How You Will Die

It seems that there are several ways people deal with the fact that they will inevitably die within a century of their birth, more or less.  Here are some approaches:

  1. Ostrich: Pretend that you won’t die.
  2. Control freak: Try to choose timing/circumstances of death.
  3. Postponing:  Focusing your efforts on prolonging life.
  4. Doing it all: Trying to fit all possible experiences of life in.
  5. Taking chances: Assuming you will die soon, so taking large or unnecessary risks.
  6. Roulette martyrdom:  Throwing life away on the chance that your final act may somehow save you.
  7. Mourning:  Allowing knowledge of your own mortality to darken the days of your life.
  8. Enjoying life:  Taking in and enjoying everything up to the end without rushing it.
  9. Maximizing the end:  Planning on being ready to make the most of your death when it comes.

Do any of these, or some combination represent your approach?  If I missed your way completely, leave me a comment.  I’d like to try a survey here, to see which of these might correlate to different views of the afterlife or lack thereof.  Please respond, and I will post what I learn, if anything.  Choose at least one lowercase letter and one uppercase letter in the box below, and press vote.

(poll expired)

Why did it happen?

Whitney and Laura were both loved and lovely, inside and out.  Both attended the same college and both were athletic and involved.  Both came from a church-going family, and were themselves committed to following Jesus.  One day they both got in the school van together, and on their way, a tractor-trailer crossed the meridian and ploughed into the van.  One of the girls was killed and the other was not.

The question that everyone always comes to in difficult situations is “Why?”  “Why did God allow the accident to happen? Or, as the surviving girl asked, “Why me?  Because everyone else in the accident — they were just amazing people. “

As natural as the why questions are, they do not lead to a future.  Life is filled with all kinds of events, good and bad.  While reflection can be helpful, the ultimately most important question is “Now what?   Whatever hand you are dealt, what will you do with it?  There are choices to be made for the future – the past has been set.   Will you chose to be immobilized or bitter?  Will you spend your strength finding someone or something to blame?  Or will you use the experience to propel you to new goals?

If you have time, you will really enjoy reading how the various members of these two families handled this terrible event and the traumatic aftermath in the following link.  http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/23849928/ns/dateline_nbc-newsmakers/t/twist-fate/#.Tzu2HMXZC3Z

How do you choose to handle inevitable and unexpected events in your own life?

Think first?

In Susan Cain’s Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, we see that much that is done in today’s world is done without much thought.  Paradoxically, it does not take much thought to realize this.  Modern American business seems obsessed with this idea that acting quickly and decisively is of a higher value than making the right decision.  This seems to have worked well for marketers, but what has it cost all of us in the big picture?  Action is absolutely necessary, but action without thinking can be fatal.

From my childhood, I remember the story of a chalet in the mountains that was found empty.  From what investigators pieced together, it appeared that the people staying there had heard the roar of an avalanche on the mountain above the chalet, and fled, only to be overtaken by it and killed.  They had failed to stop and notice that there was a rock promontory  immediately behind the chalet.  The avalanche had divided when it came to that point, directing the snow flow to either side of the building.  Had a few moments of observation and thought been included before they jumped into action, tragedy could have been averted.

Some of the great challenges to our society and the world could certainly benefit from a bit more thought being taken before action.  And I should probably have thought about this a bit more before publishing my entry…

Walk a mile in my shoes

Not actually my shoes, but one man got my respect this way!  A young pastor named Bob volunteered to tend the farm of a local dairy farmer so the farmer and his wife could get away for a vacation.  Little did he realize all that entailed, until he was in the middle of it:  What do you do when the silo unloader stops working?  The cows have to eat, and the only thing to do is to get into that silo and dig through tons of material until you can get the mechanism working.  Normally the job of the pastor is mostly reading, thinking, writing, and working with people.  Bob certainly walked into this situation, not realizing the number of hours a farmer really has to put in, or the real physical punishment of the job.  And he has many times since stated that he would never do it again.  But he put himself into the shoes of another man, and stuck it out!  All this in order to put feet to what he understood to be the message of Jesus.  I knew the farmer, and I understood some of the workload.  I would not have persevered to the end of that difficult week, but this city boy, Pastor Bob did.  When you hear a preacher who actually lives out what he preaches, you listen a little better, and give him the benefit of any doubt.

Pastor Bob has influenced my life greatly, not simply because of what he said, but because he actually lived it out.  What he knew, he’d do!   How about you?

Feeling Fantasy, Thinking Truth

Don’t get me wrong:  I think feelings provide a necessary spice to life, one that can propel us to heights beyond what anything logical thought can.  But feelings can also be misleading and destructive.  The problem comes when feelings are at odds with what is true.  Feelings that support what we know to be true and right are very beneficial.  Feelings that are at odds with the truth that we know are destructive.  Examples are everywhere:  Here is an obvious one: http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/3934421/Farmer-killed-by-pet-hippo-he-called-his-son.html .  Note that this man had as a pet what he called “the most dangerous animal in Africa,” because they often attack humans without provocation.  Despite warnings from his wife and others, he deluded himself into believing that somehow for him it would be different.

Each of us opens ourselves up to misfortune or disaster when we do likewise.  We see men who have destroyed their family and happiness by intimacy with another woman.  Yet, when our own feelings are involved, we think we will be exempt from the damage, or that “in the long run it will be worth it.”

We often see the ways that other people are mislead by their feelings, but seldom point the lens at ourselves.  I encourage you to stop and reflect today:  On what things do your feelings not line up  with what you know (or suspect you know )?  Most of us are afraid to examine what we do or believe, because it implies a change to our comfort level.  But be encouraged:  aligning your feelings with truth is in the big picture more rewarding than manufacturing a “truth” convenient to your feelings.  If you don’t believe me, ask a hippo – face to face.

What do you do when “stuff” happens?

When I was in elementary school, for reasons unknown, a group of boys on the school playground were betting on whether I or another boy (whom I did not know) would win in a fight.  The group grew in numbers, and soon I and the other boy found ourselves being pushed into a growing circle of chanting, jeering boys, until we were goaded into a one-on-one brawl.  After several minutes of pounding each other to the immense gratification of the crowd of onlookers, a teacher arrived on the scene and pulled us apart.  After appropriately chastising the victims of the playground mob, she had us sit out the remainder of recess away from the other kids, each at the opposite poles of an “H” shaped football goal (common in those days).  After a while the boredom of sitting there led us to start a conversation.  We both learned that neither had wanted any part of the fight in the first place, and eventually we found quite a bit of common ground.  In fact, as a result of that forced fight we shortly became fast friends and playmates.

Let it be known that I do not recommend picking fights as a way of securing friends.  But there is a body of evidence suggesting that good things often can come out of “misfortune” and adversity.  But also notice that the result of any situation also depends on something you do:  If I had never spoken with the other boy, I would have missed out on a great friendship.

Lessons from Genetics for Government

When breeding plants or animals for a particular characteristic, you naturally are culling out other characteristics.  Long ago breeders discovered that the inbreeding necessary to standardize a trait also reduces the vitality of the offspring.  This is because the rich gene pool one starts with loses more and more unique genes.  If I am selecting for blue eyes, I naturally am extinguishing the genes for green and brown eyes from the pool.  But there are also other genes that have nothing to do with eye color but are unintentionally selected against, because they are close to or interrelated with the green and brown eye color genes.  As reproduction, health and vigor decline, it often becomes necessary to bring in an outside individual, one that is markedly different from the type you are breeding for, in order to ensure survival of your captive population.

While a very brief, simplistic description of the problem, I believe a similar issue exists with government.  That is, there is a limit to how much uniformity can be coerced or forced into a population before the results are unhealthy or destructive to that political unit.  For instance, as the type and way of educating our populace grows more uniform and directed, we lose the “genes” necessary to deal with a major fluctuation in our environment (be that physical, political, or otherwise).   The evidence is clear that what one child learns at 4, another learns at 9, and forcing the issue can do great harm.  Or by focusing on cerebral skills we see a reduction in the physical fitness and health of a population.

So when I hear of a grand plan to require all children to “stay in school” until they are 18 org they graduate, I can only wonder whether we are losing future George Bernard Shaws, George Eastmans, Peter Jennings’,Peter Jacksons, Thomas Edisons and the like.  What made this country great was diversity – not simply the diversity of ethnicity, but also of culture, styles, ways of learning, choices, timing, and – even in part – values.  If our government is in the business of making clones, then we can expect arrested development of our nation.  Clones by definition can never be better than the mold they are made from.   But a nation of uniquely developed individuals can.

More

One thing I know is that there is more to this universe than simply mass and energy.  Thinking and feeling and choosing can be influenced by the physical world, but there is something beyond those limitations.  There is meaning to be had, to be discovered, beyond the mere imputing.  This is why a journey can be more important than reaching the destination,  why how a thing is done can overshadow what is done, and so on.

I can feel satisfied for a while with provincial and unsophisticated thinking, but there is soon a growing need for something deeper, something bigger than a world of merely physical possibilities.  Bigger, yet in some way connected.

Creativity

The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources.

– Albert Einstein

 

I even hide sources from myself.  I may have heard something someone else said, but forgotten, assuming it was my original thought.

Overcoming age

Are you acting old?

Here is a tried and true recipe to solve that problem: Work with children and teens.

Children make you feel old, but keep you young.

 

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