Why do a good deed today?

“I recommend you to have a firm and generous proposal to always serve God with all your heart. Do not worry about tomorrow. Think about doing good today. And when tomorrow comes, it will be today and then you can think about it.” – Padre Pio, July 4, 1917.

A few years ago, Karen and I went to Italy to visit. We visited Rome and did all the traditional sites. We saw the Vatican, the Pieta, the Spanish Steps, the Coliseum and many other famous sites that now elude me. After a week of Rome, we left for the town of Quadrelle outside of Naples. We love to spend time in both city and country, leaning more heavily to the time we can spend in the more rural areas. Quadrelle was a fabulous little town in the Campania region of Italy. It was close to the Amalfi Coast as well as many attractions such as Pompeii, the Isle of Capri and the Castle at Caserta. In addition, it was smaller and friendlier than Rome.

One of the things that struck me was the love that the local people had for Padre Pio. There was a statue of him in a little park in town. I had only passing acquaintance with him and no real knowledge of his life. To me, he was just another “Saint” or perhaps someone whom they were debating over sainthood. To the locals, there was no question that he was a saint. One might think he became a saint because of great accomplishments, great deeds or great heroics. However, it was just the opposite. Padre Pio was a very simple man. He was not high up in any orders of the church hierarchy. In fact, for many years, his own church persecuted him as a fraud and psycho. Today he is loved because he was a very wise and kind man. The quote above is from one of his many letters explaining how to live more fully.

Many great spiritual traditions advise us to live in the present and not worry about things we cannot fix or times that we have no control over. Nevertheless, many of us spend our time needlessly worrying about the future and forget about living for today. What can you do today that would add some measure of good to the world? The Boy Scouts say: “Do a good deed daily.” That’s not such a bad idea. Doing a good deed each day is a great way to live in the present. What is one “good deed” you can do for someone today?

Time to remember the real purpose of a holiday

Holidays or holy-days! When does a holy-day become a holiday and vice versa? Is Christmas a holiday or a holy-day? Is Easter a holy-day or a holiday? Is the Fourth of July a holiday or a holy-day? Do we any longer care? It often seems like it is just another day off to most people? Memorial Day, Veterans Day, Labor Day and many other “special” days have lost their meaning. They have become corrupted by our greed for leisure time and pleasure. How many of us celebrate their true meaning anymore? Is the meaning of Christmas in Santa Claus and the frantic search for new toys and the right gift? Is the meaning of Easter in the Easter bunny and colored eggs? Is the meaning of Thanksgiving in a stuffed turkey?

The word “holy” means: “belonging to or derived from or associated with a divine power” (http://www.thefreedictionary.com). While I would not want to be thought of as the Grinch who stole Christmas, I think we have lost sight of the sacred and the divine in too many of our holy-days. “Render unto Caesar and render unto God”! We have become lost with Caesar and forgotten God in our zest for celebration. Our sense of the divine and sacred has been subordinated to our sense of recreation and entertainment. Holy-days have become holidays and we forget their very reason for being. There is a great loss in this forgetting. Who is more important, God or Caesar? We can lose our direction and purpose in life by leaving out the sacred and holy and replacing it with the mundane and material.

Do you remember the sacrifices that many made for your liberty on the 4th of July or your day of independence? Do you remember the heroism and suffering paid by millions on Memorial Day or May Day for your freedom? Do you stop to give thanks for your blessings on your Holy Days or is it just business as usual? Are you one of those who have lost your sense of perspective on these special days? Are your holy-days just another day of vacation? What will it take for you to put the holy back into your holidays and to remember their true meaning?

When is it too late to start to live?

When your past is prime! We all know people who more or less dwell in the past. For many of us, the best times we can remember are past times. The future is uncertain, but we can remember those glory days of yesteryear. We still remember the feelings when we were high school heroes, when we were madly in love, when we ran our personal best or when we received first place in the race. Moreover, like the song by Mary Hopkins says:

We thought they’d never end
We’d sing and dance forever and a day
We’d live the life we’d choose
We’d fight and never lose
For we were young and sure to have our way.

However, all things must end and someday all of us will have our past primes. There will come a time in all our lives when our best days are behind us. Some of us will manage to move on, but some of us will stay stuck in the past with memories we do not want to or cannot put behind us. This sounds so inevitable and so fatalistic that it is hard to accept or refute. But perhaps it can be disputed. Perhaps we can always look forward to better days. Perhaps we can continue to have primes in front of us.

What if the conditions of primes were dependent on the choices we make rather than on the vicissitudes of time and fortune? Have you noticed that some people seem to be able to continue with their lives, while others seem to give up on life? Fred Beckey, the famous mountaineer (who is still climbing and is now almost 89 years old) was asked if he regretted not having climbed Mt Everest. He replied “I still have that to look forward to.” Has Fred simply choice a different route? Has he simply refused to give up or accept a “truth” that many of us would say was inevitable? Learn about Mr. Fred Beckey by going to the following link. You will hear and see a man who is 88 years old and still rock and mountain climbing. http://video.nytimes.com/video/2008/12/15/sports/golf/1194835655194/the-old-man-of-the-mountains.html

What does it take to keep moving forward and searching for new adventures and new primes? Are you stuck in the past or have you chosen to move forward? Which do you think is the better way? Why?

Why the end of the world is nearer than you think!

The Apocalypse- the end of the world, the coming of judgment day, the day of reckoning! The word Apocalypse has held a series of ominous meanings for hundreds of years now. It is not unusual to hear some “fire and brimstone” TV evangelist telling us that this day is coming very soon. If you are reading this, you have no doubt survived just such a prophecy. According to this latest prophecy, the world was going to end on May 21,2011. Our next chance for Apocalypse is predicted to be for December 21, 2012. This theory is based on the Mayan Calendar rather then the bible. If the end does come, it probably will not make a difference.

“The term Apocalypse was first used among Hellenistic Jews to refer to a number of writings which depicted the future state of the world in a parabolic way (e.g. Apocalypse of Baruch). The whole class is now commonly known as ‘Apocalyptic literature’. However, the Apocalypse technically refers to the unveiling of God, and not to the destruction of the world, just of our preconceptions” (Wikipedia).

The writing of the Apocalypse that comes to mind for many Christians is the last book of the New Testament. This is the Apocalypse of John or the Book of Revelation. The book is a somewhat mystical treatise on the end of the world and the second coming of Jesus Christ. Much as with the writings of the prophet Nostradamus, people are able to read many things into this work. It is often invoked to imply the damnation of the world as we now know it because the world is full of sinners and they will need to be purged before the rest of us can go to heaven. In the Book of Revelation, John writes: “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end… But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the polluted, as for murderers, fornicators, sorcerers, idolaters and all liars, their lot shall be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”

There is a deeper message here that can be implied regardless of your faith or religion. This message is that we all need to keep our houses in better order, because we never know when the end, our end is near. I would give long odds that I will meet my end, many millenium before the world comes to its end. Looked at this way, the Apocalypse that is coming soon will be mine. Will I be ready to meet my last days?

Will you be able to face your final moments on earth knowing that you were kind and charitable to all people? Are you living the life you want to live? If you had to be judged today, would you be found guilty or innocent? Is your house in order? Are you ready to meet your maker today?

Day time or night time! Which turns you on?

Night Time! A time of passion! For many, a time of love or perhaps lust! For some people, it is none of these things. Instead, it is a time of dread and a time of fright. Many people are afraid to go out at night. Women do “Take Back the Night” marches to show they are not afraid to be out. People buy dogs for the protection they afford so that they can walk safely in their own neighborhoods.

For others, it is a time to turn the lights off and get into bed as early as possible. Let the night end so a new day can begin might be their motto. There are night people and there are day people. People who are love the night are called Night Owls and people who live for the day are Larks. For the day person, the night holds no allure. It is simply a time to go to bed. If you are a day person, you wilt as the night comes on. Like a flower, you start to close up on yourself and look forward to the comfort of your bed. Day people live by the maxim, “early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.

Night people blossom as the sun sets and the darkness enfolds their surroundings. It is then that night people start to come out of their cocoons. Their energy picks up and they seem to grow stronger and more animated as the night comes on. At midnight, they turn into Cinderellas, while day people turn into pumpkins. What happens when a night person mates with a day person? It can be a source of never ending misunderstandings and adjustments for both sides.

Day people are witty and energetic as soon as the sun peeps into their bedrooms. They are anxious to jump out of bed and start a new day. The night person just wishes they would shut up and go back to sleep. The roles are reversed when it is dark and late. The night person abounds with energy and vitality and can party and socialize all night. The day person can hardly keep their eyes open or they have already fallen asleep on a couch somewhere.

Can we change our patterns? Can a night person become a day person or vice versa? Some scientists believe that night and day predispositions have a genetic basis and that they cannot be changed. If you are born a night person, you will always be a night person. Born a day person and you will always be up at the crack of dawn while the night person is keeping the shades down so the sunlight cannot filter in. Perhaps night persons have some vampire blood in their ancestry.

Which are you, a night person or a day person? How do your feelings differ between dawn and dusk? Do you notice your energy rising or falling as the day progresses? Do you have a hard time understanding those with a different predisposition? Have you ever tried to reverse your roles? Where you successful?

Do men and women view time differently? Part 2

Men Time and Women Time was a subject I raised in the preceding reflection. Do men and women perceive time differently? Ruth Klein in “Time Management Secrets for Working Women” states:

“I find that women view time far differently from men. Women often perceive time as an enemy that prevents them from getting it all done, all the time. For some reason society has decided that even when a woman works she is still responsible for making sure that everything gets done at home—and to this end she never has enough time. It’s true that men also want to accomplish more in less time, but that nearly always means accomplishing tasks at work, with their hobbies, or with outside interests at home.”

A search on Google finds that several people have commented on the difference between men and women in respect to views of time. Personally, I have not yet seen anything I find convincing evidence that we do indeed view time differently. However, a great deal of anecdotal evidence would seem to support that there may be a difference in views. It has often been noted that men tend to see the world more linearly while women think more in terms of cycles. This may be due to the fact that with childbirth, women are more wired to think in terms of cycles. Men were once the hunters while women were the gatherers. Could these chores have led to a difference in how men see the world? Men seem to be more prone to certain forms of violence and accept aggression as more necessary than women do. How many wars have been started by women or even by men over issues that women would find important? The same is probably true for most fights.

Men also live shorter lives than women. While the difference in life spans is negligible, could it in some way contribute to a difference in how each gender sees the world? Even the way that men and women approach sex suggests that there may be a difference in the way that each perceives time. Men are ready for sex in the twink of an eye and are over in about the same time. Women approach sex more slowly and once ready will easily outlast most men.

What do you think about this question? If you were asked whether men and women viewed time differently, what would you answer? Do you think you view the world differently than the other gender? How? What are the differences you perceive? What do you think are the reasons for these differences?

How long is long? Do men and women perceive long differently?

How much longer? How much longer? How much longer will it take? From the point of view of the person waiting, longer can seem forever. From the point of view of one trying to get ready, longer may seem like a very short time. We say the movie was very long, the speech was very long; the job took a long time to get done. What this means is that we were not really excited about the time we had to wait. Long is not a very precise word, but it generally denotes a length of time that is greater than we expected or more time than we wanted to spend.

In men speak, “how much longer” might be translated as “would you please hurry up, I would like to leave now.” In women speak; the answer might be “I still need to get ready, would you please stop rushing me.” If men and women have different language and thought patterns, do we differ in our conceptions of time and our methods for handling time? To some extent, there may be differences due to culture and social influences. However, I think the concept of long is more related to expectations and where expectations differ by culture then long will have a different meaning.

I was once told that Asians think in centuries, Europeans think in decades and Americans think in weeks. If you don’t agree about this, think of how obsessed American business is with the quarterly report and end of month figures, not to mention the daily stock market prices. Americans are very pragmatic, but we typically have a very short time horizon. Our conception of long is very short compared to other cultures. Hence, we think of a long war as anything over four years, where many cultures would think of a long war as lasting decades if not centuries.

How long is long for you? How long is long for your spouse or partner? Do you think gender plays a role in defining long? Does it vary depending on who is waiting and who is not? What role does patience play in waiting? What role does respect play? Do you hesitate to start things because they will “take too long?” What if you had more tolerance for “long” in your life?

Are you building your life on sand?

To speak of the “sands of time” provokes an image of shifting sands and dunes with the grains of sand being blown helter skelter. The shape of sand dunes is constantly changing and taking on new forms. Sand seems so weak and has such a lack of substance. We warn people not to build their house on sand. Sand is not a good foundation. Our lives and efforts can be like this sand. Think about how brief our accomplishments are when measured against the time line of progress. It is interesting that some achievements of humanity are still studied and talked about(for instance, the steam engine and polio vaccine) while the vast multitude of human efforts are long forgotten.

What makes some deeds and inventions so important and worthwhile that they will last as long as the sands continue to blow and shift? You are likely to say “well, they made a big impact on the human race or they made an important contribution to progress.” If so, were these events just random or were they as predetermined as evolution seems to be? Did we really choose these events, or did the events choose us?

If you could go back and reorder events, which ones would you redo or leave out? What if we had not invented the atom bomb? What if the very possibility of the atom bomb and relativity never existed? What if Einstein had never been born? How would the sands of time have been different? Alternatively, would the inevitable blowing and shifting still have caused the same patterns? Would we still have had Hitler and Stalin? What choices that you make today will affect your life tomorrow and the day after?

What accomplishments or efforts of your life will fit into the progress of the human race? What achievements or goals are you striving for that will be remembered in the sands of time? Are they worth the effort?

What if we could slow time down?

Your “time is running out!” is a familiar line from many crime movies. Usually, the villain has just given a long winded speech on why the hero or heroine will die and promises a painful death. Of course, we all know, the heroine will not die and she will find some way to get her time back. If the villain had just shut his/her mouth and done the job, the hero would not have had the time to get out alive. The villains never seem to figure out that giving the hero this extra time will allow them to survive. We could say that the hero/heroine has managed to put time back into the bottle.

The metaphor of “time in a bottle” evokes sands running out of an hourglass or a clock slowly counting down. For each of us, our time runs down each day. Our lives speed up with each passing day and the weeks fly by like days, then the months fly by like weeks, until finally the years seem to pass like months. If only we could slow down the speed, because our time is running out!

Have you ever wondered why time keeps running faster and faster? What if we could somehow make it slow down? Time becoming slower and slower and slower instead of faster and faster and faster. Can this be possible? Is it something we can control? I think we can. If we can make it go faster and faster, why can’t we make it go slower and slower? Most of us are bent on speeding it up and we are continually finding ways to make our time go faster and faster. Multitasking, driving while talking on the cell phone, working 24/7 are all ways we use to speed time up. What if we found as many creative ways to slow time down?

I used to do some canoe racing and was always trying to paddle as fast as I could to get from one point to another. One day an old friend and avid canoeist asked me if I ever stopped to smell the flowers. In his prime, he had been a formidable canoe racer and I highly respected his ability. He told me that he had wasted too much of his youth trying to get to places in a hurry and had missed many of life’s great opportunities. He now took time to smell the flowers. I began to do the same thing. I leaned that time does indeed slow down when you are smelling flowers. Life looks different when you stop watching the clock and find ways to slow things down. You begin to live and enjoy what you do and what you have.

Do you think life is moving too fast? Are your days mere blurs of activities? Do you move constantly from one thing to another? Would you like life to move slower? Have you ever thought of all the ways you could slow time down? You are in control of the speed with which your life goes by? Maybe you should find some ways to put on the brake. Make a list and see what you can do to slow things down in your world.

How much time can you give to help someone else?

“Just a minute, please.” How many times a day do you hear that phrase? When you do hear it, do you believe it? Of course not, but you are probably too polite to dispute it. This short phrase or perhaps request is often used regardless of the time that is really needed. It expedites action and compliance by simplifying a negotiation over the time that one really needs. Have you ever wanted to take out a stop watch and see how long that “minute” really is? Or, do you respond with, “well, I haven’t got a minute.” What if the other person said “just ten minutes please”, how would you respond to that request?

Sometimes we hear “just a second.” Now that request is really hard to believe. Do you have just a second? What in the world can possibly be done or said in a second? Do you think there is a difference between someone who requests a second and someone who requests a minute? Is this difference due to a personality type or are the “second” requestors just speedier then the “minute” requestors? Which camp do you fall in? Are you a minute or a second requestor? On the other hand, perhaps you simply ask for the time that you need. How many people do you know who really do this? When was the last time you said: “I need fifteen more minutes?”

Would life be easier if we were all more accurate? Of course, what would life be like if we could not spare a minute for someone else? What would the world come to if no one had a second to spare? Are you forever to busy to help others in need?

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