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.