The Rules of Fools

We have entered a stage in world history where we are governed by the most ridiculous rules. Most of these rules are implemented for our own “good” by the government. But that is not all, we are also governed on the standards of what is socially acceptable.

In the old days, this determination was established by your community. Today, it is determined by corporations, i.e., tech companies. What you say and do, if it is not deemed appropriate or in accordance with the ideals of the mob, will result in your silence. Your voice could be cancelled. At the worst, depending on how inappropriate you are considered, much more could be cancelled. And it is not just what you did today or yesterday, it could go as far back as your childhood.

Any fool can make a rule -and every fool will mind it.

Henry David Thoreau

New rules come out every day. Will you blindly go along with the masses and acquiesce? Or will you use the discernment and understanding God has given you to question the validity of the rule?


Feature photo by Mindspace Studio on Unsplash

A Simple What-If

It begins with a “what-if.” What if I choose to do this or that? What would be the outcome?

From the “what-if” comes the choice. The choice is all about the work involved and the value gained.

We are all presented with the what-if’s and the subsequent choices. It does not matter our stations in life or the environment in which we live. It is the same with our age -it does not matter.

Anybody can what-if the possibilities of a new future. Anybody can make the choice to act based on that what-if.

According to Thoreau, the ability to elevate one’s life by a what-if and a choice is an unquestionable fact. For a moment, let it sink in. A better future can await us. Ask the question. Consider the possibilities. Make the choice.

I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by a conscious endeavor. -Henry David Thoreau

Your Own Personal Treasure Island

There are a few quotes that have always resonated with me. Thoreau had a good one about us only hitting at what we aim at. Therefore, he said, we should aim at something high even though we might fail immediately. Mix his words with Les Brown’s quote about shooting for the moon. If we do not make it to the moon, he said, at least we might land among the stars. I spend a good amount of time considering my aim in life. I also spend an equal amount of time considering the consequences of missing that mark.

Can you really lose if your aim is in the right direction? I don’t think so, and well, it reminds me of something Bruce Lee said: “A goal is not always meant to be reached, it often serves simply as something to aim at.”  These are some very encouraging words from Thoreau, Brown, and Lee. And though I do take a small amount of comfort in remembering them, missing the mark is still missing the mark.

There are a few things in this life that I feel called to do. Failure to do them, I believe, would haunt me into my next existence. And these are things that I do not do for the gold or the glory. Yet by achieving them, I believe I would find more wealth than on Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island.

An aim in life is the only fortune worth finding.

Robert Louis Stevenson

I remember my land navigation classes from the Army. You plot out your destination on the map and figure out how you are going to get there. You pull out your compass and find the direction you need to go. Sometimes obstacles get in the way, and you find yourself deviating off the path. Once you realize this, you adjust your aim and correct your course. The journey might seem never-ending. At times, it might seem impossible, but we have no choice to keep going. Keep aiming and adjusting because the rewards are too great. In fact, it is the only fortune worth finding.

You Alive?

One of the tragedies of war is the extinguishing of young lives. After reading Cornwell’s Waterloo, I was appalled at how careless some of the leaders were with the lives of those underneath their command. Even when they knew their tactics were doomed to fail, they proceeded anyway at the expense of thousands of young boys still in their teenage years.

A child is a blank slate with so much potential. To die at a young age never experiencing the joys and trials of life could be one of the most calamitous mishaps in this world. Sad are those robbed of life without ever knowing what it was like to live.

When it is time to die, let us not discover that we never lived. –Henry David Thoreau

Possibly even more tragic is to go through life having never really lived. Time runs whether or not we are paying attention to it. We only get so much. And when it is gone, it is gone forever. To waste it is to throw away a gift more precious than any wealth one could imagine.

At the end of the day, can you say you used the time you were given to the best of your abilities? Did you muster up the courage to tackle the day, or did you choose to spend it on activities that were designed to pass the time? We must learn to pass our days intenton living, not existing. Don’t be the person lying on your deathbed, regretting that you wasted the one thing that you could never get back. Time.

Stop Dreaming for Others; Live My Own Dream

I can coach Alec in wrestling and show him all the things he could do better. I can tell him to go hard, go fast, and to have a killer attitude. The technique and the skill will come in time, so what is the problem? He hasn’t yet made the mental and emotional connection. He can force himself to do all the exercises, even when he is tired. It is a testament to his mental toughness that separates him from many of the other boys. But when it is time to wrestle, he is a different person. He is unsure and slow. He lacks confidence. I hope there will come a time when he will get tired of being rolled around and beat. But as much as I am hoping for this change to come soon, it will not come until he is ready.

I can suggest to others that their health should be a priority. Chances are they know it already. But until they decide that it is important to them, nothing will improve. I can hope for the health of others. I can help them if they ask for it. But no matter how much I want it for them, I cannot force good health upon them. They will have to choose it for themselves. Hopefully, they will choose it, before it is too late.

A potential business idea was brought up. It was sitting on the backburner of someone’s mind for over a year, before it resurfaced into the forefront. As with all prospects, it is much easier to see the positives rather than the negatives. I think it is a good idea and has the potential to be profitable. I would like to strike while the iron of enthusiasm is still hot. But it wouldn’t be my business. I would just be there to help and maybe offer a few suggestions. If it was my idea and business, I would make it a priority. Can I make it a priority for the others involved? As much as I would like to, I can’t. They would have to decide for themselves what their commitment and investment would be.

To spot the possibilities in the lives of others seems easy. I wish them the best and am quick to point out where they could improve. I mean well, but there is a problem. Who wants someone else always giving them suggestions about how much better their lives could be if they just changed one or two things? I know I don’t always receive such messages well. Instead I go into defense mode and question the legitimacy of the ones offering unsolicited advice. As I am always trying to improve, this is a bad policy to have. Those giving me advice are well-meaning and are offering up suggestions that they believe will help me. In this regard, we are no different.

As I consider where I can help others, I need to take a good look at my own situation. There are objectives, that if completed, I believe will have a positive impact on my future. I know what the objectives are, but I have not completed them yet. Why not? What is holding me back? It is time to take Thoreau’s words to heart:

 Go confidently in the direction of your dreams and live the life you have imagined.

Desperate Times

Have you ever blamed your bad situation on fate? Something such as the stars not being aligned or your parents not giving you the correct genes? It is often easier to shift the blame to some happenstance rather than taking the onus on ourselves. For some of us, we are constantly looking over our shoulders waiting for the next bubble to burst. With it goes our social status, our finances, or even our health.  We become anxious about what may come tomorrow, and then we become resigned to the lot we are dealt, knowing it was our fate all along.

The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation. –Henry David Thoreau

As Thoreau says, the majority of us live with this quiet desperation. We roll with the current and idly let it lead us to whatever destination is ahead. Why would we do this? Because it is the easier path, one that keeps us within our comfort zone. But this comfort zone is a fantasy that will prevent us from ever finding true happiness. So instead we are content to float down the lazy river quietly until we meet our final destination.

I have come to a point in my life where my quiet desperation has become very loud in my mind. Maybe it is a mid-life crisis of realization that I have fallen well off the path I was hoping to go. I looked at all the markers of where I wanted to be (body, soul, and spirit) and did not like what I saw. My desperation began to grow knowing that time on this earth is limited, and my end is on the horizon. No longer could I be resigned to mediocrity, and so I had to begin the process of changing. A process that I hope will never end.

When you surround an army, leave an outlet free. Do not press a desperate foe too hard. –Sun Tzu, The Art of War

When I first read Sun Tzu, I never understood why you wouldn’t cut off all chances for the enemy to escape. I thought the goal was total victory. But for the surrounding army in the dominant position fighting a surrounded enemy is dangerous and very costly. Why? What happens to an enemy that has no chance to escape? They don’t usually become resigned to their fate and just  fall upon their swords. No, they become desperate, and “in a desperate position, you must fight.” They fight even harder for the families they may never see again and for the comrades that stand in the ranks next to them. Life all of a sudden becomes very precious, and they hold it most dear.

Being in a desperate situation is not ideal, but there are positives that can be had from the situation. Desperate people committed to winning don’t give up. They find a way out. Oftentimes it is an unconventional way, one that has you swimming against the current to survive. But when life is precious and you realize that time is running out, you find not only a way to survive but a way to be victorious.

As I Stand Idly By

Sometimes I take a moment and reflect on my past and wonder how I got to where I am today. Where I am today is not where I want to be tomorrow. I am not in a bad place now, but could it be better?

I want to live my life so that my nights are not full of regrets. –David Herbert Lawrence

What are the things I regret the most as I look back upon my past? I would like to say it was just isolated incidences of making wrong choices, such as a moment of weakness or indecision that has always haunted me. Of course, those things have happened, but what I regret the most is the all the seemingly insignificant actions that led to those bigger mistakes. There were careless decisions I made that didn’t seem important at the time. But one decision leads to another, and eventually I found myself on a road that I didn’t intend to travel. What happens when you go down the wrong road? You are not where you are supposed to be. You are wasting time either trying to find a new route or backtracking back to the straight and narrow. Have you ever read John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress? It is a book that I am always thinking of. All the temptations are trying to pull you off the road. They don’t want you to reach your destination.

I look back on all the time I have wasted. Not the time lost backtracking, but the time I so carelessly threw away. I remember the days I didn’t have any plans and so I slept in. I watched a little television or played a few video games until a little became the whole day. At the end of the day, I told myself I would do better. The next day, I would do it all over again. I didn’t have much discipline then, and I was too blind and too young to care enough to change. It is sad when you don’t appreciate the precious little time we are given. Often it is not appreciated until you are old and wondering where the time has gone.

Live each day as it were the last day of your life because, so far, it is. –Richard John Colangelo

The regrets I contemplate are a reminder. They are also my biggest fear. I am on the road I want to be on, which means all my decisions, even the seemingly insignificant ones, are important. My fear is that I slide again into complacency justifying the occasional bad decision. If I allow even one, could it lead to more?

It is the complacency that I fear the most, the fear that I could once again take that small detour and then blindly cruise down a road farther and farther away from my destination. All it takes is settling into mediocrity. All it takes is choosing to idly stand by and not live life to the fullest each and every day.

It is disgraceful, instead of proceeding ahead, to be carried along, and then suddenly, amid the whirlpool of events, to ask in a dazed way: “How did I get into this condition?” –Seneca’s Letter #37: On Allegiance to Virtue

Build the Wall

 

 

I was watching the cartoon “Justin Time” with Alec one morning, and the topic was about The Great Wall of China (S1:E9). In the episode Justin asked his friend Olive why there was a wall. Olive’s response was, “to keep the people on the other side on the other side.” In the U.S., the debate continues over whether or not to build a wall. For some, it is important to keep the other people on the other side. Others believe we should let them all in.

What is the purpose of a wall, whether it is around your house, your school, or your nation? When my wife and I built the fence around our backyard, we wanted to accomplish two things. First, it kept our dogs and young toddler confined to the backyard and prevented them from getting out and possibly wandering the streets. It was for their protection and for our peace of mind. What was the other purpose? The fence was built to keep the people on the other side of the fence on the other side. If they wanted to get inside the fence, they had to be admitted through the front door. Obviously, their identity and intent was established before they were allowed entry. The fence serves its purposes, and as a result we have a certain measure of security.

 

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The Great Wall of China served its purpose as well, which was to prevent an invasion of the northern enemies. The Chinese kept the people on the other side out. If someone wanted to get on the Chinese side of the wall, their identity and purpose would have to be established first. There are some Americans who want this kind of wall too. The ones in favor of it say it is prevent potential terror threats from entering our borders. They want to establish the identity and intent of would-be entrants. Not much different than the Chinese with the Great Wall, not much with you and your fence. People on both sides of this debate have some very strong feelings concerning a wall in the U.S. I have my feelings, but what this post is really about is building a wall around your mind.

Now, I am not saying we shouldn’t have open minds. My goal is to emulate Henry David Thoreau’s idea to “be a Columbus to whole new continents and worlds within you, opening new channels, not of trade, but of thought.” I want to have an open mind and encourage it in others, but I think you also need to build a wall around your mind. If you are not carefully vetting what is going in, then how can you monitor what is taking up a permanent residence within your brain?

How about music for an example? Say you hear a really good tune on the radio. The music sounds great and the vocals are really on point. Never mind the actual lyrics, you like what you hear, and you hear it over and over again. But what are those words? Is the message positive or is it something else? There are some really great sounding songs out these days with a message that is not positive. The messages coming over the radio in some songs are ones of drugs, violence, and the degradation of women. There are artists that will glamorize these topics, make them cool. Now you might be thinking, “This is a childish example. Those songs don’t really harm anybody. They are just songs.” And you might be correct that this evil message cannot invade your mind, but what if you are wrong? Or what about your child, with his young impressionable mind? Does it have an effect on him as he listens to it in the car while you are singing along?


About a week ago, my son had trouble sleeping and was scared. My wife was concerned and asked what was wrong. He said every time he closed his eyes he kept picturing a clown eating kids. Turns out that one of the kids in his Kindergarten class was taken to the movie “It” by his parents. The kid came to school the next day and told all his classmates. Chances are my son also seen the trailer on TV. The impression left on his mind was very real, enough to keep him awake at night.

Is this message appropriate for a 5 year old? The lasting effects of this one instance may not be great, but what about constant exposure to that and similar messages? We can rationalize it and say it is not that bad, but how many times can we do it before the “not so bad” imaginary violence becomes real? If we can justify listening to songs that degrade other people, how long does it take before we justify this belief in our minds?

Building a wall that vets all potential entrants into the nation may be a difficult debate going on right now. The choice to build a fence around your backyard to keep your kids safe and keep undesirable people out is a less difficult decision. Fortifying your mind against evil influences and properly vetting what your mind is exposed to should be a no-brainer. Protect your mind, build the wall.

It is possible that my view on a wall around your mind is incorrect. I would love to hear your comments.

“If anyone can refute me- show me I’m making a mistake or looking at things from the wrong perspective- I’ll gladly change. It’s the truth I’m after, and the truth never harmed anyone.” –Marcus Aurelius