Welcome to my thoughts on Living with Joy, Purpose, and Conscious Choice. Please subscribe free on the form to the left.
- Jonathan Lockwood Huie (jlh @sail7.com)

The content of all my blogs/websites consists entirely of personal opinion.
See a medical professional for all issues of physical and emotional health.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

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Tending the Garden of Our Lives

We live in an age of instant gratification. When we are hungry, we drive in to McDonalds, or heat something in the microwave. When we want to be entertained, we switch on the television.

We also seek instant gratification in other arenas in which its success rate is abysmal. Buying lottery tickets is an example of this irrational striving for instant gratification. Unlike the fast-food window, lottery tickets very rarely pay out. The search for a romantic partner is also susceptible to being swept up in an urge for instant gratification. While some couples do "win the lottery" of instantly finding a great relationship, the odds are very much in favor of those couples who become solid friends with shared values before they become romantically involved.

Instant gratification is not the way of nature, and has not been the path of human advancement.

Preparation, Perseverance, and Patience are the path to success in nature and in our own lives. These "Three Ps" are what allows a gardener (and Nature) to turn a tomato seed into a tomato plant filled with beautiful, tasty, nutritious tomatoes. Prepare the garden at just the right time of year by carefully grooming the soil and removing all the rocks and weeds before planting the seeds. Persevere with the weeding, the watering, and a dash of fertilizer. And then have Patience. Tomatoes, and corn, and watermelons don't grow any faster if you yell at them to grow, or if you tell them how disappointed you are that they aren't growing faster. You can't get them to grow faster by force feeding them extra fertilizer or water. If you try that, you just burn them or drown them. Preparation, Perseverance, and Patience get you vegetables. Anything less - or more - gets you nothing.

Our lives are also a garden, and like a vegetable garden they require careful tending. Try applying the old fashioned values of Preparation, Perseverance, and Patience to your own life. See if you don't get far better results than when you seek instant gratification.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

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What Are You Doing?

Joe and Sally are sitting in the same conference room attending the same long and emotionally-charged meeting.

Joe is "Listening to my stupid boss make unreasonable demands."

Sally is "Happy that my salary provides a good home, good food, and music lessons for my wonderful children."

-----

Jean and George are both in the hospital recovering from minor surgery.

Jean is "In pain. Tired of waiting for the nurses. Angry that life has been so unfair."

George is "Grateful for living today, rather than in the days before anesthetics, antibiotics, and modern surgery. Appreciative that kind people feel called to nursing. Looking forward to many more joyful years thanks to this surgery."

-----

Are you Joe or Sally? Jean or George?

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

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Make Yourself Miserable

If you feel compelled to live a miserable life, these 10 powerful tips will put you well on your way toward misery. The common theme of these tips is convincing yourself that you are different from other people - either better than or not as good as they are - and that you don't share the same basic human values, aspirations, and concerns that they do.

1. Be Envious: Always be on the lookout for people who have high-paying jobs, or have inherited money or won the lottery, or who appear to have easy access to desirable romantic partners, or who are especially physically fit. Then focus your attention on what you are lacking. Be very careful never to compare your own life with the life of anyone who has less than you do.

2. Be Jealous: Jealousy goes beyond envy. Envy is merely wanting desperately to have what someone else has. Jealousy adds the element of resentment. So, not only focus on wanting what others have, but constantly reaffirm your belief that others don't deserve what they have. Have the self-talk with yourself that, if you were simply more powerful, you would take what others have for yourself, and see to it that they suffer. After all, you "deserve" the "good stuff" and no one else does.

3. Be Ungrateful: You know that you deserve better. So why didn't God give you more money, better looks, better health, better romantic partners? Keep stewing about what you don't have, and the injustice that you don't have it. Another great trick for making yourself miserable, besides envy and jealousy, is to focus on what you no longer have. You keep getting older, you lost money in the stock market or you lost your job. Remind yourself that if you lost your job or some money that there is absolutely nothing left in your life to be grateful for.

4. Think Negatively About Yourself: Negative self-talk is a powerful way to make yourself miserable. Keep thinking about how inadequate you are. You could never accomplish anything useful, or be of service to anyone else, could you? Poor me. Woe is me. To be even more miserable, practice feeling guilt and shame for things you have done. Never let yourself forget how bad you are.

5. Refuse Help From Others: Know that whenever anyone offers to help you that he or she is either looking for a way to take advantage of you, or is simply feeling superior and secretly enjoying your troubles. No one would ever help you just because they were kind and generous. You know that the world doesn't work that way. To keep yourself miserable, remember never to accept help from anyone.

6. Be Sure That You Know Better Than Anyone Else: Always being right is a great way to keep yourself miserable. Know how the world should be run, and label everyone who thinks differently as either "stupid" or "immoral." Politics is a great arena in which to be always right. You KNOW what should be done about health care, education, immigration, imports, jobs, wars, contraception, the environment, and the other issues of the day. Not only can you make yourself miserable by calling anyone who disagrees with you "stupid" or "immoral," you can get a nice flush from your high blood pressure.

7. Hold Grudges: If you want to stay miserable, avoid forgiveness at all costs. You can easily keep yourself miserable over a single incident that happened years ago. Just keep reminding yourself that "they" were bad and don't deserve forgiveness.

8. Be Resentful: Resentment is somewhat like envy, jealousy, or holding a grudge, but it deserves its own special place in the top-ten ways to be miserable. Envy and jealousy are about people who you think have more than you do. A grudge is about something that was done, or you think was done, to you personally. Resentment can be about wanting others who have little to have even less. Examples are resenting that those who are too sick or old to work receive welfare, or resenting Mexicans (illegal immigrants) because they get to pick vegetables 70 hours a week in the blazing sun. You KNOW that only real Americans should be allowed to harvest American vegetables, so be very resentful. The more you can find to resent, the more successful you can be at making yourself miserable.

9. Convince Yourself That Others Are Out To Get You: "They" are out to get you. Only a true paranoid can believe that everyone and everything is out to get them, but the rest of us can make ourselves miserable by identifying specific people or groups that are out to get us. Surely you can convince yourself that a few of these groups or people are out to get you: Government, Big Business, Democrats, Republicans, President Obama, Supreme Court, Tea Party, Mexicans, Arabs, Evangelicals, Environmentalists, Jews, Muslims, Blacks, Gays, Men, Women.

10. Plot Revenge: This is an advanced topic, but a very powerful and successful way to make yourself really miserable is to spend your days plotting revenge against everyone who has more than you, disagrees with you, or is simply different from you. Don't just hate them. Visualize how you would make them suffer if you were in charge of everything.

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On a personal note...

Like virtually everyone, I have my own special demons. I am a social and political progressive and activist. I believe that America is morally obligated to provide quality health care and public education to every child - regardless of the financial abilities of their parents. I am also an environmentalist who believes that we have an obligation to leave natural open space, clean water, and clean air to our children's children. It grieves me deeply when politicians advocate an opposing position, and I am painfully torn between wanting to respect all points of view and my strong commitment to my own fundamental moral principles.

I have many personal friends who are social and/or economic conservatives. We focus on our shared interests and if we discuss the issues of the day, we do so politely. I try to live by Thomas Jefferson's words, "I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend."

I find it much harder to feel loving toward those who I know only by their positions - such as political candidates. I try to imagine knowing them personally and sharing a meal with them discussing their grandchildren, or places they like to vacation, or anything else non-controversial. That image helps, but still I feel the moral outrage and my anger rising.

Another of my favorite Thomas Jefferson quotes is, "In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock." Perhaps Jefferson found a way to both honor all points of view, and to stand like a rock in matters of principle, but the best I can do is to attempt to find a balance between the two, and to work at maintaining my joy in the greatness of life.

I find that humor can help me to maintain that balance, so I end with this cute quote:

We must respect the other fellow's religion,
but only in the sense and to the extent
that we respect his theory that
his wife is beautiful and his children smart.
- H. L. Mencken