Four Remarkable People on a Quest

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Part 1 – The Meeting

Once upon a time, there were four remarkable men.  Well, actually there were two remarkable men and two remarkable women.  A confluence of circumstances brought them together in perhaps one of the strangest coincidences in history.

Jamal was from the north.  He was one of the highest scorers to ever take the Mensa Genius Examination.  When he was only four years old, he developed a program to block credit card companies from calling his parents on their cell phones.  When he was seven years old, he developed a new form of cryptocurrency which was impossible to hack, easily transferred, had high usability and presented a respectable means of acquisition.  The currency was so popular that Jamal became a billionaire when he was 15 years old.

Isabella was from the south.  She graduated when she was 12 years old from the University of São Paulo with a Ph.D. degree in Physics and Philosophy.  She burned through required credits like a hot knife going through butter.  She had no problem paying for her tuition since she was hired by the University of São Paulo physics department to help with a particle research project they were undertaking, while she was earning her degree.  When she graduated, half of the physics departments in the world tried to hire her.

Li Na was from the east.  She was born in Chengdu, a sub-provincial city which serves as the capital of China’s Sichuan province.  She was the only child of an older couple who really wanted a boy.  Li Na learned to play soccer, baseball, table tennis and hockey at a young age.  She wanted to please her parents.  She was an excellent athlete who competed in all four sports in the Olympics.  However, her athletic abilities were far overshadowed by her intellect.  Li Na had mathematical abilities that rivaled any mathematician in history.  She could take any number and give you the square root of the number down to 1000 roots without a calculator or even an abacus.

When Li Na was fourteen years old, she decided to tackle all six of the remaining Millennium Prize Problems set by the Clay Mathematics Institute in 2000.  Li Na was able to solve all six of them within a month, but she decided it would be unfair to accept the prize money as the solutions were so easy.  She therefore rejected the prize and kept the solutions to herself.  Corporations all over the world engaged her with solving problems that defied normal mathematical solutions.  She gave her money back to her parents to help support them and to put into savings.  No one knew what she was worth, but it was assumed that she was a mega millionaire.

Elijah was from the west. He was born in California in a commune that practiced a form of communal marriage.  Elijah was never sure of who his father was, and he seemed to grow up with several mothers.  At an early age, Elijah showed a talent for music.  When he was three years old, he taught himself to play a violin.  At four, he learned to play an oboe and at five, he learned to play a harp.  When he was six, he took first place in the Menuhin Competition beating out every other contestant regardless of age.

As remarkable as his talent for playing music was, Elijah’s skills and abilities in the area of composing music were even more incredible.  He had written six operas, twenty movie scores and five symphonies before he was 16 years old.  Orchestras all over the world were playing his compositions when most people did not even know his name.  Elijah hated publicity and avoided any of the usual celebrity events.  He donated most of his money to help other aspiring musicians.  He was well known among musicians and performers for his humility and kindness towards others.

cafe-wrenEach of our four remarkable people were into their middle years when by chance they met at a small cafe and restaurant in a town called Luck in Northwestern Wisconsin.  Luck is a small town of about 1200 residents, which in its heydays was the home of the Duncan Yo-yo.  In fact, it was once known as the Yo-yo Capital of the world.  Sadly, Yo-yo’s had declined in popularity and so had the fortunes of Luck in terms of prosperity and jobs.  Now perhaps, the high spot of Luck was the Wren Cafe.  A place that had excellent food, good beer and a unique ambiance imbued by its extremely creative owner Stephanie Lundeen.

The café is well known to locals and to many of the cabin people who come up on the weekends to enjoy their sojourns from the “big city” of Minneapolis.  Li Na, Elijah, Isabella and Jamal were each brought there by friends who were locals and who knew that the Wren was a very good place to eat.  The Wren being a small place and small towns being where everyone knows everyone, introductions were soon flying like falling Wisconsin snow.  Our four remarkable people sensed that a new chapter in their lives was about to begin.

Thus, at 12 PM on a cool summer day in Luck Wisconsin, Li Na, Elijah, Isabella and Jamal experienced a nuclear fusion of intimacy.  The result was like a billion tons of dynamite going off at once or the largest fireworks display in the world.  The talent that each had was like a magnet that created an instant bond between the four.  Finding other people of comparable abilities and demeanor was something that they had only dreamed about.  They all found the rapport and affinity they had for each other to be amazing.

After an hour or so of rapid conversation intermixed with more general discussion with others in their parties, our four remarkable people decided to meet again when they could have more time to discuss their lives without anyone else present.  Unbeknownst to their friends and families, Li Na, Jamal, Elijah and Isabella all had serious inner doubts that they had never been able to share with another living soul.  Each believed that they had found some kindred souls with whom they could share their secrets and perhaps find some piece of mind.  They agreed to meet again at the Wren the following week.  It was a week they knew they must spare from their busy lives.

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Part 2 – Four Doubts

For several years now, Jamal had begun to feel that there was no meaning to his life.  He had even contemplated suicide because he felt that he had nothing left to live for. The world did not seem to have people that cared about anything but their new smart phones or how fast their Internet speeds were.  Life was one vast merry go round with people constantly jumping on and off and reacting to whatever the current fads and trends were.  Nobody cared about anything but how much money they had and how many things they could buy.  Jamal desired to know if there was a true Purpose in Life or if life was simply meaningless.

Elijah had many of the same feelings as Jamal.  Elijah no longer found value in anything in life.  Everything he had ever owned or purchased soon became worthless in his mind.  The best yachts, cars and homes that anyone could buy could not make him happy.  Fame and talent and beauty all seemed to fade over time.  People were fickle.  One minute they loved you and the next minute they loved somebody else.  Elijah knew what it was like to be famous and admired but it had lost any value to him.  He thought that being known as the greatest musician in the world would satisfy his inner longings.  Even though he had obtained this goal, it did not seem to provide the value that he had hoped for.  Elijah longed to know if there was any true Value in Life or if everything was really worthless.

Isabella had once believed that there was a hidden truth to life that remained to be found.  She had studied physics and philosophy thinking that they would lead her to this truth.  She had spent many years searching for this truth.  However, every time she found a truth, she soon realized that it was also a lie.  The prophets and great religious leaders had always taught that “The truth will set you free.”  Isabella could never find the talisman that would set her free.

She desperately wanted to believe that there was some truth to existence and that life was more than just a series of lies and deceptions.  She had a desire to find this truth, but she had become increasingly discouraged.  Each day she read the news and only found “Fake Facts” and deceptions masquerading as truth.  The world seemed to have misinformation and disinformation but no truth.  Isabella wanted to find the Truth of Life.

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Li Na was another tormented soul.  A brilliant mathematician, she could not discover a single constant in life.  Every time she thought she had found a concept in mathematics that would provide such a constant, Godel’s Incompleteness Theorem would rear its ugly head proving still again that it is impossible to find a complete and consistent set of axioms for mathematics.  If mathematics had no constants, how could life have any constants.  Was is simply true that death and taxes were the only constants in life?  Li Na wanted to believe that there was more to life than simply death and taxes.  Li Na desired to find the one Constant in Life that would really make life worth living.  If she could find this constant, she believed that it would put her soul at rest and she might find true peace on earth.

Part 3 – The Doubts Unfold

To Be Continued:  I will publish the next part of this story when it is finished.  I appreciate your patience. 

Time for Questions:

What do you think so far?  How do you like the four people in the story?  Have you ever shared similar doubts?  What did you do about them?  What do you believe about life?

Life is just beginning. 

“Doubt as sin. — Christianity has done its utmost to close the circle and declared even doubt to be sin. One is supposed to be cast into belief without reason, by a miracle, and from then on to swim in it as in the brightest and least ambiguous of elements: even a glance towards land, even the thought that one perhaps exists for something else as well as swimming, even the slightest impulse of our amphibious nature — is sin! And notice that all this means that the foundation of belief and all reflection on its origin is likewise excluded as sinful. What is wanted are blindness and intoxication and an eternal song over the waves in which reason has drowned.”
― Friedrich Nietzsche, Daybreak: Thoughts on the Prejudices of Morality

Endless Horizons:  How We Learn and Develop

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I have a theory about life and about how we grow as individuals. I call this my theory of “Endless Horizons.”  I developed this theory through experience and observation.  I would like to share it with you this week.  It has been a big inspiration in my life and provided a great deal of motivation for me in my journeys.  It involves the ability to accept the unknown but with a difference that is important.  Whereas many theories posit an “unknown and unknowable,” my theory says that what is unknown may just possibly be “over the next horizon.”  Let me explain more.

Once upon a time, I believed that what we see, feel, taste and smell was all that there was.  It did not get any better or worse than what I was already experiencing.  I was usually a very angry guy.  I was ready to physically fight at the drop of a hat or some perceived slur or insult.  My temper and lack of anger management got me into a lot of trouble.  I was arrested for assault and battery.  I had more fights than I can remember.

“Those who improve with age embrace the power of personal growth and personal achievement and begin to replace youth with wisdom, innocence with understanding, and lack of purpose with self-actualization.” — Bo Bennett

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Perhaps worse was the constant state of fear that it kept my first wife and daughter in.  I never realized how hurtful my temper and lack of anger control was to them.  From my throwing things, to yelling and punching walls, I was like a volcano that might explode at any moment.  Even my sleep time was violent.  I was constantly having nightmares of someone chasing me and trying to kill me.  I would wake up drenched in sweat with my pulse racing a mile a minute.

My first wife and I divorced after sixteen years.  My daughter who was fifteen at the time eventually cut off all contact with me.  I have not seen or talked to her for over twenty years now.

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“Building a better life for every child is a lot harder than becoming a world champion. Both goals take dedication and commitment.” — Kim Yuna

I knew I needed some help and I joined a treatment program for violent and abusive men.  About ½ of the men were in treatment voluntarily and about ½ were court ordered.  It was sponsored by the Wilder Center in St. Paul, Minnesota.  I completed the program (which met weekly) for about 16 weeks. After that I continued with a support group for another two years or so.  The support group also met weekly and was restricted to men who had finished the regular treatment program.  I had a buddy (Jerry) whom I could call if my temper flared up.  Jerry was part of my process or control plan for dealing with my anger issues rather than acting out.  There was more to the plan that included walks and other means of cooling off. 

I do not know whether my marriage would have been saved if I had gone through this program earlier.  I do know my wife would have been a lot happier and my daughter would probably still be speaking to me.  Another thing I know is that my nightmares went away.

Getting back to my “Endless Horizon Theory,” I first observed it in the anger support groups that I went to weekly.  Before coming to these groups, most “angry” men were in denial.  It was always, “they or she made me do it.”  “It was not my fault.”  The horizon of most men in terms of their awareness of themselves was very short.  After they went to treatment, they made it to a new horizon of sorts.  From this new horizon, many men could now understand that it was their fault not the fault of others around them.  If they chose to, they did not have to go through life angry, violent and abusive.  Standing at the horizon of having accepted their responsibility for their anger, they could see a new horizon.  This horizon was one of equanimity and if not happiness, at least not misery.  The support groups offered a way to get to this next horizon.  As they say, “Rome was not built in a day.”  Well, dealing with anger problems involves a trip of years.  It would not be an easy journey for many of these men.

I stayed in the group for nearly two years.  Many of the men I met during these two years were also long-timers.  Our support group seemed to grow together as friends and comrades along the journey.  I think many of us made it to the next horizon.  When I arrived there, I saw another horizon just beyond the one I had reached.  We had all assumed that the best we could get would be a life without being constantly angry and explosive.  When I came to this new horizon, I began to understand that there was more that I could accomplish.  The next horizon promised happiness and a positive outlook to life.  Many of us had gone from a negative outlook on life to a neutral outlook and now saw a horizon that promised a positive outlook.

“We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us.” — Joseph Campbell

Unfortunately, the Wilder Center did not see that as the role of these support groups.  They saw their mission as helping to curb domestic abuse.  They did not see their mission as helping men grow and develop beyond their ability to control their anger issues.  With the lack of support and even hostility towards our new goal, many of the long-termers in my group simply quit and went away.  I kept in touch with a few men, but the years have melted these relationships away. 

“Growth is painful. Change is painful. But, nothing is as painful as staying stuck where you do not belong.” — N. R. Narayana Murthy

I realized that when I reached one horizon, I could now see beyond it to a new horizon. It was clear to me that there was possibly an infinite number of new horizons.  If one has the tenacity, discipline and determination, there is no end to the development that we potentially can reach.  Another experience gave me more proof for my theory of “Endless Horizons.”

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My second wife Karen and I have both been to two Marriage Encounter weekends.  We went to our first Marriage Encounter weekend about five years into our marriage.  The second weekend was about ten years after the first.  Both weekends had very positive impacts on our marriage, friendship and lives.  My horizon theory was further strengthened by events that happened at both weekends.  I will relate the events at the first weekend.

I was long past worrying about anger issues by the time of our first Marriage Encounter weekend.  I had been trying to be more tolerant of Karen and some of the things that she did that annoyed me.  I had reached what I will call a Horizon of Tolerance.  I thought I was doing pretty good when I could practice tolerance.  When I could not, I would be sarcastic, rude and frustrated.  We went to the first weekend as a means of improving our marriage.  I will forever be grateful to the organizations and volunteers that put these weekends on.  We have found that both these weekends helped us to be better lovers, parents and friends.

Well, during the first weekend, we were having some discussion about the issue of tolerance.  I was pretty pumped up because I thought I was doing pretty good with dealing with this issue.  I made the remark that I thought I was very tolerant.  The response I received caught me by surprise.  It was something to the effect that tolerance falls short of respecting the other person. The speaker explained that tolerance simply accepts what is.  Respect on the other hand sees the benefits and appreciates the value of what is.  There is a significant difference between respect and tolerance.  For instance, we can tolerate minorities or people who are different than we are but that is not the same as respecting them.

I was confronted with a new horizon for my relationship with Karen and our marriage. Again, I realized that this new horizon further supported my “Endless Horizon” theory of growth and development.  I had finally accepted (and thus my theory was born) that there is an endless number of horizons.  Each horizon presents a new possibility for growth.  We cannot see beyond our present horizon, but we can be sure that something new will await us once we reach it.

“Strength and growth come only through continuous effort and struggle.”  — Napoleon Hill

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What does it take to reach a horizon?  I said earlier that you must have determination.  It helps to have support and coaching along the way.  As the song says, “I get by with a little help from my friends.”  It also takes commitment to keep trying.  There are lots of potholes along the way. There are dead-ends.  There are large crevasses, boulders and obstacles to overcome.  There are no straight flat highways to the next horizon.  It is not a straight-line journey.  There are times when you will get lost and times when you will go backwards.  But the journey is not to the fittest but to the ones who are most determined.

Time for Questions:

What horizon are you at in your life?  What new horizons have you found in your life’s journey?  What obstacles have you had to overcome?  Have you given up on finding new horizons or are you still searching for new horizons?  Why or why not?

Life is just beginning.

“The journey is never ending. There’s always gonna be growth, improvement, adversity; you just gotta take it all in and do what’s right, continue to grow, continue to live in the moment.” — Antonio Brown

Emily and Robert:  A love story

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Our story starts in a bathroom.   Emily is brushing her teeth and thinking about her beloved husband Robert.  Emily is 85 years old and Robert is 87 years old.  Emily and Robert have had a long life together.  Often happy, but often tumultuous with the stress of family, money and work disrupting the natural harmony of things.  Through all the ups and downs, their love for each other was the one constant of their lives.  Despite all the cliches about true love and being made for each other and all the other tropes one hears about lovers, no two people ever loved each other more than Emily and Robert.

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For the past ten years, Emily had been taking care of Robert.  After he had his second stroke, Robert needed help to dress and shower each morning.  He was no longer able to take care of his house hold chores and he needed help to do the many activities that he had once taken for granted.  Robert was a proud man but Emily was also very stubborn and she showed her love for Robert in her dedication to helping him.  Robert was appreciative and demonstrated it by doing all he could to minimize the burden for Emily.  He never complained and he never forget to say thank you to Emily no matter how many times she helped him.

An-older-couple-sitting-i-0072Emily and Robert had been married for nearly 65 years.  They were both in their early twenties when they met in college.  It was love at first sight.  Their parents wanted them to wait to finish college but after a brief whirlwind romance, they simply eloped.  They surprised everyone when they came back to school and finished their college degrees.  Robert became an engineer and Emily was a school teacher for many years.  The careers they chose suited their personalities.  They were known as hard faithful workers.  Not once in over forty years did any employer ever have a complaint or problem with either Robert or Emily.  After forty-five years, they both chose to retire so they could spend more time together after Robert’s first stroke.

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The saddest part of their lives was their inability to have their own children.  However, they made up for this by becoming foster parents.  Over the course of their years together, they had helped to raise nearly twenty-five foster children.  The social service agency responsible for the placements always said that they could not have found two more loving parents.  As parents, they were strict with high expectations but they were always fair and compassionate.  They latino-couplewere loved by all their foster children who often returned home to visit or to simply stop by with a bit of news or something to eat.  Robert and Emily could not have loved any children of their own more than they loved their foster children.

 

Emily continued brushing her teeth and getting ready for bed.  The light was off in their bedroom and the bathroom adjoined the bedroom.  Emily kept up a running dialogue with Robert about her day and the trip she had taken to visit one of her sick foster children.  Robert never answered so Emily just assumed he was reading or perhaps had fallen asleep.  Even after all these years, they still slept together.  Robert always slept closest to the bathroom door and Emily slept on the other side closest to the window.

lady surprisedEmily finished brushing her teeth and then took her nightly pills.  She shut off the bathroom light and started out to the bedroom.  The light by Robert’s side of the bed was on and Emily started to say something to Robert when abruptly she stopped.  Her eyes fell upon an empty bed that was undisturbed.  The sheets and bed covers had not been moved.  Emily was surprised and shocked.  Where was bedroom at nightRobert?  Suddenly, Emily remembered.  Robert had died the previous week and had been buried two days before on Saturday.  Tears came to her eyes.  What would she do without her Robert?  She was all alone now.  No one to go to bed with.  No one to talk to at night.  No one who would regularly listen to her complaints and problems about the world.

Being the survivor of a pair of lovers is a terrible burden.  Most of us want to go first.  However, neither Emily or Robert had ever wanted to be the first to go for both knew how hard it would be for the other.  Sadly, someone must go first.  The survivor is left with a vacuum in their life and memories.  The vacuum can never be filled and the memories cannot be forgotten.  Events that happened many years ago seem like they just happened yesterday and events of a few days past seem like they happened eons ago.  Memories do not respect a correlation to physical time.

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Emily will die in five years.  In between today and her death, she will experience joy, sadness, pain and a certainty that life will once more resume for her and Robert.  She believes that somewhere in this vast universe, her atoms and Robert’s atoms will coalesce and the two of them will again be united.  As sure as you are reading this story, Robert and Emily will live joyfully ever after in a place where life and death can no longer challenge their happiness.

Time for Questions:

What is love?  Have you ever been in love?  How do you know?  Who was the greatest love of your life?  Why?  Is there anything more important than love?

Life is just beginning.

“The real act of marriage takes place in the heart, not in the ballroom or church or synagogue. It’s a choice you make – not just on your wedding day, but over and over again – and that choice is reflected in the way you treat your husband or wife.” —  Barbara De Angelis
 

My Life:  The Story of a Penny

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It wasn’t always this way.  If you are old enough you may well remember.  Once upon a time, I was admired and looked up to.  I was put in the mouth of deceased humans to pay Charon the boat man for taking them to the afterlife.  People made a big deal out of receiving me.  I was avidly saved and respected.  Abraham Lincoln walked two miles to return me to a customer who had been overcharged.  Children were given penny banks when they were of age to appreciate my value.  Many youngsters found that with only five of me, they had enough money to buy a candy bar or go to a movie.  A very popular saying was “A penny saved is a penny earned.”

I was the first currency of any type authorized by the newly formed United States of America.  I was born (or minted at they call it) on April 21, 1787, when the Congress of the Confederation of the United States authorized a design for an official copper penny, later referred to as the Fugio cent.  Benjamin Franklin was my designer and on one side I had thirteen chain links interlocked with the words “We are one” representing the union of the first 13 American states.  On my other side, I had a picture of the sun and the sun dial with the words “Mind your business.”  Over the years, I have had many different designs printed on me.

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I was made legal tender by the Coinage Act of 1864.  I was so popular in my middle years that Abraham Lincoln’s visage was put on one side of me and on my other side was Lincoln’s tomb and the Latin words “E Pluribus Unum” meaning “out of many one.”  Honest Abe well knew the value of a penny.  For over two hundred years, I have represented the business and entrepreneurial spirit of America.  Those were my golden years.  There was no shame in saving a shiny new penny or even an old worn and scratched penny.

How the times and fortunes have changed my life!  Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say how the Fortune 500 has changed my life.  Inflation and stock values have continued year after year to erode my value until I am now just a shell of what I once was.  There is even talk of doing away with me as not worth the metal it takes to mint me.  People leave me in little baskets at convenience stores and young children simply drop me or throw me down the street.  I get run over by cars, motorbikes, bicycles and pedestrians.  Hardly anybody will bother to pick me up off the sidewalk.  I am looked down upon and despised.

5.-Frugality-1024x524Those who say that I am not important or who ignore me are part of a new generation that values image over substance.  The word “frugal” is now associated with cheap and the word “thrifty” is associated with the idea of miserliness.  It seems the world of finance is dominated by short-sighted individuals who have forgotten the old values that made this country great.  Hard work and prudence were values that resonated among the early pioneers like so many notes in a great symphonic piece.

piggy bankWith hard work, you earned a penny.  With prudence, you saved your pennies until they became dollars.  In the old days, no one would ever have thrown me away or ignored me when laying in the street.  Too many people have forgotten the value that I represent.  From early times, there have been people who really understood my value.  Even before I was an official U.S. coin, the value of a penny was recognized by some.  I regard these people as paragons who really understood the meaning of money.  Let me tell you a few of their stories.

Back in the days of Jesus Christ, there was a poor widow who gave her last two cents.  The story is told by Mark 1:41-44 in the New Testament:

Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury.  Many rich people threw in large amounts.  But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents.

Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others.  They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”

Both Jesus and the poor widow understood the value of money and that it was not how much money you had but what you did with it that mattered.

Then, there is the story of little Hattie May Wiat.  This was a young girl who lived in Blue Bell Pennsylvania around the end of the 19th Century.  She loved to go to a nearby church but it was often so crowded that she could not find a seat.  She decided to start saving her money to help build a bigger church.  Her parents were very poor and sadly she died about two years after she had started saving her pennies.

When they were preparing her body for burial, they found beside her a little purse with fifty-seven cents inside and a note scribbled in her handwriting which read, “This is to help build the little church bigger so more children can go to Sunday School.”  This so inspired the minister of the church that he started a fund-raising campaign that turned Hattie’s initial pennies into nearly a quarter of a million dollars.  The church was expanded and many more people would eventually be able to come to church.

penniesHattie had faith in money.  Money requires faith but it is a faith that rests on the good that money can do and not simply how much money one can acquire.  Hattie had this kind of faith and it persisted beyond her death.

A more recent story is about John the runner.  John goes out jogging four or five times a week regardless of the weather.  Some days he feels great running and other days he is just anxious to get his run over with.  Nevertheless, no matter how long he has run or how tired he is from his daily run, if John sees me on the street, he will always stop to pick me up.

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John believes that if he becomes too proud to pick up a penny, where will it end?  When will he become too proud to pick up a nickel or a dime?  John brings me home in his fist and puts me in a large glass jar shaped like a coke bottle.  I am in good company there with quarters, half dollars and even some Susan B. Anthony dollars.  When John is ready to go on a vacation, he takes me down to the bank and converts me into cash for his trip.

John does not relish wealth or the mere accumulation of money.  It is not his greed that compels him to pick me up but his acknowledgement of the symbolism that I represent.  Whether it is a hundred-dollar bill or one penny laying on the ground, the meaning is the same.   Money should never be taken for granted.

There are hundreds of other stories I can tell to show you that many people throughout history have understood the idea that “if you watch your pennies, the dollars will take care of themselves.”  This is still a very valuable lesson that needs to be taught in all finance and business classes.  From what I see, it is a lesson that too many people today have never learned.

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So, the next time you see a penny on the street, think about my life and what it stands for.  Do not think I simply represent 1/100 of a dollar.  I represent far more than that.  I represent the start of a global business.  The start of a financial fortune.  Even more importantly, I represent the start of needed surgery for a poor child in a developing country.  The start of a fund to help protect the environment.  The start of a young girl’s education.

Time for Questions:

Do you stop to pick up a penny?  What does frugality mean to you?  What does thrifty mean to you?  Do you think being frugal is a vice or a virtue?  Do you save for a rainy day?  Do you think credit cards have made the idea of thrifty better or worse?  Why?

Life is just beginning.

The question is very understandable, but no one has found a satisfactory answer to it so far.  Yes, why do they make still more gigantic planes, still heavier bombs and, at the same time, prefabricated houses for reconstruction?  Why should millions be spent daily on the war and yet there’s not a penny available for medical services, artists, or for poor people?  Why do some people have to starve, while there are surpluses rotting in other parts of the world?  Oh, why are people so crazy?”  — Anne Frank

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Little Boy Who Believed in God

The following story was inspired by a Charles Dickens story called “A Child’s Dream of a Star.”

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Once upon a time there was a little boy who believed in God.  Every morning when he woke up, he would look out the window and thank God for his blessings.  He thanked God for the sun, the beautiful day, the flowers, the trees, the water, the birds and most of all for his mother, father, sister, brother and grandparents.  Every night when the little boy would go to bed, he would look out the window and again thank God for his blessings.  He thanked God for the moon, the stars, the planets and most of all for his mother, father, sister, brother and grandparents.

Now the circumstance of a little boy believing in God might not seem strange but in this case, it was very strange.  You see, the little boy’s mother and father and older sister and older brother and even his grandparents were all confirmed Atheists.  Not a one of them went to church or professed a belief in any type of a higher entity.  In fact, his father and mother were very worried about the little boy.

Father:  “Honey, I am very worried about our little boy.  We have told him that Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy and God are all myths.  He accepted the reality for these fictions except for the greatest fiction of all, a higher power called God who supposedly created the universe.  Where do you think he got this idea of God from?

Mother:  “I don’t know. It is very strange.  The schools do not teach God.  His brother and sister do not believe in God.  His grandparents do not believe in God.  None of our friends believe in God.  Most religions do not really practice what they preach.  Most people who say they believe in God are really hypocrites or liars.  I am as mystified as you are.

Believing in God might not have been a problem for the little boy as he had very accepting parents.  However, the little boy found out that whenever he tried to talk to any of his friends or schoolmates or even teachers about God, they did not want to discuss the issue.  The little boy would ask questions like “Do you think God is having a good day today?”  “Do you think God worries about the evil deeds in the world?”  “How can we help God to bring more joy and happiness in the world?”  His teachers and friends would puzzle at such questions and try to ignore him.  They would shake their heads and hope that he would stop asking about God.  His wanting to discuss God made most people very uncomfortable.  God was not a subject for polite conversation.

God-is-good-Article-TemplateAs the little boy grew up, he became an even more devout believer in God.  Everywhere he went, he saw the hand of God.  In the clouds, in nature, in the weather, in the oceans, in good times and in bad times he believed that God was present.  The little boy thought how hard God must have to work to try to keep life sustained.  Each night he would pray to God that when he grew up, he would be able to help ease God’s work somewhat and do his share to help make the world a better place.

The little boy became a social worker and devoted his life to helping other people.  He met many other social workers who became cynical and skeptical.  One told him what a fool he was for believing that a God existed who cared about the human race.  Another told him that if a God really existed he would not have allowed people to be so greedy and corrupt.  Most of the social workers he knew eventually quit to become investment bankers or insurance salespeople.

god is my salvation

Time passed.  Aging became more salient in the little boy’s life.  His grandparents died.  His mother and father died.  His sister and brother died.  All his friends passed away.  Every time one of them died, the little boy would thank God for the time he had been able to spend with his loved ones.  He would ask God to take good care of them until he could see them again.

Many years went by and eventually the little boy stood at death’s door.  It was his last hour on earth.  He had few breaths left.  A nurse and a doctor waited at his bedside.  They heard him say before he passed “Thank you God for the life you gave me.  Thank you for the trees and the sun and the moon and the stars and the oceans and the forests and the sky.  But most of all, thank you for all the wonderful people that you put in my life and who I will now meet again.”

Time for Questions:

What do you believe in?  Why?  What role does faith have in your beliefs?  Do you think that there is a God?  Does he/she watch over and take care of humanity?  Why or why not?

Life is just beginning.

“To love means loving the unlovable. To forgive means pardoning the unpardonable.  Faith means believing the unbelievable. Hope means hoping when everything seems hopeless.” — Gilbert K. Chesterton
 

 

 

Leandra

Years ago, I remember seeing a Twilight Zone story about a man and a wife who wanted to swap their bodies for younger ones.  This story stuck in my head and helped influence the following story.  I hope you will enjoy it. 

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There it was.  The UPS Truck and the knock on the door.  I had waited over six months but it had finally arrived.  Like the saying goes “Good things take time.”  I signed for the package or packages.  She had been delivered in three boxes.  The company had assured me she would be quick and easy to assemble.  I called in to my business to tell them that I needed to take the day off.  This was much more important than work.

But I suppose I must back up a bit to tell you the whole story.  My name is Rob and about 12 months ago, my wife Leandra packed her bags and left a note on the kitchen table.  It read “Gone with Pete, don’t love you anymore.  Bye.”  Pete was my best friend.  I never suspected that Leandra was having an affair with Pete, much less that she was the slightest bit unhappy in our relationship.

I was stunned.  We had been married for 10 years and she had never once complained about our relationship.  I thought we had the perfect marriage.  We had dinner together at least twice a week.  We watched the football game every Monday night together.  We attended church every Sunday together.  We had sex on the average of once per week.  She always said it was great sex.  I thought we were happy together.

woman robotI am not a very sentimental person nor am I one to cling to the past.  I decided I would move on with my life.  I threw myself into my job and time went by.  I had almost forgotten about Leandra when I saw the ad.  It was from the Resurrection Android Company.  It was the same company that I had purchased my android valet Sam from.  Actually, Sam was much more than just a valet.  Sam was a third-generation android with some independent powers of decision making.  He could decide what to cook each day and he also decided what I should wear for work.  He did cleaning, mending and many light repairs around the house.  I had bought Sam shortly after Leandra and I were married.  Leandra had mentioned that it would be nice to have some help with housekeeping and all.  That way she would have more time to spend with me.

robot-butlerAndroids of course are not human and they have no empathy or ability to show any emotions.  Sam was logical and could be persuasive but he could not show love or compassion.   In the ten years since I had purchased Sam, android technology had advanced considerably.  Looking at the ad from the company, it appeared that they were now on a 15th generation android that had affective as well as cognitive abilities.  The ad claimed that the new android could help replace a loved one both emotionally and physically.  By integrating DNA characteristics using a technique called “Assisted human reproduction”, they could capture the exact characteristics of a loved one.  All they would need would be some trace or remnant of the deceased or former loved one’s DNA.

Westworld-style-sexbots-could-soon-be-a-reality-after-AI-app-developed-to-give-love-dolls-personalThat was when the idea occurred to me.  I called the customer service line and asked to speak to a representative.  I asked her whether it would be possible for me to create a new wife in the exact image of my former wife Leandra.  They assured me it was.  It would take about six months for the bio-engineering to integrate the mechanical aspects of the droid with the alleles and DNA strands that they could map from a sample of Leandra’s DNA.  When the process was completed, I would have an exact physical, mental and emotional copy of Leandra.  Even better, she could continue to be programmed and become an even better Leandra.  The old Leandra was somewhat boring in bed.  The new Leandra could become a wild and wanton partner if that is what I desired.

female android with linesIt did not take long to assemble the new Leandra.  I put the lower torso, upper torso and head together in less time than it takes to make a milk shake.  She was perfect.  She looked just like my old Leandra.  When I turned her on, she greeted me and asked, “What will my name be.”  I replied “You are Leandra. You are the perfect wife.  You will love and obey me always.”

The next year was the best year of my life.  Leandra was perfect.  She never argued.  She never complained.  She never talked back.  She agreed with everything I said.  She spoke only when spoken to.  She had a beautiful body and after a while she became a real wild woman in bed.  What more could a man want.  Once again bliss had entered my life.  And then it happened.

female robot with head and robot bodyI came home one day from work and Leandra did not greet me at the door.  I thought maybe her battery had discharged or that Sam had forgotten to recharge her.  I had left strict instructions for Sam to recharge Leandra every day.  But, where was Sam?  I did not hear him fixing dinner in the kitchen.  I went into the kitchen but Sam was not there.  Suddenly, I noticed a note on the table.  I picked it up.  It was from Leandra.  She had written: “Gone with Sam, don’t love you anymore.  Bye.”

I could not understand this.  I was angry.  I was angriest at the Resurrection Android Company.  They had sold me this traitor with a guarantee that she would be perfect.  She was going to replace my old Leandra.  Well, I would call the company and get my money back.  I called and was transferred to the complaint department.  They said “Why of course, you will get your money back.  However, this will first need to go to our adjudication department to check the terms of the agreement.  If they decide that we have violated the agreement, we will immediately send you a check for reimbursement. This is usually just a formality.”

One week later, an envelope from the Resurrection Android Company arrived in the mail.  I opened it expecting to find a check.  Instead, there was a letter.  It read:

Dear Mr. Rob,  

After carefully reviewing the terms of your agreement with the Android Company and the DNA sample that you sent us, we have found no violation of our guarantee with you.  You specified that the new Leandra should be just like the old Leandra physically, mentally and emotionally.  Her recent departure with your valet Sam is evidence that the new Leandra was just like the old Leandra. 

We are very sorry for your loss. 

Respectfully,

The Resurrection Android Company

Female-robot

 Time for Questions:

Will robots ever replace people?  Do you think someday we will have robot spouses?  Are we going too far with robotics?  Do you think robots help or hurt the world?  What if robots could do all the work in the world that needed to be done?

Life is just beginning.

“California-based Abyss Creations is building a range of silicone sex dolls that not only look like real women but move and speak like them too.  In the hope of making the most realistic sex doll yet, designers have created a bot that they claim can fall in love with its user.

An app called Harmony 2.0 allows the user to tailor their Real Doll’s “personality” by selecting from 18 traits – including happy, shy, sensual, funny, jealous, moody and talkative.  Turn up the intellectual setting and it may even recite poetry or engage in witty banter.  A new video has been released that shows the doll speaking, in which she describes sex as ‘one of the most fascinating things in the world.”

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-4376310/Sex-doll-TALK-Robot-different-personalities.html#ixzz4iGLA2ocH

 

Republicanville USA — 2056 CE

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I live in Republicanville USA.  It is a small town of about 1,500 people in the rural Midwest.  Today in my town, all the women are barefoot and pregnant and all the men are stupid and misinformed.  It wasn’t always this way.  Things started to change about 75 years ago, when Ronald Reagan became President.  My town had always been very progressive and liberal but we started hearing more and more about how we were being taken advantage of by the poor, those on government handouts and those too lazy to work.  The Republicans who in our town had always been a minority began to grow in numbers.  The more we heard about welfare cheats and welfare freeloaders and those on drugs taking advantage of us, the more my town embraced a new concept of democracy.  It was more like “every man or woman for themselves” rather than “all for one and one for all.”

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Our U.S. democracy which had always prided itself on a separation of church and state seemed to forget the reason for this partition.  Increasingly, a group called Evangelical Fundamentalists became more popular along with their criticism of many progressive institutions.  Republicanville USA moved more and more to the right.  The concept of unbridled capitalism became enshrined as a religion and many people began opposing “big” government and taxes.  The Republican Party preached that the marketplace could provide for all social, physical and economic needs of U.S. citizens.  My town moved even further to the right.

trump-state-of-the-unionThis conservative trend was already well underway when in 2017, a billionaire real-estate developer named Donald Trump became the 45th President of the United States of America.  In addition to the hard core conservative beliefs of many mainstream Republicans, Trump added the once discredited idea of American Isolationism.  We would now put America first, no matter what.  No more negotiations with other nations unless it was clear that we got the better of the deal.  We would build a big wall to keep Mexicans and other immigrants out and we would renege on our trade deals with China and Europe.  About the only country that Trump liked was Russia.   Eventually, he agreed to give Alaska and parts of Canada back to Russia.

Trump came through on his promises to the Evangelicals that he would make America White again and put women back in the bedroom where it would be okay to grab their pussies whenever you wanted to.  Minorities were targeted for deportation and women libbers promoting abortion or equal rights for women were arrested in wholesale sweeps and sent to special detention centers for chronic complainers and protesters.

I would like to describe in somewhat more detail what my town is like now in 2056.  Things are a lot different than when I was born in 2017.  I will divide my discussion of these changes into three areas:  Family, Education and Social Issues.

Family:

another-day-in-paradiseI am 39 years old and have two children.  I have never worked (at least outside of the home) as women have not been allowed to work since 2022 when they passed the “Women in the Home Law” as it was popularly called.  The Federal government passed the law and it was ratified by every state and municipality in the nation.  Some places tried to hold out but the government cut off all funding to them until they capitulated.  This law effectively outlawed women working.  It also barred women from the military.  Ten years later (2032) they passed the “Mandatory Birth Act.”  This bill proscribes that every woman (physically able to) must give birth to at least two children.  Any woman who reaches the age of 32 and still has not given birth to two children is forcibly removed to a National Birthing Center where she will be artificially impregnated and kept confined until she has had at least two healthy children.  Sickly or unhealthy children are sent to Disposal Camps where they are “recycled” per official government propaganda.  No one is quite sure what happens during recycling but the children are never seen again.

Many gay women resisted the Mandatory Birth Act and the National Suicide Rate went up dramatically.  The “Fathers” (as our political leaders are now called) made it very clear that the country would be better off without such deviates.  Since women were no longer allowed in politics, the leaders of the nation decreed that they would all be called “Fathers” instead of being referred to as politicians or legislators as they once were called.

My husband works at a local mill where they make t-shirts for Japan, China, Brazil and some of the more developed t-shirt-workersnations.  Since banning imports of such items, we have created millions of jobs making goods that were once made in low wage countries.  The demand for such goods has skyrocketed but now we are providing them.  Unfortunately, the wages and education needed for such work is still low.  My husband did not finish high school but most men in our town do not.  The Fathers have repeatedly stated that real men don’t need higher education.  (I will talk more about education later.)

When my husband is not working, he spends most of his time watching football, baseball, basketball, golf or hockey.  I ammen-watching-game not allowed in the living room when his sports are on except to bring in some beer or chips.  This does not really bother me much as I have plenty to do with the kids, housecleaning, cooking and all.  I have my own TV in my sewing room where I can watch any of the approved programs for women.  We have 30 different “Women Only” channels where I can learn more about cooking and cleaning and how to be a good wife. There are some good romances and family drama stories that are occasionally on.  I look forward to watching these when the kids are in bed.

Our two children, Mary and John are 12 and 15 respectively.  Mary is in a finishing school for girls where they are preparing her for being a mom and wife.  She takes subjects such as homemaking, cooking, cleaning and parenting.  She has one more year to go before finishing school.

When Mary turns 14, she will be eligible for marriage.  Her name will be put in a marriage registry.  If she is lucky enough and pretty enough, some up and coming town Father will select her for a wife.  Men who qualify due to income levels are allowed to have up to five wives.

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My son John is not in school any longer and he works part-time.  The Fathers decried that girls did not need schooling after the age of 13.  John hopes to get a job in the t-shirt plant where his dad works when he turns 16.  He quit school because we could not afford a private school for him.  Only the rich kids in town go on to education beyond the 10th grade.  Private schools are very expensive and the Fathers do not believe in funding education any more.  It has been emphasized that education is an elitist program that creates class divisions and makes some people feel more entitled than other people.   Most young men in our town will work in one of the mills or plants.

Education:

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I have already talked about some aspects of our education system today.  Basically, most people do not believe in higher education anymore.  It is only for the rich.  All funds for public education were cut in 2035 when they passed the “Private Education Act”.  Most folks now send their kids to private schools through the 8th grade and then find work for their children after that.  Girls will be shortly married so school is not thought to be that important for them anyway.  They can learn whatever they need to be a good wife on the “At Home Wives Channels.”

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Boys from families with lower incomes can opt to go to privately funded vocational schools to learn such trades as t-shirt making, sneaker making, jewelry making, gun repair, taxidermy, and many other skills that might be in demand.  There is still some funding for such programs that is available for lower income families.  All public colleges have been closed now.  As I noted earlier, such schools were decried to be elitist and the Fathers were unanimous in un-funding them.

Boys from wealthier families go to the more prestigious private schools where they will learn such skills as: Leadership, Accounting, Business Development, Entrepreneurship and Medicine.  Law was abolished as a field of study in 2030 with the passage of the “No More Lawyers Act.”  This act basically made lawsuits illegal thus dramatically decreasing the need for lawyers in the U.S.

Courtrooms abolished “adversarial” trial procedures with the “No More Lawyers Act” and replaced the old-fashioned method of two people arguing trials with modern Computerized Forensic Tomography.  Using CFT, a cross section of the case and evidence pro and con is presented to the jurors.  All the available facts and data are reviewed and jurors vote on the verdict.  Trials are much more efficient and there is no need for lawyers.

Anti EducationLibraries are now mostly museums.  With the passage of the “Books Only Lie Bill” in 2038, all funds to public libraries were cut.  The Fathers decried that books did nothing but cause trouble and stir up discontent.  Anything citizens really needed to know could be found on the “Citizens Channels” offered by the government Department of Public Wisdom.  There are over 100 of these channels which are available on public TV.  They are on 24/7 and offer many programs for good citizenship.  Some of the programs are:

  • Disciplining your children
  • How to take proper care of your guns
  • Disciplining your wife
  • Obeying your supervisor
  • Getting along with co-workers
  • Obeying authority
  • Keeping a clean house

Social Issues:

Social issues or problems (as some people thought of them) have been mostly eliminated in our town.  Our Fathers banned minorities in 2040 with the “America for Whites Act.”  Under this act, no immigrants or people of color can live in the same community as White people.  In 2041, they passed the “Christian Only Act” making Christianity the official Religion of the USA.  All other religions were banned along with atheism and agnosticism.  The “Mandatory Religion Act” in 2042 made it a felony crime not to attend a Christian church every Sunday.

In our town, there is only one church now.  It the Fundamental Evangelical Christian Church for Christ.  We have two pastors who are both well versed in Old Testament theology.  They are fond of saying that “Heaven is for the obedient, the disobedient will all go to hell.”  We are taught that Jesus will come again before the end of the century to judge the living and the dead.  The good folks will go to heaven and the bad will burn forever in the flames of hell.

We still have crime in our community but not very much.  It is severely punished with public floggings, beatings and hangings.  Criminals are banished to work rehabilitation camps for hard labor.  Drugs are still a major problem but the new “One Strike Act” passed in 2050 decried that anyone caught with an illegal substance would face a mandatory life sentence at a penal colony somewhere in the South China Sea.

immigration-reform

Gay men still can be found but homosexuality can be punished under the “2045 Purity of Purpose Bill” with mandatory castration.  Boys are encouraged to be manly and any evidence of femininity in our boys is severely dealt with.  Our town brought back “town stocks” a few years ago, to punish any boys or men caught in homosexual activities.  These punishments plus the threat of castration have decreased the rate of homosexuality considerably in our community.

Well, I could tell you a great deal more about life in our town in 2056, but I have cleaning and cooking to do.  Furthermore, if anyone knew I was writing this I would be in big trouble.  Under the “Against Propaganda Law” passed in 2041, no one may criticize the government, any Fathers or any laws without official authorization from the local town council.  I could be publicly flogged or worse for saying these things.  Thus, for now I will just hide this away.  I don’t mean to be either a coward or a complainer.  Our Fathers say this is the Golden Age of America and that we are living in the greatest Christian country in the world.  Who am I to argue?

Time for Questions:

Are you living the good life?  Do you live the life you dreamed of?  Do you think you have a right to your dreams?  Do you think other people also have a right to their dreams?  How much authority do you think a government should have over your dreams?  What kind of dreams do you have for your children?  What do you call progress?

Life is just beginning.

“No one believes more firmly than Comrade Napoleon that all animals are equal.  He would be only too happy to let you make your decisions for yourselves.  But sometimes you might make the wrong decisions, comrades, and then where should we be?”  ― George OrwellAnimal Farm

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