Web Inspirations

Web Inspirations for Anyone, Anytime, Anywhere

Dec 24, 2013

Time to Wake Up?

A Buddhist monk strode into a Zen pizza parlor and said, "Make me one with everything." The proprietor appreciated the Zen humor and, when the monk paid with $20 bill, the guy pocketed it.  

"Hey," asked the monk, "where's my change?" 

"Change," replied the owner inscrutably, "must come from within."

And it's true: we can wait for things to change or we can change ourselves. One way rarely works while the other rarely fails.

I have a friend who used to teach literature to high school students. He once told me how maligned the name of Ebenezer Scrooge has become. “Dickens never meant for Scrooge to be a villain,” he once said, speaking of Charles Dickens' classic “Christmas Carol.” Yes, Scrooge was a miser and disliked by pretty much everybody. But my friend reminds me that the story doesn't end there. It doesn't end with Scrooge dying a miserable and lonely death. The point of the story is that Scrooge WAKES UP. After the restless night of ghost visitations, he wakes up and decides that things truly can be different. He can choose to be compassionate, generous and happy. He understands that he can behave toward others in a different way. He can look at things differently. His miserable past does not need to determine his future. His life story illustrates the words of George Elliot: “It is never too late to be what you might have been.” 

“To this day,” my friend says, “the name of Scrooge is synonymous with somebody stingy and selfish when it should be just the opposite. Scrooge woke up and made different decisions. He lived the rest of his life a model of generosity and joy and goodwill toward all. Nobody ever “kept Christmas,” Dickens tells us, like Ebenezer Scrooge.

I regularly remind myself that it is not too late to be what I might have been. And I'm learning that anything can happen...when I wake up and make different decisions.

-- Steve Goodier

Do you know what my favorite key is on my computer? It's the DELETE key. All kinds of problems go away when I press DELETE. I use it all the time. Junk e-mail? DELETE. Misspellings? DELETE. Unwieldy sentences and confusing paragraphs? DELETE. DELETE. I sometimes wish my life had a DELETE key. One click on the key and I wipe out a mistake. Maybe another click and I could start the day all over again.

And being one who blunders in grand fashion, I have empathy for others who wish they could go back and start over. Like the couple that phoned a neighbor to extend birthday greetings. As the phone was answered they belted out the song "Happy Birthday."  But when they finished their off-key rendition, they were informed that they had dialed the wrong number. After listening to their embarrassed apologies, the recipient said, "Don't let it bother you. You folks need all the practice you can get."

According to Tara Kelly Walworth (Reader's Digest), she and her new husband had an afternoon they may have wanted to take back. They arrived exhausted at their honeymoon destination in Daytona Beach, Florida (USA) and decided to refresh themselves in the motel pool. She figured she'd lost a few pounds leading up to the wedding when she discovered her skimpy, new bikini fit too loosely. Every time she dived into the pool she seemed to lose either the top or bottom. But since they had the pool to themselves, they just laughed and retrieved the pieces. 

They later dressed for dinner and decided to eat in the motel restaurant. Waiting for a table in the lounge, they noticed a huge, empty, glistening fish tank above the bar. "Why is such a beautiful fish tank empty?" her husband asked the bartender. 

The man grinned broadly and said, "That's not a fish tank. It's the swimming pool."

I think it was New York City Mayor Fiorello Laguardia who once said, “I rarely make a mistake. But when I do, it's a beaut!” 
Have you ever wanted to take back an embarrassing moment? Or more importantly, how often have you regretted a hasty decision that ended with disastrous consequences?  Or an unfair and angry outburst that caused unnecessary hurt? Some of my worst mistakes were not the embarrassing moments (later on they make the best stories), but pain I caused other people and poor decisions that did damage I could never repair.  

The problem is, some mistakes really can't be corrected. Some hurts just can't be undone. As they say, it's like trying to put toothpaste back in the tube. Sometimes the best we can do is to make amends. And no DELETE key can erase the past so we can do it over – do it better.

The past is what it is – past. And that, too, is good to remember. It is past. Over. Finished. There is no taking it back, yet no purpose is served in reliving and rehashing old memories. It is gone. My best self says to me, “Let it be a teacher.” So I try to learn from its harsh lessons as well as its joys. Then (and this is important), my best self adds, “Now just leave it. Leave it where it belongs – in the past.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson put it this way: “Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day.”

Yes, tomorrow is a new day. Full of hope and promise and new beginnings. And that is something I might forget if life had a DELETE key.

-- Steve Goodier

Dec 1, 2013

Examining Your Life

Two brothers fulfilled their mother's last wish by hiring a small plane to carry them out to sea where they might scatter her ashes. One of the two pilots opened the cockpit door and the brothers immediately emptied the contents of the urn into the wind. But a stiff breeze blew the ashes back into the cabin, dusting the four startled occupants. A moment’s stunned silence, and then one of the young men sighed, “Just like Mom – she was always all over everyone.” 

Maybe she was a critical person. But children, especially, often feel as if parents are “always all over them” when all those parents usually want is for their children to be the best they can be.

Humorist Franklin Jones said, “Honest criticism is hard to take, particularly from a relative, a friend, an acquaintance or a stranger.” And Norman Vincent Peale adds this: “Most of us would rather be ruined by praise than saved by criticism.” Few of us enjoy the experience when others point out areas for improvement. After all, who wants to hear what they don't want to hear? 

Criticism IS hard to take and I'll opt for praise over criticism every time. I hold that encouragement is often more effective than criticism. I will work harder and with more enthusiasm when I am encouraged, and I know I can get the best out of others if I spend more time pointing out what they did right than what they did wrong. 

But that said – honest and objective feedback is a necessity. To shy away from fair criticism, spoken by someone trusted, may be a great mistake. Those who are wise will occasionally seek out somebody they trust to hold a mirror before them in order to see themselves more accurately. To know the truth and to see ourselves clearly, as reflected in the eyes of a friend, is an immeasurable gift.

And here's the surprising truth: As you gaze at yourself in the mirror held by another, you will see far more than your flaws. You also will see the beauty that is uniquely you; beauty that others see clearly and you may hardly know exists. That is also part of the truth about you. 

If you're courageous enough, allow a trusted friend to hold that mirror before you. Plato says, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” But a life properly examined makes living worthwhile.

-- Steve Goodier

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