Wednesday, June 21, 2017

What Have We Got to Lose?

Clarity is slipping away with the loss of our language, our lack of care for the words we use. By limiting one's vocabulary we lose the subtle differences in similar-meaning words. Slippage in subject verb agreement, misplaced apostrophes, all of these reduce the clarity of our language.

Text messaging has eroded concern for spelling and punctuation, training millions of users to trade precision for speed. It always amazes me how many people don't differentiate "there", "their", and "they're."  I find myself using BTW for "by the way," as well as other kinds of shorthand for words.

This slippage of language also reduces the range of allusion. Those who have not read widely won't understand many allusions, such as "Luddite" and "sacrificial lamb." How many know the meaning of the phrase "in the catbird seat"?

Fewer and fewer Americans take Latin or Greek and are therefore unaware of the etymological layers of meaning that enrich words we use - like the relationship of "fabulous" and "fable." Yet "fabulous" is used almost as commonly in our speech as commas! (And, of course, there are those who don't use commas or use them incorrectly.)

Even questionable useage becomes common, like war language to describe healing, sports, and work. Little wonder that the idea of war has less emotional impact than it deserves.

Sarcasm, mild insults and ironic banter replace story or sustained conversation. It is easier to be sarcastic than to express what we think and feel. We don't bother to explore what is really meant by it.

Jargon divides us into us-and-them, destroying conversation with those "others" who aren't part of "us", the experts jargon separates us, that keeps us from understanding. This is true of all manner of specialties.
"We need the instruction and precise understanding that scholars and experts can provide. We need, a a public hoping to be an informed citizenry, to hold them accountable by demanding from our publicly funded institutions information and instruction that is both precise and accessible. The best of our astrophysicists, neuroscientists, and social theorists can rise to the challenge. 'Accessible' is not the same as 'dumbed-down.'"*
Silence in modern life is rare. Much of it is drowned out by words, song, written words, mindlessly used like disposable products used to buffer the discomfort of thought or the "strenuous spirituality" of silence. Imagine moments when there are no sounds that are not part of nature - no sound of traffic, of electronics, of clocks, or machines of any kind. What do you do in the silence?

In all of this wasting away of our language, where are those who love words? These ar those who can be good stewards of our language. Cherish it for its "beauty, precision, power to enhance understanding, power to name, power to heal." Do you have a favorite turn of phrase or quote that just the sound of it brings you joy?

 Listen for meaning and clarity in the words of others. Strive to be more precise in your own choice of words. Use words as instruments of love. Value language as a national treasure.

Don't litter!

*Quotes and most thoughts are from Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies, by Marilyn McEntyre.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Are You at a Loss for Words?

I seldom am, as you can probably guess. But our current culture is at risk of losing words. And words are a valuable resource. When a culture looses its language it looses its identity, its history, its wisdom.

Did you know that there are more than a million words in the English language? How many different words do you use in a day, in a week - writing or speaking? The average educated person in america uses only about 200 a week! [ Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies, by Marilyn McEntyre.]

(Yes, that's what I'm reading now. My summer reading is usually more non-fiction than fiction. And in the winter/dark months I read more fiction. So a little light reading for summer doesn't work for me.:-) This post is based on what I've read so far. Probably the next post will provide more insight into this topic.

Let's look at some facts about English speaking Americans:

  • 50% of the unemployed are functionally illiterate;
  • an average kindergartner has spent more house in front of T.V. (5,000 hours) than it takes to earn a BA degree! Researchers found a direct causal relationship between early T.V. watching and impaired literacy.
  • 27% of army enlistees can't read training manuals written at the 7th grade level.
  • other studies of 21-25 year olds shoed that 80% couldn't read a bus schedule, 73% couldn't understand a newspaper story, 63% couldn't follow written map directions, and 23% couldn't find the gross pay-to-date on a paycheck stub.
  • 44% of all American Adults do not read a single book in the course of a year.
So, what can we do to maintain a usable and reliable language - to be good stewards of words? Above all, we have to acknowledge the value of language. It needs to be a constant focus at all age groups.

Then we have to: 1) deepen and sharpen our reading skills; 2) cultivate habits of speaking and listening that foster precision and clarity; and 3) practice poesis - to be makers and doers of the word. For these purposes we need regularly to exercise the tongue and the ear: to indulge in word play, to delight in metaphor, to practice specificity and accuracy, to listen critically and refuse cliches and sound bites that substitute for authentic analysis. 
While we who voluntarily and regularly read books, newspapers, and Bibles are a privileged group, we need to use that privilege for the sake of the whole. One way we can make the world better is to participate in preserving and enlarging our English language.

So today, pay attention to the words you speak or write and try for more precise and clear terms. In these times, especially, the English language in America can use some rigorous clarity.

Yes, as I read this book (Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies, by Marilyn McEntyre) I'll be sharing more thoughts from it in the next post.

Stay tuned!

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

That Attitude of Gratitude Works Wonders!

Recently I read a post about gratitude and how it is good for your health. I thought I'd share it. Take a look:

I find gratitude to be very helpful, especially with my anxieties. I just spend some time listing things I am grateful for and feel calmer. It is often how I fall asleep at night.

It is amazing how long the list gets sometimes.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Summer! What do you remember?

Lady bugs, catching lightning bugs, playing in the backyard sprinkler, the sound of roller skates on the sidewalk, playing outside until dark, the smell of rain on dusty pavement, jump rope, hopscotch drawn with a rock on cement, hide and seek, mother-may-I, tag, bicycles, afternoon storms, sandbox, screen door slamming and Mom telling us to not slam it.

Those are some of my childhood summer memories. I grew up in the city. My mom didn't start working away from home until I was nine years old, so summers also meant Kool-aid and cookies as a snack in the afternoon. She didn't have a car, so we seldom got to go swimming. When we did, it was a big deal for us because we had to take the city bus. I didn't know how to swim, but I loved playing in the water.

Once my big brother decided to teach me to swim. So he pushed me into the water! Neither I nor my mother was amused. Needless to say, I didn't learn to swim until I was in my thirties.

Summer has always been my favorite season. As a child I don't remember suffering with the heat as much as we do now. When it was really hot we played in the sandbox that was under a trellis of grape vines. The sand was cool and we were in the shade. Or we played on our big front porch.

The porch went across the front of the house. It had wide wooden banisters. And half of the porch was shielded from the sun by a  rose trellis. My girlfriends and I spent many hours there playing house with our dolls. And sometimes my big brother and I would play cards. We played war and the games would sometimes go on for days. Between times we each took our cards and hid them in our room so we couldn't cheat. I wasn't smart enough to realize that my brother could figure out how to stack his deck to win more cards the next time we played.

The garage was a cool place to play. It had a cement floor and no sun got in. We could climb around in the "loft" of lumber my dad kept for projects. And one time he brought home a ski-ball machine and fixed it so we didn't have to put coins in to play. I loved that.

Summer has lots of happy memories for me. Little wonder it is my favorite season. What are some of your summer memories? Would you share them?

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

What Do You Never Have Enough Of?

Money? Love? Clothes? Shoes? Friends? Energy? Sleep? Time?

There is a commercial on T.V. about the value of time and that we must fill it with what matters. Time is a resource that is non-renewable. When it is gone there is no replacing it. So all of that got me to thinking about time, and about what matters.

So if you want to fill it with what matters, what matters to you? And, are you spending time on what matters to you?

When I was working as a counselor/educator some of the exercises we put our clients through were value clarification exercises. We seldom really look at our values as often as we need to. Every choice we make either moves us toward what we value or away from it. 

Let's just look at the things we began this post with: Money, Love, Clothes, Shoes, Friends, Energy, Sleep,Time.

Money can buy clothes and shoes. Maybe enough money could offer you "friendship" of people attracted to your money. However, these aren't real friends. 

And while having enough money might make it possible for you to have the opportunity to sleep more, money alone won't help you go to sleep and sleep restfully. And energy? Wish it could! 

So when we spend our time on all those things, what will we have? Money won't buy love. 

What IS important to you? And what DO you fill your time with? 

Are you working long hours away from home and loved ones? What if you only worked enough hours to have your basic needs met. Then what would you do with your time?

Is feeling useful, doing kindness, or serving the good of others important to you? Are you spending any time on that?

I'm guilty of wasting LOTS of time, even though I know that at my age my allotted time is limited. I rationalize it by thinking I've been busy all my life and now I'm retired. Some tell me that if I'm doing something I enjoy I'm not really wasting my retirement time. 

And then another part of me tells me that there are other things that matter to me that I COULD be doing. That's when I work on this blog, or take surveys, or share information about causes I believe in, or keep in touch with family, or volunteer.

Funny, when I was working full time I didn't think about wasting time. There never seemed to be enough of it to waste! I loved my work and believed it was worthwhile. 

So where are you in this whole Time and Values thing? What do you think about how you are using your time?

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Where Your Money Comes From

Ever given much thought to where your money comes from? Check it out.


Better not to try it at home!

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Are You a Bacon Lover?

Ever wonder exactly how bacon is made? It is an American favorite.

Check this out:

Still love bacon?

But do you know how to cook it correctly? Here you go:

Now THAT can make the world better for you today! :-)

A Video Game to Cope with Grief

My reaction when I saw this title was  kind of a jolt. What? Grief as a game? Surely not. But listen to her talk about creating this game and see for yourself.

What do you think?


Sunday, May 28, 2017

Help Who? What? Where? When? Why?

And you thought doing good, being a helping person, was simple, right? But these days I don't think so. There are so many people, causes, places that need help. And with the information age we see and hear of suffering everywhere. So how do you choose?

We can't do everything, can't fix the world, abolish all suffering. Obviously. So, that might make you think there is no point in helping anyone, especially strangers and people we'll never see or meet.
But for many of us, we have that urge to help beyond our own circle of friends and family.

We are given so many opportunities to help relieve the suffering in the wold that it can be overwhelming. Let's consider the "who".

Personally, I find my heart pulled in some directions more strongly than in others. (And following your heart is a good way to choose.) I listen to my heart and hope I make the best choices. I look for people who are oppressed and are often ignored or marginalized. I send needed items to people  on the Rose But Indian Reservation. And I do what I can to support refugees in our country, especially locally.

Some people think it is better to help people they can meet rather than those far away. But what moral difference does it make if the starving child is in front of us or far away? So the "where" is a matter of personal preference. I like to consider what resources are available where they are so I can evaluate how much difference my help might make.

On the reservation, money is very tight. There are no good jobs and the elderly, especially, live in deep poverty. So the help I give there provides items they badly need.

In our country, large communities especially, there are agencies that help refugees. These agencies need volunteers. While the agencies have some funding, what is really needed are people who will help their clients get resettled. I'm hoping to become a volunteer at the Community Refugee and Immigration Services center here in Columbus. I can do things like assisting with their English classes, driving them to appointments, mentoring, and making them feel welcome in what is often an unfriendly environment.

So the "what" of you helping can be anything from making money donations to volunteering, or simply sharing information about the need and encouraging others to help. Your help might be "rescue" - helping a person out of a dire situation, someone right in front of you. You might help a homeless person get to a shelter, for instance. Or you might stop to help someone with a disabled car. "Rescue" is usually unplanned, spontaneous acts.

Another kind of helping can be categorized as "charity." Charity is more likely to be helping an unseen person or someone who is at a physical or emotional distance between you. You donate or raise money for a cause you believe in. You may join with others to support a cause. For instance, some of us met regularly to make little dresses for Africa. And sometimes I ask friends and family to help me make or buy hats and mittens for the children and elderly on the Indian Reservation.

And, of course, there is always the need for financial support for various causes. So donating or fund raising is another kind of charity work.

"When" is an interesting factor to consider. Most of us tend to relegate our helping to our spare time, a convenient time. "Rescue", of course, by nature  is spontaneous and often inconvenient. Sometimes we drive past the disabled car because we are in a hurry to get somewhere. We don't want to be inconvenienced.

Finding a time to be a helper takes some consideration. Since we probably don't aspire to the lable of "do-gooder", we need to balance our helping of others with our responsibilities to family, job, friends, and self-care. Yet we need to find a space in our very busy lives because helping is important to our well-being.

That brings us to the "why" of helping. Why do we help others? Why do we contribute to charities, volunteer for unpaid work that benefits others? Why do we do acts of kindness? I'll bet you could get dozens of answers from dozens of different people.

  • When you give, you are likely to get back. Perhaps you won't get back the same thing you have given. But when people see you as generous they are likely to be generous to you.
  • When you help others you help yourself. You increase your self-respect and  personal satisfaction. It feels good.
  • Compassion is a human passion. We are born as caring creatures. Often that is not encouraged as we grow up and we can become uncaring. But most of us have some compassion, many have great compassion. It is because we are caring creatures.
  • Some feel it is our duty to help others. Some rules about helping and caring have been taught to us and we help out of a sense of duty. This is probably the least joyful reason for helping, however.
  • Psychologists tell us that there are neurological reasons: Altruism activates reward centers in the brain. Neurobiologists have found that when engaged in an altruistic act, the pleasure centers of the brain become active.
  • Helping those in need helps us feel less upset by observing others in distress.
  • The need reminds you of someone or something in your past and helping them helps resolve old feelings from that past situation. Perhaps you have been needy and know how that feels, so you do what you can to help the other person relieve their suffering.
  • Helping satisfies personal values or humanitarian concerns. For some people this can have a spiritual component.
  • Volunteering can help you gain a better understanding of other people, cultures or places.It satisfies your curiosity and desire to learn.
  • Volunteering can be a way to challenge yourself, meet new people and make new friends, or learn new skills that further your career.
And I'm sure there are other motivations. Some might have purely selfish reasons. For instance, someone might volunteer to work on a project with someone who could influence their future in some way. Or they might volunteer solely to have something to put on their resume!

But whatever the reasons, we are all helpers in some way. Why do you help?

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

"Do-Gooder": A Pejorative Word?

When someone is labeled a "do-gooder" it is with a somewhat disdainful tone. Why is that? They are people who are doing good works, helping people, making the world a better place, right? So why the disdain?

I'm currently reading Strangers Drowing, Grappling with Imposible Idealism, Drastic Choices, and the Overpowering Urge to Help by Larissa MacFarquhar. I brought it home from the library because I suffer from that urge, an urge I'm all too often unable to do anything about because of my health or wealth [lack of both]. In it they explore attitudes about do-gooders.

They describe do-gooders as people who are compelled to help others, strangers, people they may never meet. They do this while sacrificing their well-being, their families, their own comfort and happiness. In fact, the authors say that do-gooders can be identified because they are never happy. They are too caught up in the suffering of others and their need to help.

Well, that IS a bit extreme. I guess I don't know anyone like that personally. I know a lot of people who do good things. But they don't give up everything in order to serve others. I know that there are religious folk who do that for spiritual reasons. But they usually feel fulfilled and joyful in their work. The authors exclude them from the term because they are not addicted to good works. Addiction does not bring fulfillment and joy!

"[God] didn't want you to be miserable - He wanted you to do good. . . it is better to be happy, because you did better work."  pg. 16
God wants us to be happy and God wants us to do good works. If you get no joy, no happiness from your good works you need to take a hard look at what you are doing and why you are doing it.

What good works are you doing? Share an experience that brought you joy in your good works.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Got 20 Minutes? Get Happy!

You can get happy in only 20 minutes if you watch his video and do what it suggests. 
Want to try?


What do you think?

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

I'm Sorry. Be Happy.

One thing that keeps us from being truly happy is that there are people or experiences that have hurt us and we've not been able to forgive.

How can forgiveness of others help us to be truly happy? Check out this video to start on the road to forgiving. Do it for yourself.

Let it go. Be happy.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

What Would You Give for Your Well-Being?

What have you lost by giving? Money? Goods? Experiences? Your savings? Your time? Other resources? Are you suffering a deficit because of your generosity? 

So why is generosity a good thing? Why give if we lose? Doesn't seem very practical, does it?
Yet we give. And most of us want to be generous. It is a positive characteristic, to be a giver.

Generosity is a paradox. While it is true that we "lose" that which we give, in return for giving we receive! The Paradox of Generosity, Giving we receive, grasping we lose by Christian Smith & Hilary Davidson is written from their academic study of generosity. The book is quite readable, will all the technical research stuff in the back of the book. And it has interesting insights.

To measure well-being they looked at happiness, bodily health, purpose in living, avoidance of depression, and interest in personal growth. People without these are not flourishing. Their study looked at practices of generosity, not single generous acts, repeated behaviors that involve recurrent intention and attention. So, basically, a generous person is happier, healthier, lives purposefully, avoids depression, and ins interested in their personal growth.

Sounds like what we'd all like to be. The authors demonstrate in their research that generosity and well-being correlate significantly between the two. They present empirical evidence that American's generous practices are strongly associated with grater well-being of the generous givers.

What about a causal relationship? Which causes which? The arrow points in both directions. Greater well-being often facilitates generosity. And at the same time, generosity also enhances the well-being of the giver. 

America has been call "the most generous nation." But what is the truth of the matter? The authors report that the truth is that the results are mixed. Many Americans are quite generous in various ways and they are more likely to enjoy the benefits of generous practices. While on the other hand many other Americans live fairly ungenerous lives. They are less likely to voluntarily give money to valued organization and causes. They don't volunteer their time and labor to others. They don't extend themselves much in relationships with family, friends, and neighbors. And these less generous people are less likely to have the benefits of generous practices.

So, what do Smith &Davidson mean by "generosity"? For the purpose of their research they mean "the virtue of giving good things to others freely and abundantly."  It is conceived as a learned character trait involving both attitudes and actions. It requires both a disposition to give liberally and active practice of giving liberally. You have to want to be generous and to act generous, to actually give to others in some way.

It isn't just giving anything from you abundance but giving those things that are beneficial to others. A generous heart will share what they have that would benefit another. It is important that we consider how our "gift" benefits the other. How often do we donate our no longer needed clothing without considering how it will benefit another? We do it more to get rid of stuff than to really consider the needs of others beyond our left-overs. 

There are many ways to be generous. We can give our time to work without pay [volunteering]; we can give money to the causes we believe in; we can express generosity to family, neighbors, friends; we can give blood, become an organ donor, loan possessions, include estate giving in our wills. Sometimes giving time to just listen when someone needs a sympathetic ear can be a very generous act. Random acts of kindness are generous practices.

"Giving we receive, grasping we lose." Learn more about the benefits of generosity in The Paradox of Generosity by Christian Smith & Hilary Davidson. And increase your own well-being while you give to benefit others.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Another Formula for Happiness

  • Do you know your purpose?
  • Is there a way to live your life that will create more happiness in the world, not only for you but for others as well?

  • Maybe that is the purpose for which we all exist. 
  • What will you do today, tomorrow, the next day, to create more happiness?
  • Share your ideas here!

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Living in the Modern World

We've been exploring the ideas about an 18th century economist named Adam Smith through the perspective of Russ Roberts' book How Adam Smith Can Change Your Life, an unexpected guide to human nature and happiness. Even though Adam Smith was an economist he had philosophical thoughts about human happiness that weren't about money. And his ideas are just as appropriate today, if not more so, than they were in the 1700's. His philosophical thoughts are in his book The Theory of Moral Sentiments.

Smith proposed that we are happy when we are loved and when we are "good", or lovable. And when we want to make the world a better place, we do that by simply being better people.
"If you want to make the world a better place, work on being trustworthy, and honor those who are trustworthy. Be a good friend and surround yourself with worthy friends. Don't gossip. Resist the joke that might hurt someone's feelings, even when it is clever. And try not to laugh when your friend tells you that clever joke at someone else's expense. Being good is not just good for you and those around you, but because it helps others to be good as well. Set a good example, and by your loneliness you will not only be loved, but you may influence the world." Russ Roberts, How Adam Smith Can Change Your Life.
Roberts reinforces my belief that every action we take affects those around us and through them ripples outward influencing other way beyond us. When we approve of someone's behavior, be it good or bad, we are encouraging other people to that behavior. So if we want the world to be better we need to encourage that which is good, that positively affects others. That is part of our personal power to create change at an organic level.

This seems terribly important today when there is so much harmful behavior in the spotlight, in the news, on social media. We can influence that in two ways - expressing disapproval and/or refusing to giving a lot of energy to enhancing it. Negative attention is still attention. And some people seek any attention they can get.

Yet it is hard to determine how much disapproving attention is enough and how much is feeding the "attention-getters". Isn't it more effective to invest our energy in influencing those with the power to make changes? What reward or punishment is effective in each case? Sometimes eliminating positive rewards, financial for instance, is more powerful than voicing disapproval alone. Boycotts can be powerful, especially when combined with demonstrations.

Obviously, group actions are more powerful than the actions of only one of us. But that certainly doesn't excuse individuals doing nothing. If you really want to make the world a better place, BE THE CHANGE.

When we identify a problem we need to determine if "the problem" is a symptom of a greater problem. We can waste a great deal of energy and resources to change the symptom that doesn't get dealt with. Take the War on Drugs, for instance. What is the root of drug use? Is it just the availability of drugs? No, the addict is attempting to escape something, trying to escape some kind of pain. It is similar to the problem of terrorism. Who becomes radicalized to become a terrorist? Is it the person who understands his personal power and has the resources to pursue a better life? Or is it the young person who sees no future that is better than what they are living in. They fall for the rhetoric of someone promising them greatness, comfort, freedom.

Dealing with the causes is a big and often overwhelming task. All too quickly we give up making those changes and try to overcome the persons we define as "the problem." It wouldn't be easy to change "the problem" into a challenge that together with others we could influence in a positive way. However, pushing someone to change doesn't work. Often it is better to leave some things alone rather than try to steer them. See? It isn't easy. And yet it is important.

Smith reminded us that politics isn't where life happen, even though it affects our lives in all kinds of ways, good and bad. But we have so much more to do outside that world of politics. Roberts advises:
"Do you want to make the world a better place? Talk to your kids. Go on a date with your spouse without checking your e-mail. Read more Adam Smith and Jane Austen and P.G. Wodehouse and less of the Daily Kos and the Drudge Report. Smile at someone you don't know or even like. Be nice to your parents, because you can never repay what they did for you. None of this necessarily shows up in some measure of gross domestic product. These actions don't help pay the bills. They aren't usually on our to-do list. so we don't get the satisfaction of checking them off. A week can go by and nothing will happen if we don't do them. But I think they are the stuff of the good life."
 What it boils down to is that all the little things we do affect others. Think of positive behaviors you have  done, ones you can do in the future. What if everyone behaved that way? Pay it forward. Make the world better.

Next post we'll look at happiness from another perspective. Come back to see.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

How We Can Change the World for the Better

Most of us want to make the world a better place. We may have different reasons, but in the end most people want that. So how do we begin to do that?

The reality is that we already change the world by every action we take. But to change the world for the better we need to be conscious of our actions to determine if they make the world better or worse.

Many of us "do good" by supporting causes financially or volunteering or giving blood. That's work we do for others. But all too often we forget that "being good" helps others and makes the world a better place.

We've been exploring Russ Roberts' book How Adam Smith Can Change Your Life. Smith gives us guidance in how to be "lovely", which basically describes how to "be good." When we are prudent, just, and beneficent we act in ways that benefit the world.

Roberts writes, "One person acting alone has no impact yet all of us together determine the outcome."
Personally, I believe one person acting alone has impact on other people which can influence the outcome because any act that influences another makes your act more powerful. We are not alone in impacting the world.

When we do not speak out about behaviors that negatively impact the world we are enabling them. We don't have to be aggressively confrontational, but we do need to celebrate and applaud the morals that leave a positive impact. When I was working in the prison setting I often shared space in the staff dining room with the security officers. Sometimes their jokes were racist or sexist. Rather than laugh at these jokes I would state quietly that I found the joke offensive. And when I heard of some positive act they had done I went out of my way to tell them that I appreciated that behavior. One part of making the world better is to be "lovely" and to choose our responses to unlovely behavior.

"When we honor bad people or avoid good people, we are playing a role in degrading the world around us. It's a small role, almost negligible. But together, our combined actions are decisive. Each step we take away from loveliness is a step away from civilation. As more and more of us take those steps, or seemingly negligible actions are no longer negligible. Through our actions, we create the norms and rules of what is attractive and what is unattractive.."  Russ Roberts, How Adam Smith Can Change Your Life.
What if we all acted "lovely"? Certainly the world would be a better place. How do we get more of us to act lovely? The rewards to be had from being "lovely" need to be increased.  Being nice needs us to reward nice behavior rather than unlovely behavior, to trust, to applaud, to approve, to celebrate, ro honor niceness/loveliness.  Each time you reward another's trust or go the extra mile for them, you are encouraging others to do the same.

Honoring honorable behavior sends a reward for being honorable. Refusing to pass on gossip, even when it is true, breaks an unvirtuous circle. Refusing to laugh at the joke that comes at someon's expense, you are sparing that someone pain and refusing to reward cruelty. "Being good isn't just good for you and those around you. It encourages others to be good." (Roberts)

It's easy to take the pessimistic view that nothing you do can really make a difference in the world. Yet even the smallest thing can create consequences. Think your one action can't make a difference?
Consider the idea of one step of a journey having no impact on the outcome. Each step determines direction and progress or digress. When an airplane is flying from one city to another, the calculations of the naviation decide where the plane ends up. One degree off and it could end the flight in a very different place than intended.

"If you want to make the world a better place, work on being trustworthy, and honor those who are trustworthy. Be a good friend and surround yourself with worthy friends. Don't gossip. Resist the joke that might hurt someone's feelings, even when it is clever. And try not to laugh when your friend tells you that clever joke at someone else's expense. Being good is not just good for you and those around you, but because it helps others to be good as well. Set a good example, and by your loneliness you will not only be loved, but you may influence the world." Russ Roberts, How Adam Smith Can Change Your Life.
You have power in your influence. When you join with others being good, the power to make a positive difference is multiplied exponentially.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

I've Got to Be Virtuous to Be Happy? Really?

Good grief, you mean I have to be virtuous to be happy? How do I do that? A saint I ain't!

Adam Smith said that virtue is multifaceted, the big three being prudence, justice, and beneficence. These make us more lovable, respected and admired by those around us, traits that make us loved.

These are not terms we hear a lot about usually. Other than "justice", when was the last time you heard the terms "prudence" or "beneficence"? But remember, Smith was writing in the seventeen hundreds. Let's look at what those terms might mean today.

Prudence means taking care of yourself. To be prudent means to not act recklessly. It also covers everything in your personal life, taking care of your health, money, reputation. There are plenty of resources to learn how to take care of your health and money. But reputation isn't as well explored. A prudent person is sincere and honest, doesn't volunteer everything he/she knows, is reserved and cautious in their speech and action, doesn't stick their opinion into every conversation, is a good friend and avoids melodrama in relationships, is a faithful friend, chooses friends who are sober, modest, discrete, well-behaved. I imagine the prudent person doesn't put their life on social media without careful thought of what they share. They are genuine. They say little and do much. They have a certain dignity.

For Smith the trait of justice refers to not harming or hurting others. It is a negative virtue in that it is the things you don't do - don't steal, don't murder, don't lie, don't cheat, don't abuse others, don't hurt other's feelings. It is the rule of fair play in life. Don't take advantage of others to benefit yourself. Pay your debts. Keep your promises. All of that is personal justice. The way we interact in the world is by following the rules of justice.

Beneficence is more than being fair. Beneficence means doing good. Not being bad is pretty straightforward. But doing good has no black and white rules. Smith says gratitude is one of the virtues that make up beneficence. Others include friendship, humanity, hospitality, generosity, charity.
When we see a need and want to meet it, how much is enough? What is being good when what we do may not really benefit someone as much as something else might? Should I give them money? What if spending time with them or offering information/advice would be more helpful? How do we know?Do you give to everyone who asks?

It seems to me that prudence is required to determine boundaries of beneficence. If I recklessly give to everyone and every cause and don't take care of my own financial needs, it is no longer healthy. Yet we must consider justice when we look at giving as a way to look good to the world rather than to help those in need. When we do that we are taking advantage of those in need to boost our selfish need for admiration.

While we can't expect ourselves to be perfectly virtuous, but working toward that goal is the best way to being "lovely." And many of us want to do more that to be wise and virtuous. We want to make the world a better place. That is the premise of my blogs, that we want to make a positive difference in the world.

Next post we will look at how Russ Roberts, author of How Adam Smith Can Change Your Life, suggests we do that.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

How Lovely Are You?

"Smith's prescription for happiness is a simple formula. To be content, you need to be loved and to be lovely. You need to be respected and respectable. You need to b praised and praiseworthy. You need to matter to other people, and you need for their image of you to be the real you - you need to earn their respect and honor and admiration honestly."  -- Russ Roberts, How Adam Smith Can Change Your Life
Did he say "simple"? Well, it might be simple, but it sure isn't easy. At least I don't find it easy to be "lovely". How about you?

Roberts points out that there are two ways to be loved: to be rich and famous or to be wise and virtuous. He says that Smith advises that we choose the second way, the way of wisdom and virtue, be lovely. the way to be lovely is to be "proper or appropriate." He means means meeting the expectations of our society, the people around us, which then allows them to interact with us in the way we expect. This is the minimum standard of loveliness.

Well, that sounds easy enough, right? Uh, what about the differences of behavior with family, intimate friends, co-workers in the workplace, strangers, officials, etc.? The expectations are often very different. Much of the world was taken aback when Michelle Obama spontaneously hugged the Queen of England on their official meeting. Expectations differ when situations differ. And expectations differ with the times. What is proper now might have been quite improper in the past. Currently the culture is quite casual compared to the past.

But Smith was more concerned with our emotions and reactions to the emotions of others than about etiquette or fashion. He was concerned with our "ability to be sympathetic or unsympathetic to the emotions of those around us." That is, how we approve or disapprove of other's behavior depending on if their reactions match ours.

"If my animosity goes beyond what the indignation of my friend can correspond to; if my grief exceeds what his most tender compassion can go along with; if my admiration is either too high or too low to tally with his own; if I laugh loud and heartily when he only smiles, or on the contrary, only smile when he laughs loud and heartily; . . ."
When our responses are out of sync, we disapprove. And greater the difference between my sentiments and yours, the more you and I will disapprove of each other's reactions because we see them as improper. We want others in our lives whose emotions harmonize with ours in the face of tragedy or triumph. We are consoled when the others empathize with our response to something we experience at a personal level.

What all that boils down to is that in order to be "lovely" we must be willing and able to be recognize and share at a personal level the experience of others in a very real way. While it may be "proper" to be courteous or to "be nice" to others, if we are truly lovely our actions will come from our emotions, emotions that we share. We are nice because we are truly kind. We are loved because we are honestly loving. Empathy is required.

We aren't expected to be emotional weather vanes, however. We cannot, after all, match the intensity of another's emotion. We are expected to have their right amount of concern for others in order to share their joys and concerns appropriately. We have enough troubles of our own. Taking on the full amount of that of others would be too hard and result in our behaving in such a way as to be overcome or to cross emotional boundaries with others.

To be lovely we must empathize enough to be motivated to respond to others appropriately. At times it can be a balancing act to share emotions at the right level of intensity for the different levels of intimacy we live in. This is the way we earn the respect of those around us and of our selves. Remember, respect is a part of love for self and others.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

How to Be Happy!

What does it take for you to be happy? More money? More time? More fame? More what?

Adam Smith gets to the heart of the matter. He wrote in The Theory of Moral Sentiments "Man naturally desires, not only to be loved, but to be lovely." And Russ Roberts explains in How Adam Smith Can Change Your Life what Adam Smith was talking about.

Smith didn't mean that you must be physically attractive to be happy. And he wasn't talking about love in the narrow sense that we think of it today. Remember, Smith was an 18th Century writer and the language was a bit different than now.

He saw love as being noticed, being liked, respected, honored, Being loved means to matter to others, to be valued. And being "lovely" is to deserve love, to be the person who does that kind of loving. To be the person who does the right thing, the lovely thing.
          Handshake, Haendeschuettel, Respect, Awe, Attention             Flag, Usa, Us, United States, Patriotic, Salute

The reason we pursue money and fame is because those bring us notice, respect, etc. At least that is how it seems. But if that is so, why are there so many successful people who are unhappy? Why would someone with money and fame ever want to destroy themselves with drugs, alcohol, suicide?

Smith believed it is because even with the money and fame if you don't believe you deserve it, you will be unhappy. And while we can fool ourselves about how good we are, we know deep down how much we hide from others.

Some people think that success is what destroys us. Smith points out that "It's the passionate pursuit of success that corrodes the soul." It is when we put success ahead of all other values. How often do we choose to sacrifice time with our loved ones in order to be more successful in our careers? What choices have we made to be successful that betray our basic values.
On the other hand, what are you willing to give up in order to do the right thing, the "lovely" thing? How do we succeed as a spouse, a parent, a good friend? We are faced with these decisions every day. The challenge is to be "lovely". And to not fool ourselves about who we really are.

Smith said that if you want to be rich and famous, powerful, successful, you have to give up leisure and ease and careless security forever.
"And you have to toil and have anxiety and endure 'mortifications' - pain and shame - if you want to make it. You have to work hard. You have to give up tranquility. In return you get a great deal of attention. People want to know what you think, they look to you for how to dress and seek and behave. When you enter a room, all eyes are on you. And the envy and admiration that everyone else has for the great make the price that is paid worthwhile, at least in the eyes of many." (Russ Roberts, How Adam Smith Can Change Your Life.)

Fooling ourselves about our "loveliness" is the easiest thing to do. We rationalize our behavior to look good in our own eyes. We "do good" because we are watched by some external eye or by ourselves. What if no one is watching? Who are we then? Imagine an impartial spectator who can help you know yourself and help you become a better you.

And no matter how you see yourself, it is vital that you accept yourself as "lovely. " To be happy we must notice, like, respect, honor, and value ourselves! We can only do that when we are honest with ourselves. Humility is required.

In my next post I'll explore Smith's ideas of how to be "lovely."

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

An 18th Century Guide for the 21st Century

Psychology, Psyche, Mask, Wire Rack

As it turns out, this eighteenth century economist [Adam Smith] has some really good advice for people in the twenty-first century on how to live a good life.  Since he was an economist, you'd think he was all about money. But he was also a philosopher and explored how money does or doesn't make people happy.

In Russ Roberts' book How Adam Smith Can Change Your Life, Roberts takes Smith's eighteenth century prose and interprets it in easy to understand twenty-first century language. And it is very revealing.

He explains how we all behave in our own self-interests, even when our behavior benefits others. Now before you get all wound up about being generous and beneficent, explore that a bit.Smith writes "What is it which prompts the generous, upon all occasions, and the mean upon many, to sacrifice their own interests to the greater interests of other?" In other words, why do we act selflessly, sacrificing our own well-being to help others?

Maybe we are inherently kind and decent, filled with compassion, caring about others and hating to see them suffer. Yet how MUCH are you willing to sacrifice? What causes us to recoil from selfishly putting our own minor suffering ahead of the despair of millions who are displaced by war or starving because of famine. Or do we? We see the horrific suffering of others on the news daily. And we care - briefly. Then we go right back to looking out for number one, ourselves. It is just too much for us to deal with.

And so we "do what we can", donate a few dollars, pray, hold fundraisers. Those are all good things. And we do them so that we feel better. No judgement here. It is just the way we deal with overwhelming needs.

What Smith wants us to do is to be honest with ourselves about why we do things. Because if we fool ourselves we will not be happy. There will always be that part of us that knows we didn't do everything we could do.

Is he asking us to give up what we have, to not strive for success, to reject financial comforts? No, he is not. He is asking us to get real. To do what we feel we can do and to accept ourselves as we are, not expect ourselves to be more than we really are.

Not so easy, at least for me. I always want to do more than I can. But I also know that I won't, because I won't give up my health, well-being, or safety. And I must come to terms with that, to acknowledge my boundaries and accept them. What about you?

Have you had that inner conversation recently about why you do what you do? I encourage you to read further in the book with me to not only know yourself but to hear how Smith says you can be happy.

More in my next post. I encourage comments!

(The book is available from Amazon: How Adam Smith Can Change Your Life: An Unexpected Guide to Human Nature and Happiness by Roberts, Russ (2014) Hardcover, 1900, Hardcover, $6.51. Or get it from the library, as I did.)

Sunday, April 16, 2017

There's This Book

I picked out this book because I was curious about the title. I didn't know what it was about, exactly. But I was really curious. So I brought it home from the library and it set there waiting for me to pick it up. Days later I did.

As it turns out it is truly a surprise. The last person I would have thought would provide useful and relevant guidance for human happiness is an economist from the 1700's!

The book is How Adam Smith Can Change Your Life, an unexpected guide to human nature and happiness by Russ Roberts. I had never heard of Adam Smith. And when I learned who he was I was pretty skeptical about him leading me to happiness. I'm not out to get rich, and I thought that was what economists were about.

What a surprise. For Smith, happiness was about so much more than accumulation of money. He published The Theory of Moral Sentiments in 1759. It is pretty much a forgotten text. His famous work was An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations published in 1776. And I doubt if anyone I know ever read either book. I know I wouldn't have been interested in either. But now here I am reading a book that explores his first book and really liking it!

Part of why no one reads his work now is that the language is rather stilted and not easy for 21st century readers. For instance the first sentence is forty-two words! So one might have to read it several times to get the gist of what he is saying:
How selfish soever man may be supposed, there are evidently some principles to his nature, which interest him in the fortune of others, and render their happiness necessary to him, though he derives nothing from it except the pleasure of seeing it.
See what I mean? But basically it is a very hopeful and positive perspective. He posits that human nature is basically generous, that we want happiness for others and that it is necessary for our won happiness to contribute to their happiness.

Candle, White, Decoration, Celebration, Light, Holiday  I'm only about a quarter of the way through the book. But I will be sharing more of it as I go along. I find it interesting that he believes we naturally do things for the good of others without expecting anything in return. It is human nature.

We need to get back to acting from that nature to find happiness. So, yes, I guess Adam Smith can change our lives!

Check back Wednesday for more about human nature and happiness.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017


Who is the last person you thanked? Was it a reflexive "thanks" or was it a thoughtful and specific "thank you for _________"?

Much of the time we thank people out of habit, without really thinking about it. But there are so many people that do things that we take for granted and seldom thank. If we want to create a better world, we need to be aware of what we are thankful for and tell those folks that you appreciate what they do.

For instance, have you ever thanked a veteran or active duty military person "Thank you for your service"? Or have you ever told a fast food worker that they do a good job of keeping the dining area clean? How about a neighbor that does something for you without being asked. We have a neighbor who often takes our trash to the curb when he takes his out. And he brings the container back when it is empty! Another neighbor keeps an eye on our house when we are out of town.

Being aware of our gratitude is important for our own emotional/spiritual health. And keeping a gratitude journal can help you keep a more positive attitude. But I suggest we take it beyond ourselves and thank people directly for their actions. Why keep our positive attitude all to ourselves?

Tell someone "thank you" that you've not thanked before. It feels good to be appreciated. You might make someone's day. And outward gratitude enhances your well-being, too.

"Being instructed to express gratitude was particularly powerful for participants who came into the study with higher symptoms of depression. In their case, there was a direct link between how often they expressed gratitude in their relationships and how much more positive they felt one month after the experiment." (
Give it a try. Face to face, by phone, or in a note, thank someone today.

Think about who you've not thanked for what they do or did: a neighbor; a teacher; a librarian; a police officer; a firefighter; a hospital employee; your mail carrier; the janitor at your job or church; a cashier where you shop regularly. Just be aware of who does something that benefits you and/or your community. 

Can you think of others we might thank? Would you share your thoughts in the comments?

Sunday, April 9, 2017

What Do You Care?

What do you care about? 

And how do you care? 

What exactly do you do to resolve the problems you care most about?

Which problems are those? Homelessness, hunger, child abuse, domestic violence, human trafficking, crime in your community, and there are so many more thing to care about. But what do you feel most passionate about?

And how do you, yourself, help? Everyone can do something, even small things, that will make a positive difference.

What do YOU do?

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Where Did You Do Your Good Deed Today?

I often think I don't have many opportunities to do good deeds when I am nearly housebound. Some weeks I am out of the house maybe once or twice. And I don't spend much time "out and about" to see people needing help.

But that is short sighted. There are lots of good deeds that are little things that you can do to simply keep in touch with someone else who might be isolated. Or a note to cheer someone up.

I'd overlooked how people do good deeds on the roads. I usually let people into my lane of traffic if they signal and patiently wait for pedestrians to cross the street. I suppose those are good deeds - or just plain courtesy. Be here are some folks who did some real good deeds on the road.

Get more engaged and find many ways to do good deeds. Give us some example you can think of.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

What Can I Say?

I sit here trying to decide what to write in this post. And I don't know quite what to say. I want to make a positive difference, I want to motivate others to make a positive difference. I want us to create a better world.

But what can I say here that might contribute to that? What might motivate you?

So, I'm letting Michael Jackson speak.

By the way, I am having some computer issues, so if the posts don't come out on schedule, please forgive. Keep coming back!

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Is Today Your Birthday?

No? Give yourself a gift anyway. You deserve it. It's actually important to your well-being. And the gift that you can give yourself is to do a good deed.

Yes, really. Doing a good deed for someone else is giving yourself the gift of happiness and pride. When we do something for someone else, when we add to their happiness, we get a little happiness in return. And we can feel a bit of pride that we took some time and energy for something beyond ourselves.

So, whether it is your birthday or not, go do a good deed, a small act of kindness. If it IS your birthday, why not share some of it with someone who needs a little cheering up?

There are countless ways to be kind, to act with kindness, not just think kind thoughts. Some days it may just be smiling at people, no matter what you are feeling. Or maybe you call someone who doesn't get out much or you haven't seen in a long time just to check in and see how they are doing. Maybe they need to know someone thinks of them, cares about them.

Or maybe you can make the opportunity to go out of your way for someone to help them with something. I'm sure if you start thinking about good deeds, start looking for opportunities you will find plenty things you might do. If you are really stuck you can go back through some of my earlier posts from last year when I talked about acts of kindness and had lists at the end of each post.

And when you do for others, all are blessed. You, the person you do the deed for, and anyone who sees/hears about it and is inspired to do something for someone else. It spreads out and touches the world around you.

So make a difference with a good deed, an act of kindness, a gift.

And I'd love it if you shared what your good deed was. I can add it to my list of ideas! And maybe another reader will be inspired.

So, Happy Birthday! - or Happy This Day!

Sunday, March 26, 2017

If There Were No Eyes

"If there were no eyes, there would be no light." An interesting concept. Follow that thought as if it were truth and realize who you are.

Whether there was a big bang or not, humans are a miracle. YOU are a miracle. You make light and sound and touch and fragrance possible. Imagine.

What, then is your worth? And how are you investing your value in today's world? 

Be amazing!

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

You Are One

The Power of One

You are one. What are you doing to use your power to create love in the world?

Really. What ARE you doing?

What did you do yesterday? What did/will you do today?

What will you do tomorrow?

Notice how you use your power.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

I Can't Sleep!

Having a sleepless night is unusual for me, at least these days. I've had plenty of times when I couldn't sleep, but that hasn't been a problem recently. So what's the deal?

I couldn't seem to discipline my mind to stop worrying about this and that. Worry isn't my natural state. But this night I'm worried about our country and the direction it is taking, or at least the direction our new administration is taking.

I've other worries, too. But that's the biggie, the one I don't sense I can do anything about. And usually if I can't do anything to fix a problem I let it go and focus on other things. That's just not happening this night.

I feel like I'm caught up in the middle of a storm, a destructive storm. What can I do? What would I do in a weather storm. Hunker down and wait for it to pass. But this seems like a really BIG storm that will last a long time and wreak havoc around us all. I don't think stocking up on canned food and bottled water is going to work.

Am I the only one who feels this way? I know that my fears are probably unrealistic in the short term, at least. But our Ship of State is changing direction. Big ships turn slowly, so we have some time to correct course. But once committed to a turn it isn't easy to turn back. So we need to do what we can to get back on course, the sooner the better.

If you are concerned about how things are going, make your concerns known. Make Noise! Call your legislators, write letters, participate in protests, start/sign petitions. Run for office. Get involved. Together we could turn this ship around.

Let's take a course of compassion for those in need and investment in truth tellers. Support the mainstream media. We are doomed without a free press. Demand accountability.

O.K., I'm stepping off my soap box and going to bed, hopefully to sleep!

Let me know how you plan to help us get on course.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

I Can't Keep Quiet

We must make noise to be heard
and to make change.

What do you want to change?

How are you making noise to change it?

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Can You Hear Me Now?

If a tree falls in the forest and there is no one there, does it still make a sound?

Actually, yes. But sound only registers if there is something to receive it. That doesn't mean it isn't there. Right?

Where am I going with this? Well, there are things happening in our country right now that should be making a lot more noise than they are.

I'm wondering if anyone is here to hear it.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

The Secret to Changing the World

Do you have the courage it takes to change the world?

This is a powerful video that tells us how.

Who will you invite to your home?

Sunday, March 5, 2017

I Must Confess

I am feeling discouraged.

My life's mission has been to make a positive difference in the world. And I believe that, for the most part, I have lived that way.

But lately I find the behaviors of so many people to be overwhelmingly negative. And I'm discouraged. Last month we saw the movie Hidden Figures. It depicted the way whites in our nation treated blacks for generations. The disrespect, violence, discrimination, oppression of an entire race of human beings continues even today. While it might not be as openly hostile as it may have been a hundred years ago, it still exists. Why?

And then this past week we watched the nine hours of a program on television about the struggle of LGBT people in our nation, When We Rise. It exposed the same kind of disrespect, violence, discrimination, and oppression that was directed toward blacks being directed toward LGBT people. While that too may be somewhat better, that oppression continues. Again, why?

We are all of the same species, yet we treat each other so terribly. People seem so ready to hate and hurt those who are not like themselves. The nation has become more divided rather than less. Violence against Jews, Muslims, gays, transgender persons continues to happen more frequently. Hate is visible everywhere. What will it take for us all to realize that we are more alike than we are different? And that simply being different in some respect does not mean we must fear or hate each other.

I find it overwhelming at times. And it is most discouraging for me. When I consider what little I can do in the face of so much negativity I see my efforts falling way short.

I started this blog with the hope that I could encourage others to join me in making the world a better place for us all. And yet I have no sense that anyone is reading my posts, as I get no feedback. I want to know if the blog is making any kind of difference for anyone but me.

I use it to keep my focus on a better world. I'm just not sure if that is enough of a reason to continue posting.

If you are reading this, and/or other of my posts, I would greatly appreciate your feedback.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Better You = Better World

The best way to create a better world is to start with yourself. As you become better you do more to create a better world.

There are changes you can make in yourself that would make a positive difference in the world. If you are ready to start, this article may help. "How to be 1% Better Every Day (The Kaizen Approach to Self-improvement)"*

“When you improve a little each day, eventually big things occur. 
When you improve conditioning a little each day, eventually you have a big improvement
in conditioning. Not tomorrow, not the next day, but eventually a big gain is made. 
Don’t look for the big, quick improvement. Seek the small improvement one day at a time. 
That’s the only way it happens — and when it happens, it lasts.” — John Wooden

One day at a time is what works. Which day will you begin? And what do you want to change?

*[Author: Thomas Oppong. Thomas is the founder at 
(resource site for young entrepreneurs starting and growing businesses today). 
He is a contributor at He has been featured on 
and as a top source of resources for entrepreneurs.]

Sunday, February 26, 2017

The Dictator

Wisdom for the ages. Yes, we can.

Have you decided what change you want to be?

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

We've All Heard It Said Before

"Be the change you want to see in the world." But what does it mean, specifically? How do we do that?

I think the first step would be deciding what change you want to see in the world. And pick just one, the one you think is most important. Maybe you think the most important change would be world peace, or people loving and accepting each other without regard to how they are different, or respect and protection of the earth and its resources, or . . . whatever you believe. In order to be successful you must have a direction in which you want to go, a clear goal.

When I think of change I often think of the metaphor of the butterfly. It hatches as a pupa then builds a cocoon in which it becomes a butterfly. The butterfly then lays eggs and starts the cycle again. And each stage has its own challenges.

Change has challenges. So if you want to change the world, you will have to change something about yourself. And that will present some challenges. Be a hero and overcome the challenges, because you are worth it and the world needs you.

What change do you want to see in the world? And what about you will you change to make that happen? Let's talk about it.