The World Is A Mirror

“The world is a looking-glass, and gives back to every man the reflection of his own face. Frown at it, and it will in turn look sourly upon you; laugh at it and with it, and it is a jolly kind companion; and so let all young persons take their choice.” ~ William Makepeace Thackeray … 

For the majority of us, having the power to create our own lives and determine our own happiness and success is cherished dearly. For some, this could seem a little overwhelming, perhaps because it implies our responsibility for the way things are going in our lives. Regardless of how we feel, though, it all comes down to our “choice.”

The world is a mirror… and as the saying goes, “you get what you give.” If I contribute negatively to life through my own thoughts and actions, then things are most likely to end up going wrong. But if I contribute positively to life, good things will flow my way. And the more I put this principle into practice, the more I am convinced of the truth within it.

Prosperity, peace, happiness, joy, contentment–the world is yours if you but choose to let it be. But it is something that takes time, and we must not expect immediate results. If we can consistently add to the positive in the world, our lives will in time begin to change to reflect the goodness and happiness we project–they will turn into a reflection of an attitude that focuses on beauty, empowerment, and love.

Imagine seeing yourself from the outside throughout the day.

Questions to consider:

In what ways is life a mirror to you?

What kind of power is exists in your own thoughts? Does this power have a tendency to create the life you live?

Does it make sense to think that “life” really can discriminate and put some of us down and give some of us great gifts, or is it truly objective?

For further thought:

“Life is a magic vase filled to the brim, so made that you cannot dip from it nor draw from it; but it overflows into the hand that drops treasures into it. Drop in malice and it overflows hate; drop in charity and it overflows love.” ~ John Ruskin

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“Buyer’s Remorse”

“Advertising rises to an art when it stimulates not a perceived need, but boredom. Generosity sweepstakes, patient repetition, diligent associations, claims of skyrocketing temperance-–a cavalry charge of techniques weaseling the tedious virtues into subliminal consciousness to make people fidget in their jiggling bodies, necrohabits, and abusive relationships. This campaign of discontent would implant not a longing for this or that product, but a heartache to jump on the bandwagon of another existence altogether. To lodge ennui in the soul is to commodify life.” ~ Bauvard … 

I see very little good that ever comes from advertising. Generally, it makes us feel unhappy and discontent; it leaves us feeling like a smaller man, as if we are lacking something or inferior. And worst of all, it leaves us with a temporary high, searching endlessly in the wrong places for our inner peace–for as Bauvard mentions, advertising merely “lodges ennui in the soul.”

What is ennui? It is a feeling of utter weariness and discontent resulting from safety or lack of interest… or in other words… boredom. Advertising commodifies our lives by encouraging us to look for happiness and joy in things. Sure, my car still works and gets me around fine, but this new truck has all the latest bells and whistles. How could I not live with satellite radio, bluetooth sync, GPS, a towing package, and upgraded leather seats with the heating and cooling built in? If we cannot find happiness in the things we already have, we will never find happiness elsewhere.

True happiness comes from within… so these commercials create a tension that most of us just do not understand on a conscious level. We want things, but are not sure why. “Perhaps I would be better off with that brand new truck?” Of course, there is nothing wrong with fulfilling wants, but our needs are another thing. Most of what we see advertised is completely unnecessary, and we usually do not even want it until we see the ads in the first place.

If we maintain our awareness of what the people who create the ads are trying to make us feel with their words and images, we will have a better understanding of why we are compelled to buy the things they are advertising. And if we are aware of our true needs in life, and put them above our wants, we will be well on the right path to finding happiness and contentment in life. The key is constant discernment, and awareness of what is truly necessary and what is not.

When you see or hear any ads today, think about what the advertisers are trying to make you feel.

Questions to consider:

Do you ever find yourself buying something out of a feeling of boredom with life?

Have you ever bought anything that you did not really want because of a really good ad?

Why is “buyer’s remorse” such a common phenomenon?

For further thought:

“Every increased possession loads us with new weariness.” ~ John Ruskin

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Defend Your Principles

“When principles that run against your deepest convictions begin to win the day, then battle is your calling, and peace has become sin; you must, at the price of dearest peace, lay your convictions bare before friend and enemy, with all the fire of your faith.” ~ Abraham Kuyper … 

It can be hard to always follow what we know to be true. Sometimes it means being laughed at… sometimes it means financial loss… and sometimes it brings with it an unwanted form of hardship. But being true to our principles is what offers us our peace. Without doing so, our character and integrity will falter, and our peace in life will fail us. It is in these times, that Abraham implores us to go into battle, to fight for our beliefs, and to be true to ourselves “with all the fire of our faith.”

However, the line between conviction and stubbornness seems to blur all the time. We often see someone standing for what they believe in less as a sign of strong character and more as a sign of close-mindedness. So how are we best able to discern the difference between the two? The answer lies in recognizing what is truly the truth, and what is merely something that we currently believe–something that is subject to change.

An inspirational story of personal conviction is that of Rachel Joy Scott–the first victim of the Columbine High School Massacre. Reports said that one of the gunmen, after having first shot Rachel in her leg, picked her up by her hair and asked her if she still believed in God, and that she had answered, “You know I do.” Her response provoked a second, fatal shot to her head at point-blank range. The thing to note is that she stood up for what she knew was true in her heart–a quality of a person with conviction, and not a sign of close-mindedness or stubbornness.

Our convictions are strongest when we have doubt, yet overcome that doubt. I would even go further and say that they are strongest when we have fear, yet overcome the fear–for being afraid of the results of standing up for what you believe in, and doing so in spite of those results, is an absolute sign of fortitude, integrity, and strength of will.

What am I willing to stand up for? On the day I die, I have a feeling that I will be more concerned about the things that I stood up for than about the things that held little interest in.

Reclaim some internal peace today by standing up for your principles.

Questions to consider:

What are some of your personal truths that have changed over time?

In what ways can being a man of principle affect the peace in your life?

If you had a major ethical dilemma at work, could you leave your job even if it meant significant financial loss?

For further thought:

“The relationship between commitment and doubt is by no means an antagonistic one. Commitment is healthiest when it is not without doubt, but in spite of doubt.” ~ Rollo May

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Your Beliefs

“The Buddha spoke gently, “Once a person is caught by belief in a doctrine, one loses all one’s freedom. When one becomes dogmatic, that person believes his or her doctrine is the only truth and that all other doctrines are heresy. Disputes and conflicts all arise from narrow views. They can extend endlessly, wasting precious time and sometimes even leading to war. Attachment to views is the greatest impediment to the spiritual path. Bound to narrow views, one becomes so entangled that it is no longer possible to let the door of truth open.” ~ Thich Nhat Hanh … 

Many people limit their own perspectives in life by clinging to views and ideas that they have embraced simply because they were taught from others that they were true. Yet by doing so, they will most assuredly miss out on experiencing the breadth of the spiritual journeys that lay before them. Furthermore, by accepting the words of others as personal truth–without seeking a deeper understanding–they lose sight of the deeper meaning of life.

There is nothing silly about questioning what you have been taught… for that is the path of growth. People who refuse to do so are sacrificing their own freedom just to hold onto a belief that may or may not truly hold any meaning to them. If we want to become truly spiritual beings, we must embark on our own journeys into our selves and into our personal relationship with God and life. Although the answers to my spiritual questions could be inspired and based off someone else’s interpretations, they most likely will need to create some personal connections within me to be able to grow–I must learn to trust myself and my own perspective on life.

When I mistakenly think someone is mad at me… it leaves me feeling awful. This belief will hold me back because I do not like having someone angry with me. Yet later on, when I come to find out that the person was not angry with me at all, my belief is shattered, and it no longer has any hold over me.

Spiritual growth is about actively learning and growing in our own spirituality. If we choose to make the journey, and continue on it all the way, we will find the truth we seek.

Take some time today to question and learn more about your beliefs.

Questions to consider:

How can one believe something if they do not truly understand that belief?

What are some of your beliefs that you are perhaps unsure of?

How can you go about learning and understanding these beliefs better? How can doing so bring you closer to God and strengthen your faith?

For further thought:

“Anyone who thinks sitting in church can make you a Christian must also think that sitting in a garage can make you a car.” ~ Garrison Keillor

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Beware Of What You Say Out Of Anger

“A truth that’s told with bad intent

Beats all the lies you can invent.” ~ William Blake, Auguries of Innocence … 

In this poem, William displayed the use of interconnecting themes–the idea of joining things that are not of the same realm. It was a way in which he tried to show that there is a wisdom, or vision (augury) in seeing the world through two eyes instead of one. And here, against what we are taught–that a lie is always dishonest and the truth is always best–we are shown that in some instances, the truth can be much worse than a lie.

“The truth hurts.” Therefore, when trying to hurt someone through our words, a truth that is told with bad intent is the best weapon to inflict the most damage. This is especially true when that person is dear to us, or when that person places great trust in us. Therefore, when we are angry, it is important that we always remain aware of this truth, and choose our words wisely–for once something is said it cannot be taken back.

If I am overweight, and someone were to call me fat, that would be very hurtful–even more hurtful than if that person were to call me an idiot, or a lazy bum, for the latter two have no truth. When we attack a person with truths, we attack their very core–something a true friend should never do. Moreover, when we allow ourselves to stoop to such a level, we lose a lot of integrity and trust, things that are priceless and very difficult to gain back.

We all get angry in life. And when we get angry, we all must make decisions on how to handle that anger. Most of us never intend to hurt others with our words, yet sometimes we do. But by using our best judgments, and trying to hold back our hurtful words, we can avoid adding to so much of the pain that exists in the world each day.

Be aware of the words you speak out of anger today. Apologize if necessary.

Questions to consider:

Think of a time when you hurt someone with the truth. Was it worth doing so?

Have you ever kept calm during an argument? What was the immediate result? What was the long term result?

What are some ways in which you can disperse some of the anger that causes you to say hurtful words?

For further thought:

“Prudent is the one who can keep silent that part of truth which may be untimely, and by not speaking it, does not spoil the truth of what he or she said.” ~ Pope John XXIII

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Listen More Than You Say

“We have two ears and one mouth, so we should listen more than we say.” ~ Zeno of Citium … 

As the Greek philosopher Zeno once stated, it would be wise of me to listen more often than I speak, for how can I truly expect to share something without first understanding it. Yet as a parent, my children generally expect me to be able to explain unknown concepts and ideas to them in a way that makes sense. And as such, I often times feel obligated to talk and to have all the answers to the questions asked me.

To be able to share my wisdom with others, I must be able to learn–be that reading books, experiencing life, or listen to those who are wiser than I am. If I allow myself to talk incessantly about nonsense, I reduce the amount of time I am able to spend listening and growing. For example, if my wife is telling me about her day at work, and I am simply thinking about the next thing I am going to say to her, and then perhaps sidetrack into what has been happening in my day, well then I am not really listening… I am simply waiting for a chance to give my own input.

Listen to others around you. Ask questions and show interest in their concerns. Others will definitely not think less of you for speaking less, and this certainly will appreciate the company of someone who is willing to listen closely to what they have to say. Some of the most unfortunate problems in the world today are a result of people feeling as if there is no one there to listen to them.

Spend some time simply listening to someone today.

Questions to consider:

How many role models of good listeners have you known?

How do you feel when someone listens closely to you?

What do you usually do when you are tempted to cut someone off by sharing your own seemingly related experiences?

For further thought:

“Wisdom is the reward you get for a lifetime of listening when you’d have preferred to talk.” ~ Doug Larson

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No Tollways To Be Wise

“No shortcut to wisdom. No tollways to be wise.” ~ Toba Beta … 

Wisdom does not necessarily come with age, nor does it come from having a whole world of information at our fingertips; wisdom cannot be bought, nor can it be willed upon another. Wisdom can only be gained through our own discovery–through trial, error, and our eventual understanding.

Neither is wisdom complex, rather it is breathtaking in its simplicity. It is not having the answers for everything–for it is often wiser to allow others to find their own answers and merely be a fellow traveller and guide. To be wise, we cannot take any shortcuts–we have to travel the paths before us, as these are the paths where wisdom will be found. We cannot just know things–we have to understand them and the principles behind them. Furthermore, once we reach a deeper understanding of the things we are able to, we must then share that understanding with others, or else the wisdom gained will be for naught.

Do not seek “shortcuts to wisdom.” Instead, seek wisdom in the experiences you face each day of your life. And do not feel you are wise because you know more than someone else–quantity is not equivalent to quality. Instead, seek a greater understanding of the things you do know, and then share them with others in your life.

Take a moment to gain some deeper understanding of a recent experience in your life.

Questions to consider:

In what ways are you truly wise?

How can you grow to be even wiser?

In which ways are you most effective in sharing your wisdom?

For further thought:

“When you are able to know the right thing, you are intelligent. But when you choose that right thing to do, you are wise. This means people can get money, education, marriage, and good health and not get wisdom. Wisdom is the number one gift for a Godly success.” ~ Israelmore Ayivor

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