Should We Look For Gnu (New) Ways?

February, 2012

Instead of "always doing it the way you did before," try something GNU! :-)

Throughout my life and on many different occasions, I’ve heard (the) reason(s) for doing something, stated as: “We always do it this way.” In other words, don’t do it in a new (or the recursive acronymgnu :-) way, but continue doing it the same old way.

Of course, there’s merit in doing something because it was proven to work in the past. If we’re familiar with what we’ve done, then we will have a certain degree of confidence in doing it “like before.” If it has worked in the past, then we readily assume it will work in the present. And, it might!

"GNU is a recursive acronym for 'GNU's Not Unix!" Now, there's a new or gnu way of not doing it because that's the way it's always been done. :-)

So, why consider doing it differently? If we do something a certain way because, we always do it that way, then what are we giving up by not trying a different way?

Consider Henry Ford and his invention of the Ford assembly line. He decided to have the cars move to the workers instead of the “we always do it this way” of having the workers move to the cars. That simple switch revolutionized the automobile industry. How did Ford think of this? I’ll bet he didn’t know exactly what the result would be when he decided to change his assembly line. I’ll also bet he was operating on a hunch. He decided to do something that wasn’t the way it had always been done.

How can we get out of the rut of doing something the way it has always been done? One way is by using the old education adage: “start with a clean slate.” Literally, start out with nothing from the past. I’m not saying we shouldn’t use past knowledge, but I am saying we should set it aside, as much as possible, in order to have a fresh new look at what we’re trying to do. Do some what if-ing. Consider the implications and consequences of the “what if’s” and then, if they seem reasonable, try them.

Henry Ford decided to have the cars move to the workers instead of the "we always do it this way" of having the workers move to the cars.

Starting out with a clean slate allows the creative part of thinking to be manifested. As long as we use our critical thinking to help assess the creative output from our mind, we should be able to have fresh approaches to problems, while still using what we know from the “way we have always done it.”

For a change, consider trying new approaches to some of the mundane parts of your life. Instead of mowing your grass by going back and forth, try going round and round. Instead of going to the grocery store using your usual route, try a completely different one that takes you by a new area. Instead of eating a salad at the beginning of the meal, try eating it at the end of the meal. There are many times during a normal day that we could change our approach and reason of, “we always do it this way.”

By getting rid of the reason, “We always do it this way,” we will be able to have a new look at our present and future. Too often, people are stuck in the past by not trying new ways of doing things.

"If you always do things a certain way based on previous methods, then your vision of the future is like the past."

Think about it – if you always do things a certain way based on previous methods, then your vision of the future is like the past. You have nothing new to look forward to. This is especially true for those of us who are “up-there in years.” We have so much history that we can’t imagine a new and different way of doing something. “That’s the way we’ve always done it!

How about a fresh and new look on life? Let’s use the philosophy behind the statement, “we always do it this way” sparingly.

Consider changing the statement to, “We always DID it that way, but now we are considering new ways.

Should we look for new ways to do what we do?

Well, if we like stale and mundane, then no.

If we don’t want “freshness” in our approach to doing what we do, then no.

But, if we want to learn from the past AND not necessarily repeat it, then yes, we should look for new ways to do what we do. :-)


Really, Am I Responsible For My Emotions?

February, 2012

Are we responsible for all of our emotions?

In April of 2009, I presented a post entitled, “You Make Me Emote! In the posting, I declared that each person is responsible for her/his emotions. I have been thinking a lot about that declaration lately. It’s possibly much more complex than I originally thought. In other words, maybe the simplicity of declaring each person is responsible for her/his emotions needs to take into account the many reasons for emoting, along with the imperfection of humanity. Hmmm… Let’s explore this further.

Who’s responsible for your emotion of love – Cupid or you?

Having recently experienced the complex emotion called grief, I’m immediately confronted with the powerful statement made by H. L. Mencken: “For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.” So, as I consider emotions that I find negative and then say, “I am responsible for them,” should I simply declare they all are my responsibility? Am I taking responsibility for something that I shouldn’t?

Perhaps, we should investigate the cause of our emotions before determining responsibility. So, what causes our emotions? What causes me to feel angry? Suppose someone hits me with his fist. The first thing I feel is the physical pain of being hit. The next feeling might be anger. If so, what caused the feeling of anger? Is it because I’m feeling physical pain? No, because the feeling of physical pain doesn’t necessarily produce the emotional feeling of anger. Take, for example, the pain resulting from accidentally bumping your head while getting into a car. Usually, there would be no direct emotional feeling of anger from the physical pain felt after the accident. The point is, that a certain emotional feeling doesn’t necessarily come from a particular physical feeling.

So, what causes these things you (and, I) call emotions? In the past, I’ve answered that question with a simple three-letter, one-word answer: “YOU!” Yes, you are the cause of your emotions. I know in my previously mentioned posting, I never specifically stated that each person causes her/his emotions. Instead, I talked about owning our emotions and not blaming anyone else for them. We not only own our emotions, but we’re also the cause of them.

Assuming each person causes her/his emotions, is s/he responsible for them. In other words, does cause imply responsibility when dealing with emotions? If I cause my anger, am I responsible for it? If I cause my happiness, am I responsible for it? I suppose the answer is yes to both questions, but somehow, it doesn’t seem to fit reality. Many people, including myself, will make sincere statements like: “Kathy makes me happy!” or “Ron made me mad!” In these types of cases, we are saying (and most likely mean) that Kathy and Ron caused and are responsible for the emotions.

Some say I cause negative emotions, especially when I’m full:-)

If we cause AND are responsible for our emotions, then I think it’s our thinking that’s at the root of our emoting. What I mean is we shouldn’t blame an external source for our emoting. If I am responsible for my own thinking, then I am the cause for my emoting.

Of course, circumstances can make it difficult to not emote in a particular way. For example, when I experienced a death of a close loved-one, my grieving was difficult and for me to say that it was caused by me is hard to accept. On the other hand, if I don’t take responsibility for my grieving and not accept that I caused it, then how will I ever be able to overcome it? Either I control it or it controls me! 

So, am I responsible for my emotions?  YES! But, what controls my emotions? MY THINKING!

Remember, we are not emoting due to what happens; we are emoting due to what we think about what happens.

What do you think?

How Can I Create A Creative Me?

February, 2012

"Let's see, how can I create a creative me?"

Last year, a close friend and I were walking and she made a comment about wanting to learn how to paint using watercolors. She also said that she has never been able to create a painting that is good. After talking about all of the creative things she wanted to do, but never did, she then summarily stated: “I simply am not creative!”

"I'm an impressionist artist, are you impressed?"

I responded by saying that I thought creativity could be learned, and if one’s standards for a creative endeavor, like painting, were lowered, then that person could create a good painting. I used examples of impressionism and cubism which, from my point of view, have standards that allow the result to not look like a photo of the model used for the painting. Also, in reference to standards, I think the artist should set her/his own standards. This is especially true when the artist is creating for her/himself.

Creative people are not born creative. In other words, I don’t think the nature-part of us dictates our creativity, but I do think the nurture-part plays a role. Children, who are raised in an environment which stifles their creativity by forcing them to live up to unreasonable standards, will tend to think they aren’t able to create art. They will not attempt to create, therefore exemplifying the old adage of, “use it or lose it.” They don’t use their creative thinking and therefore, lose it! :-(

Creativity requires us to use our creative mind. Think of the creative mind as a muscle. If you don’t use a muscle, it will become weak and eventually, will be unable to perform as it normally would. We all know that exercising our muscles make them stronger. The same is true for our “creative mind.”

So, what should we do in order to become a painter, musician, sculptor, builder, writer, cook, dancer, etc….? Well, one thing we shouldn’t do is nothing. The best way to become more creative is to create. Generate lots of ideas and decide, using your own standards, which ones to keep. Break a routine and do something differently.

How do you exercise your creative mind? One way is to get a brush, some watercolor and a surface to paint on and paint!

Generally, creativity means change and doing something in a different way. In other words, lots of BS! Now, I know what you are most likely thinking when I used BS. No, it doesn’t mean BullS**t, but instead, BrainStorming. :-)

So, what should you do if you want to paint a picture using watercolor? Get a brush, some watercolor and a surface to paint on and PAINT! Simple? Yes, if you can obtain the materials AND the “creative brain-muscle.”

How can I create a creative me? Well, one way is to become more creative.

How do I become more creative? Exercise my creative mind!

How do I exercise my creative mind? One way is to get a brush, some watercolor and a surface to paint on and paint! :-)

Do you want to exercise your creative mind? Create a comment for this post. :-)

Is Tomorrow Forever?

January, 2012

Is tomorrow forever?

Recently, I watched the movie, “Tomorrow Is Forever starring Orson Welles and Claudette Colbert. It’s a film that was originally released in 1946. Even though I have seen it many times, I watched it again because – it starred an actor I’ve always enjoyed, Orson Welles, and most importantly, my curiosity about the title.

Perhaps, "Tomorrow Is Forever" is a pie-chart type of a statement. It gives us another way of viewing our life.

From my point of view, “Tomorrow Is Forever,” is an intriguing statement. When I first thought about the statement, it seemed like a “pie in the sky” statement. It was while watching the movie, “Tomorrow Is Forever,” and trying to figure out why the movie used the title, that I realized how thought-provoking the expression is. At least, it is for me.

Perhaps, I should make clear that “tomorrow is forever” is an expression that, when it is applied to one particular life, doesn’t seem to ring true for me. That is, when we consider each of our lives, individually, then our tomorrows, as living persons, aren’t forever. But, when thinking about tomorrow in a more general sense, tomorrow not only seems to be forever, but the expression also provides a short and succinct alternative for such things as: “an expanding universe,” “the future is now,” “live for the future,” “the present influences the future,” etc….

So, is tomorrow forever? Let’s look at it from a future point of view. Is the future forever? Well, a future may not include a living me, but the future, in some form, is forever. As I go to bed at night, I assume that tomorrow contains my living future. I set an alarm to wake-up in the future. I live as though tomorrow is forever. In fact, why shouldn’t I? What is accomplished by not thinking that tomorrow is forever? Only a pessimistic and/or negative outlook on life. Ouch!

Drawing the "line segment on a ray" to represent my life. :-)

Looking at this from a different point of view, I can see a mathematic metaphorical “way” of representing my life. I see it as “line segment on a ray.” Of course every ray contains an unlimited number of line segments, but for my metaphor, I see the time from my birth to the present as a line segment that is constantly getting longer. And, the future? Well it is truly a ray that has its endpoint at the present and goes on forever! :-)  Therefore, the metaphor is a geometrical ray that has an endpoint, my birth, and then continues to my present — the line segment. The future or tomorrow completes the ray.

Birth •———– Present ———- Future ———— 

The preceding paragraph is a bit abstract. In a less abstract manner, there have been at least two books that have the title of “Tomorrow Is Forever.” One written by Gwen Bristol and another by Barbara Faith. The book by Ms. Bristol contains the story used for the movie mentioned above and Ms. Faith’s book is much different, but still makes use of a story about a person escaping the past while viewing life as though tomorrow is forever.

"Yesterday is gone, gone, but tomorrow is forever." -- Dolly Parton

A little different twist to exploring the question, “Is tomorrow forever?”can be seen in a song written by Dolly Parton, in 1970. In it she wrote and sang the following:

Take my hand and run with me
Out of the past of yesterday
And walk with me into the future of tomorrow
Yesterday must be forgot
No looking back no matter what
There’s nothing there but mem’ries that bring sorrow

Yesterday is gone, gone, but tomorrow is forever

Click here to hear a YouTube video of Dolly Parton and Porter Wagoner singing Tomorrow Is Forever.

The first three lines, “Take my hand and run with me, Out of the past of yesterday, And walk with me into the future of tomorrow,” gives the impression that a person can always leave the past and, from a present point of view, “walk into the future of tomorrow.” Wow! Perhaps, in order for any of us to be optimistic, we need to view tomorrow as forever. :-)

So, is tomorrow forever? As an optimistic person, I must say YES! What do you think?

Are Mistakes Enemies, Friends, Or Teachers?

January, 2012

Do you ever make a mistake? Of course you do. Who doesn’t make a mistake? No one! Are all mistakes alike? Of course not.  So, what does a mistake mean to you? Would you say a mistake is, metaphorically speaking, like an enemy, a friend or a teacher?

All us make all kinds of mistakes. Some mistakes are small, like mispronouncing a word, and some mistakes are big, like the sinking of the Titanic in 1912. Most people try to limit their mistakes and limit is all anyone can do.

We cannot entirely eliminate mistakes from our life. Since we can’t eliminate them, then what should we do about the inevitable fact that we will make mistakes? I think one good thing we can do is treat them as a type of person. What does that mean? It means, metaphorically, to treat a mistake as though it’s a person we can learn from. Ok, so how do we do that?

First of all, we generally dislike mistakes. They cause us to be confused and embarrassed. Mistakes often lower our self-esteem. But, as the old uncouth saying goes, “s**t happens,” and so do mistakes. Yes, they happen and they happen to be a regular part of life. Suppose we view them as “people” and think of each mistake as an enemy, a friend or a teacher. Which would be best? Let’s think about how we deal with each.

Our enemies are people that we generally avoid. Treating a mistake like an enemy has merit in that we want to avoid it. But, as stated before, we will always make mistakes. Unfortunately, we won’t be able to completely avoid mistakes, so treating them as enemies only sets us up for failure. We will end up spending our time avoiding instead of facing and solving our problem of making the mistake.

Our friends are people that we generally like and want to be with. Treating a mistake like a friend also has some merit in that we are now facing our problem. But just befriending our mistake doesn’t necessarily give us the tools to avoid it in the future. Instead, by befriending the mistake, we are encouraging it to occur again. Ouch!

“My name is Mr. MISTAKE. Am I your enemy, friend or teacher?”

Our teachers are people that we learn from. Treating a mistake like a teacher, allows us to take a negative and turn it into a positive. When we make mistakes and treat them like teachers, we will find they are very demanding teachers. Like a demanding teacher, we will reassess our goals, look at different points of view, retrace our steps, repair any damage and reflect on the lesson learned. Perhaps, the most important result is allowing the mistake to become a lesson learnt.

Mistakes as enemies? Only if we want to set ourselves up for failure in the future.

Mistakes as friends? Only if we want to face the problem (mistake) now, without developing the tools to avoid it in the future.

Mistakes as teachers? Only if we want to turn the mistake into a positive and learn how not to repeat it.

Is a mistake an enemy, a friend or a teacher?

A Teacher, of course!:-)

Does Understanding Fear Cure Fear?

January, 2012

Does understanding fear cure fear?

I recently read that: “The understanding of fear cures fear.” Really? In order to cleanse myself of fear, all I need to do is understand it? Let’s see, suppose I fear heights. Now, let’s suppose I understand that I fear heights. Am I cured of my fear? Well, maybe understanding that I fear heights and understanding THE FEAR isn’t the same. OK, so perhaps there is something to the understanding of fear cures fear. Hmm…

"To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom." - Bertrand Russell

Recently, I was telling a friend about my fear of having a recurring nightmare. He had explained to me, previously, how enjoyable his dreams were now that he could remember them. You see, he had started a new form of meditation that helped him remember his dreams, whereas before, he was unable to do so. I told him I was trying not to remember my nightmare dreams. He immediately responded that remembering my nightmares was a healthy act of my mind. Apparently, according to him, our subconscious minds brings out the “bad” thoughts in order to get rid of them. Perhaps this is an example of our minds understanding our fears in order to cure our fears. Hmm….

I have heard that every experience in which a person directly faces fear, s/he gains courage and confidence for facing the future, no matter what it holds. But, how can we face fear? For example, if I’m afraid of heights, how do I face the fear in such a way that I gain courage and confidence for facing the future? Perhaps, trying to understand the general fear of heights will allow me to face the fear. Really, what is there to understand besides the fact that when my body is elevated to a certain height I’m afraid? Hmm…

"Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood." - Marie Curie

Now that I think more about it, I suppose there’s at least an element of unconscious thought involved when something, like a fear of heights, is manifested. It seems reasonable that understanding what caused the unconscious thought could result in an understanding of the fear. And, it seems reasonable that a fear of heights might be traced back to an event, such as falling out of a crib, when a person was very young. Though, as an adult, a person might not remember the fall, her/his unconscious mind would. So, if someone understands that s/he fell out of a crib at a very young age AND that’s what is causing the uneasiness with heights, then gaining courage and confidence for facing the future seems natural. Hmm…

Does understanding fear cure fear? Well, maybe fear is always a choice we have in life. Looking at life from an either/or perspective, we either understand it or fear it. Marie Curie once wrote: “Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood.Bertrand Russell stated: “To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom.” Considering what I have written up to this point, I think fear is grounded in ignorance. Hmm…

Does understanding fear cure fear? Hmm…Yes!:-)

What do you think?

Are Most People As Happy As They Decide To Be?

January, 2012

Most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be.

Abraham Lincoln wrote: “Most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be.”  Can we make up our minds to be happy? Is it only a simple decision I make that results in me being happy?

Can a bug make up its mind to be happy? :-)

Let’s try this idea of becoming happy by deciding to be happy. As I wrote the previous sentence, I was unhappy. As I write this sentence, I’m still unhappy. But, I haven’t consciously made up my mind, yet, to be happy!

Before “I make up my mind to be happy,” let’s first consider what making up my mind means. The title of this post uses the word decide instead of making up my mind. From my point of view, “making up my mind” and “deciding” are synonymous. With that in mind, let’s now see if I can decide to be happy.

OK, I have now declared in my mind that I want to be happy. My mind is made up, I’m now happy. The decision has been reached that I am happy!

"My mind is made up, I'm now happy!"

Am I happy? Well, yes, I do feel happy. At least, I feel much happier than I did when I started writing this. Why? Is my happiness simply the result of being able to only think one thought at a time? Perhaps! I think an unhappy thought and I’m unhappy; I think a happy thought and I’m happy. Wow, that sounds soooo… simple!

If it is true that I can only think one thought at a time, then the state of unhappiness might be directly attributed to thinking consecutive thoughts of unhappiness. So, if I want to be happy, then I need to make up my of mind to be happy and focus on consecutive positive (happy) thoughts.

I am writing this post at the beginning of a new year. Resolving to focus on thinking consecutive positive and happy thoughts seems like a most appropriate way to start the new year off.

Are most people as happy as they decide to be? I don’t know, but I know one person who is resolving and deciding to be happier. Who? Me! :-) How about you?

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