Faulty Reasoning

July 19, 2021

My wife came home the other day and said that a neighbor told her that “people were complaining [about some picky community thing] on the community Facebook page.”

Philosophers millennia ago observed two types of logical reasoning.

There is deductive logic where we begin with a statement regarded as true and deduce other things as true. The problem I’ve observed with this method is the beginning proposition. But, that’s another essay.

Then we have inductive logic. We observe certain phenomena in one and then another and another until we say that a proposition is true in general. Say we observe that an older person often complains. And another older person complains frequently. And another. Pretty soon we think it must be true in general that old people complain often. About almost everything.

Inductive reasoning requires many observations before validly extrapolating from the specific to the general.

We humans often ignore that starting point. How often do we take one data point and say “everybody does that”?

Back to our neighbor. I check that Facebook page 3 or 4 times a week. I couldn’t recall much of a discussion about anything. So I investigated. There was one comment by one person with no replies about that picky little community thing.

How easily we jump to conclusions! Which begs the question, how often just in the past week have we each jumped to a wrong conclusion using a too small data set? How often should we pause before we say that all [whatever] are this way? Often!


July 16, 2021

My current intellectual stretch book is Antifragile by Nicholas Nassim Taleb. I’ve read several others in his series including Black Swan. An aside: I’m reading Evagrius Ponticus for my spiritual development book and for relaxation I’m reading again (first time in the 90s) the Travis McGee series by John D. MacDonald. All excellent writers.

You know what fragile is. The banking system in 2007-2008. The good wine glasses or plates and cups in your cupboard. Your iPhone when you drop it (if you go case-less).

Fragile breaks when stressed. Antifragile gets stronger when stressed. Your muscles when you work out. You are actually tearing the muscle fibers and when they heal they are stronger. That’s why you don’t work the same muscle group every day, by the way.

My granddaughter is a swimmer. She was always at the top of her group earlier this year. The coaches moved her up a group. The stress of the competition makes her improve her times even though she isn’t at the top—right now.

I thought about this in terms of spiritual development. You can cruise along with the same prayer, books, service. Or you can challenge yourself with deeper learning, more intense service. Break the mold a little in order to be stronger as it “heals”.

What of the people we know with hard, brittle faith. When troubles, stresses, come along or when challenged by new ideas, the faith breaks. It’s fragile.

Or the people who grow stronger every time they step out in faith to experience something new, perform a greater service, learn something deeper from scripture. When stresses come along, they can deal with them. They are antifragile.

Where are you? And where would you like to be?

There Is A Time

July 15, 2021

Perhaps written 3,000 years ago, and perhaps reflecting wisdom learned much before, the writer of Ecclesiastes advised there is a time to every season under heaven.

Evagrius Ponticus wrote in the 4th Century the Praktikos, or 100 practices for the acetic life. I recently referenced some thoughts on the evil passions. He followed those descriptions with this thought;

Reading, vigils, and prayer—these are the things that lend stability to the wandering mind…But all these practices are to be engaged in according to due measure and at appropriate times.

Evagrius Ponticus, Praktikos

These are among our Spiritual Disciplines or Practices. They have been known to be helpful for those seeking spiritual life.

But a warning. We can as well spend too much time in these as too little. And at the wrong times.

We need, perhaps, to rise from our study table and prayer chair in order to serve. In another teaching, Evagrius advises maintaining good health and physical fitness. Too much sitting reduces muscle tone and leads to illnesses.

We must practice our disciplines with balance aware of the health of body and mind, as well as, soul.

Staying in Character

July 14, 2021

I love a series of murder mysteries set in 8th Century China featuring a legendary magistrate and statesman called Judge Dee because he was famous for solving crimes. The series was written by Dutch diplomat and ambassador to China before World War II Robert Van Gulik.

I read a comment in a review about what Van Gulik believed based upon his character. I immediately thought that I have no idea what he believed about certain things. He picked up an historical character and wrote fiction using traditional Chinese stories he’d heard. When he developed the character, that character needed to be consistent with a Chinese magistrate of the time. If Judge Dee suddenly became a feminist or didn’t believe in the superiority of the Chinese culture of the time, then he would have been out of character. But I have no idea about Van Gulik.

We must take care imputing character on people or even understanding the character we have built up ourselves. Think of how jarring it is when someone appears to have a certain character and suddenly we learn of behavior totally outside that.

I first heard of pastors years ago who had a carefully burnished character presented to the outside world only to have their real character revealed destroying lives and organizations.

When what we are on the inside is congruent with what we project in public, that is staying in character. Authentically. Truthfully. And we can be trusted. We develop this over a lifetime. We are aware of our inner struggles and work them through in order to be true to the character we’ve established for ourselves.

We are responsible for ourselves. Take care to stay in character.

Just A Little Effort

July 13, 2021

I walked around our community’s little golf course this morning (without clubs and balls). It’s nice in the cool of the early morning. The path took me above a green. Looking down I saw a sand trap that had already caught an errant ball. I could tell because the foot prints and divot from the striking of the ball were clearly visible.

Not 20 feet away lay a rake. Just 7-10 steps over and back and the golfer could have been kind to those behind by smoothing the disturbance.

I thought about what a metaphor that was.

How often could just a little effort now make things so much better. It takes but a moment to hang up clothes. Or to rinse a dish.

Or, to pick up our inspirational or teaching book of the week and read, sit quietly and breathe intentionally in contemplation, or watch the birds and little furry animals eating and playing.

It takes only a few steps to begin our day such that the rest of the day goes better. That makes it better for those we come into contact with.

When I Comes Before We

July 12, 2021

The teacher on the podcast I listened to this morning on my walk around the ponds mentioned that problem—when I comes before we.

Evagrius Ponticus, a 4th Century Christian monk and teacher, early in his Praktikos writes about the eight kinds of evil thoughts. The last he addresses is pride.

The demon of pride is the cause of the most damaging fall for the soul. For it causes the monk to deny that God is his helper and to consider that he himself is the cause of virtuous actions. Further, he gets a big head in regard to the brethren, considering them stupid because they do not all have this same opinion of him.

Evagrius Ponticus, Praktikos

I have seen this affect others in a negative way destroying relationships and respect. But that is hardly the key. Most important it is our ability to see this within ourselves and to “nip it in the bud” as the saying goes.

Anger follows this, according to Evagrius. If we pay too much attention to media, we may think of anger as the description of our culture. Anger from pride or anger from fear.

As we nestle with God in prayer and contemplation, seek release from pride and then from anger. Ourselves and everyone around us will be the better for it.

Run Away From Aggrandizement

July 9, 2021

We live in an age of selfies, personal branding, being outrageous just to be noticed—especially on social media.

In the US, we have “leaders” in politics such as Congresspeople who have actually changed their personal political philosophy in order to be more grandiose and outrageous in order to be noticed, be seen, be branded. If it is good for the Kardashians, then it must be good for me.

This might be a good time to pause and consider how we (I) use social media. What is my motivation for the things I publish?

I turn to my go-to guy for psychology. No, not Dr. Phil. John Climacus, the Desert Father. “We will show ourselves true lovers of wisdom and of God if we stubbornly run away from all possibility of aggrandizement.”

Pause…Let that sink in. Where do I fall short in that category?

John has further thoughts well expressed:

Humility is a heavenly waterspout which can lift the soul from the abyss up to heaven’s height.

The sea is the source of the fountain, and humility is the source of discernment.

Disciplines of the Body

July 8, 2021

It was not an afterthought that the Apostle Paul referred to the body as the temple of the holy spirit. He also often used athletes as metaphors for aspects of the spiritual life. I practice, and teach, a number of physical disciplines including daily walking exercise, weight training, Yoga, nutrition, and the like.

While cruising through Twitter, I saw this infographic about drinking water. Consider this–8 Best Times to Drink Water:

  • After waking up to activate internal organs
  • After workout to bring heart rate back to normal
  • Half hour before a meal to help in digestion
  • Before taking a bath to lower blood pressure
  • Before going to bed to replenish any fluid loss
  • When you’re feeling sick to hydrate body for proper function
  • When you’re feeling tired to recharge your system
  • When you’re surrounded by infected and sick people to prevent infection from settling in the body


July 7, 2021

I’m sure we can find solace somewhere in the Psalms about my security is in the Lord. However, I think the Lord expects us to also not be a fool or asleep (as in the Proverbs) when it comes to our security.

Cybersecurity has made headlines in major media during the past couple of months. Some companies have paid many millions of dollars for the return of their data. A water treatment plant was hacked which could be a foreshadowing of malicious attacks to come.

I thought I would do a public service announcement this morning. For my other blog, I interview some of the leading cybersecurity experts in the US and Canada for my other blog. Yesterday, I had three posts on the subject.

We have all received emails from Nigerian princes and princesses with money to share. I hope we have all learned to not click on any of those links. It is very easy to copy a logo, make up a plausible email address, and construct a newsletter that looks like it was from your bank or the government or your utility. Click on the link and give them some information, and you just lost some money.

I know people who work in the cybersecurity field who, in the rush of business or upcoming holidays, have clicked a link and infected an entire company.

I don’t say yes over the phone. I don’t click links unless I have verified them by other means (you can hover over a link and see the real URL you are going to). The link I inserted above goes to The Manufacturing Connection dot com. You can check that. If there were a ton of seeming nonsense letters and numbers and a dot ru somewhere, don’t click.

Use the same principle as replying to someone, pause. Think. We get rushed, but we must learn to pause.

Catch Someone Doing Good

July 6, 2021

It was a Christmas morning several years ago. We were driving from Ohio to Florida for Christmas and made it as far as southern Georgia. So, we spent Christmas Eve in a Courtyard by Marriott. The room came with breakfast.

We show up in the dining area in the morning and things are in a somewhat chaotic state. It seems there was a death in the family of the person running the kitchen, so she (of course) was not there and it was not running as normal. They didn’t tell us that when we approached the counter to order.

The young women working the desk and the dining area were so apologetic and helpful. One says she can fry an egg, would we like that? They went out of their way to provide service. And we would have understood the unusual circumstances.

I subscribed to the blog of Bill Marriott, chairman at the time. So, I felt like we were friends, well sort of. So I wrote to him through the blog and told him of the extraordinary lengths they went through to serve a customer.

He sent them a note and also the general manager, who sent me a nice note, also.

I just finished listening to this month’s episode of the Andy Stanley Leadership Podcast. He was interviewing former Southwest Airlines VP of Human Resources Ginger Hardage about corporate culture. Reinforce a positive corporate culture by “catching” someone doing good, thanking them, and publicizing it to the company (or organization).

Being critical comes so easily to most of us. Watching for good things and then complimenting changes your outlook on life—and that of the other person.

Make that today’s discipline—look for someone doing good.