mind open to possibilities. Optimism keeps your heart open too.  These are the essential ingredients for feelings of well-being, and states of unreasonable happiness.

Monday, August 5, 2013

The Tyranny of the Mind

My Tai Chi teacher tells me the mind's job is to evaluate.  It can't seem to stop weighing and measuring just about everything.  This is where "judgement" comes in.  Good/bad, black/white, friend/enemy.
Discernment is another kettle of fish.  This is where we evaluate what works for us and what doesn't.  No judgement, just practical analysis.
In my ongoing search for what happiness means to me, I realized that I had to put my mind to work on discerning without evaluating.
My mind would say: "Housework=Bad".
But it felt good to get the place clean.  It added to my sense of well-being.
"Well, then", says my ever-changing mind: "Housework=GOOD".
No.  It depends.  If it feels good at the time it's good.
I decided to use that measure to discern what actions contribute to my feelings of well-being.
I realize I'm still using what I do as a way of analyzing how I feel, but it's early days in my search to find the path of unreasonable happiness. I'm still looking for the meaning of the word; but it's a place to start, and I'm glad I've begun.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

What the Heck is Happiness?

I'm going to find out.

I know there's a lot of things that create feelings that I call "happiness", but the elusive, unreasonable happiness is what I'm looking for. Perhaps I'll find a clue in exploring the commonality within the experiences that I identify as "making me happy." So let's see. Today, so far, what has made me happy was enjoying my morning cup of joe brought to me by my husband, the two of us wrestling with the Time's Crossword--and pinning that sucker to the ground, the happy good morning from my little dog, and breakfast made by my daughter.

If I didn't have these things, would I still feel happy?

Don't know. It's something to ponder. In the meantime, I leave you with the Google definition:
  1. happiness  

    Web definitions
    state of well-being characterized by emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy.

    Feelings of well being.  That's common to all the things I've identified so far.  It's a start.

Saturday, August 3, 2013