Archive for the ‘Attitude’ Category

The Anger Test

September 15, 2022

I’ve missed a couple of days here. The 2022 edition of the International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS, formerly the International Machine Tool show) is running this week in downtown Chicago at McCormick Place. I have moved to the greater Chicago area commuting from home rather than from a hotel far enough away to escape $500/night rates in downtown.

I last wrote about anger. I decided to leave home at 6:00 am to avoid the heaviest of rush hour traffic. The plan didn’t work. There was an accident ahead. Google Maps kept routing me off I-90 onto surface streets to go around tight spots on the freeway. Still, the trip took 40 minutes or more longer. I arrived at the parking lot later than my plan allowed. I lost writing time at the McDonalds on the lower level of the North Hall. Breakfast with Ronald was possible and catching up on soccer referee news. But not everything I had planned.

There was a time the traffic slowdown would have frustrated me. Coming from rural west Ohio where a slowdown on I-75 meant going at the speed limit, 5 mph was slow. And then the loss of writing time. All the plans gone.

I’ve learned over the 20 years of driving through Chicago. The two podcasts I listened to were entertaining and informative. I adjusted to doing what I could and not worrying. After all, the experience of meeting old friends and making new ones was ahead of me. And learning what was new in the industry.

Frustration leads to anger leads to disrupted relationships and opportunities.

Chilling out reframes the situation leading to learning and building relationships.

It was a great two days. Now it’s nice to be in my office chair looking out at the grass and trees behind the house and thinking. Oh, yes, and typing on my new MacBook Air M2 in midnight.

On Anger

September 12, 2022

Marcus Aurelius, “How much more harmful are the consequences of anger…than the circumstances that aroused them in us.”

Anger erupted from within me usually when I felt threatened. The source was fear of loss of something–job, status, relationship.

Vitaliy Katsenelsen says in his book Soul in the Game, “The venom generated by anger, when allowed to spill into others, is always followed by regret.”

And yes, even to this day I have deep regret for some outbursts from anger.

John Climacus the abbot of St. Catherine’s at the foot of Mt. Sinai writing in the early 600s said that “anger is an indication of concealed hatred, of grievance nursed. Anger is the wish to harm someone who has provoked you.”

John counsels, “The fist step toward freedom from anger is to keep the lips silent when the heart is stirred; the next, to keep thoughts silent when the soul is upset; the last, to be totally calm when unclean winds are blowing.”

It’s that moment between thought and action when you have an opportunity to take a breath, perhaps count 3, 7, 10, 100. That pause is the freedom–the freedom to choose our best response. It is in breath that silence and calm have the opportunity to prevail.

I have learned this the hard way.

Lonely People

September 8, 2022

All the lonely people
Where do they all come from?
All the lonely people
Where do they all belong?

Elenor Rigby, Lennon/McCartney

Not being lonely constitutes one path to longevity.

Have you friends? A friend? Someone?

I think of Jesus and how he was at times alone among friends. Have you ever been in a room full of people and still feel alone? Have you called that room a church sometimes?

Maybe a family? I have memories of being a child at home and being alone even with three brothers. My mom probably wished for alone time.

Being alone does not equal being lonely. I like times to be alone. I like times to be with others. I am both extrovert and introvert—like most of us.

But lonely? When that visits, we hope it intends a short stay hotel not an extended stay residence.

I wish I could advise you on being unlonely. If I knew, I’d practice it. Go to a coffee house, see someone and ask a question, I guess. Questions are your friend.

Personality

September 2, 2022

It’s 3 in the afternoon (15:00). I finished my workout and breakfast and sat down to write at 9. But since it is soccer season and I never know what emergency I may face, I scanned email. Oh, joy! There was a long email sent to the state sports administration. That created all manner of interpersonal conflicts that required a quick response. Then a second one. This soccer season (in its second week) is shaping up as one of conflicts.

The problem? It really boils down to a simple initial personality conflict that expanded to a full-page memo to the state. It needn’t have gotten that far.

How often we offer a quip in a moment that we think is cute or funny. And, how often that quip is received in a manner different from what was intended. And feelings are hurt. And things grow. And now people are not speaking to each other. And now they talk about the other person to third parties. And it grows and grows like mold on your onions in the pantry.

It could have been stopped. I can still see Don Knotts as Deputy Barney Fife in the old Andy Griffith show on one episode where he said, “Nip it in the bud, Andy. That’s it. You gotta nip it in the bud. Nip it in the bud.”

Yes. A lesson for us all. Nip it in the bud. Don’t let it sit and mold and spread disease everywhere. Fix it now.

Enough

August 31, 2022

Enough is a feast–ancient proverb.

We go to a buffet dinner. We could take a smaller plate and add just enough tasty food to satisfy. Or we could take a large plate, pack it full of food piled high, eat most of it, and with stomachs distended and bloated feel lethargic and ill.

In America, we have so much stuff that we have no place in the house for the new stuff we just had delivered from Amazon. A thriving business of storage garages serves the need to keep stuff that we may never see again.

We can’t get enough. We must have a larger house. Another car. More money.

Yet, we are unfulfilled.

Charitable Attitude

August 29, 2022

I told my wife this morning, “I’m going to the grocery to pick up a prescription this morning. Do you need anything?”

She replied, “You could pick up some of that wine I like–but only if it’s on sale.”

This is a cheap Riesling. It costs around $9 a bottle, $8 something with my discount card. If it’s on sale, it might save another $0.50. This from a woman who just spent $300 for a framed picture for our living room. (We moved during the pandemic, so she’s still in decorating mode.)

While I’m thinking about this typing on my $1,500 Apple laptop at a park, my thoughts coalesced around an incident during a trip we took with a church group that wound up in Egypt.

It seems that there is no toilet paper in the latrines at one of our stops. Women from the area sell toilet paper in order to make a little money to feed their children. The women in our group were aghast! What?? We get toilet paper for free back in America. Why should we pay? And they rapidly organized themselves into who had tissues in their handbags that could share around.

I thought at the time (and still remember with regret that I kept my mouth shut), what a poor example of Christian charity. These women were not “ripping us off.” It was partly custom and partly a way they’d worked out that could provide an income for poor people. It is similar to dropping a coin into the saucer in a German restroom as a tip for the cleaning lady.

It’s like a minimal charity. Although middle class people in America seldom feel rich, we are. There’s a frugal mindset and a cheap mindset (borders on greed?)–and there is also a charitable mindset. Charitable with money and with time and with encouragement.

What mindset do you (and I) cultivate? Does it need continual tuning?

That Complex Relationship With Emotions

August 26, 2022

Once when somewhat stressed and flooded with email requests of my time and energy, I responded to one with some extra comments. I don’t remember the exact topic or words or the exact response from the woman who sent the original–someone I’d known for several years–but her response pricked at a sore point. She said something like, “I know how you are…”

That stung. And 15 years later, I still feel it.

And, god bless electronic media. It’s so easy to delete 2/3rds of your response to an email or entire Twitter or Facebook posts!

I am emotional. I try to keep the emotions in check. I hate emotional movies–I tear up.

This thought from Pema Chodron came my way:

“If you open to all your emotions,

to all the people, to all situations,

staying present and trusting,

that trust will take you as far as you can go,

and you will understand all the teachings

anyone has ever taught.”

– Pema Chodron 

If you pause to consider this little poem, you’ll find complexity and compassion.

Try “open to” as a key word. And then “trust”.

So much of Jesus’s “blessed’s” that I’ve been pondering lately contain these. Open to God, open to yourself, open to others. Trust God.

I need this. How about you?

Blessed When People Don’t Like You, or Worse

August 24, 2022

We are reaching the end of the Beatitudes. Sort of an outline for Jesus and his teaching. This one is a bit different. We must be careful how we approach this one, which is longer.

You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s Kingdom. Not only that—count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens—give a cheer, even!—for though they don’t like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble.

Some people, at least in America I’m not sure about other places, seem to go out of their way to achieve this one. Or perhaps look for instances of this. But their view of persecution stops short of anything personally threatening. It’s more along the lines of “the popular people in town don’t like me.” Some actually use this as a source of pride.

I think of people who emulate the preacher in the stage play and movie Paint Your Wagon who thought it was his role to condemn people and took a perverse pride in not being liked.

I don’t think that Jesus told us to try to be disliked. That is merely being obnoxious. But in Jesus’s day, choosing him (God) was rejecting both the Roman power structure and the Jewish power structure. Either one of which could cause death in the extreme cases.

Continuing to live on the path of following Jesus–living in the moment with-God–will threaten some people who may attack you physically, emotionally, financially. You are blessed because you are still with God. It’s not a disgrace. It’s not a source of pride. It’s a blessing to live with-God no matter what.

Blessed Are The Peacemakers

August 23, 2022

The seventh Beatitude in The Message translation:

You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.

And, God, can we use more of these today!

This blog has an international readership. I studied international politics at university writing a major paper on US-China relations (in 1968). I’ve imported and exported and dealt internationally for most of my career. I don’t think there exists a single place where I know people or read about in the entire Earth that cannot use someone who can show people how to cooperate.

I am working on a blog post/essay analyzing several announcements by technical trade organizations that have competed vehemently over the past 15 years or more. These announcements have at least one common theme–cooperation. They still compete. But, for the good of the customer, they are cooperating on standards and compliance. The organizations represent companies from Germany, US, France, Finland, Norway, Switzerland, Italy, Japan, even China. And more.

Cooperation makes life better for us all.

That’s why I turn off all inputs to my mind that emphasize divisiveness. TV news. Social media. Most print/web news. I pick my sources carefully with the goal of knowing what’s going on in the world with as little hype as possible.

And I tune out all the people who seek to make faith in God political. The guy I follow, Jesus, shunned politics. His kingdom was God’s kingdom. It was about living with God. He tried to show both the Roman governors and the Jewish leaders a new way.

Every day in every way we can point to cooperation and reconciliation rather than strife and conflict. We could make this a movement.

Content Within Our Own Skin

August 17, 2022

Walking through the Beatitudes in The Message translation. Here is the third one, which is akin to the first two.

You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.

The theme of the first two of these theme points of Jesus’s talk concerned emptying yourself so that there is room for God to enter.

This one talks of emptying yourself of all the delusions you have about yourself. Maybe you think that within you are the seeds of being a gazillionaire technology entrepreneur. Maybe, on the other hand, you think that you are worthless–someone who can’t do anything.

Neither is true.

I was lying on the ground staring up at a circle of faces. Below one face was the body of a boy my age wearing boxing gloves. We were maybe 12. I also had on boxing gloves. I don’t think he hit me that hard, but I was down. At that moment I saw the entire scene as if I were above it. I saw the stupidity and futility of living with anger and fighting. More than likely that was the moment I became a pacifist and sought peace in life. Perhaps I was on the way to being content with who I was.

Jesus said that when we empty out the illusions, when we, as Scottish poet Robert Burns said to “see ourselves as ithers see us,” then, at that moment, we own that which cannot be bought–God.