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A Spellbinding Adventure of A Person To Discover The Most Amazing Friend Quotations November 4, 2011

Posted by rengawman in Motivation.
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Several years ago, I used to be a history educator so I believe myself to be an expert about the past. One thing I’ve always fancied researching is notable quotes on different themes. While there are intelligent individuals in the world today, the collective advice of the past provides awesome material for living a moral and worthwhile existence.

I lately reconnected with a good friend from school. We spent nearly all our time together when we used to be kids. We would play outside often from dawn to evening. We also participated in hockey and various activities together. I can’t tell a lie. We were absolutely best friends. Yet when high school ended we both moved in particular directions and lost contact.

Somehow we stopped talking and I didn’t see him in ten entire years. I suppose we became too occupied with our careers and families. While we can blame outside sources, the actual problem rests with us. We only didn’t give friendship the precedence it needed. So I figured I would locate friendship quotes throughout history to remind me how it’s essential to make time for them.

The first place I searched for friendship quotes was the olden world. It appears the Greeks and the Romans prized friendships greatly. I found a several outstanding quotations from Aristotle. My favorite piece of advice from Aristotle says: “the antidote for fifty enemies is one friend.” That impacted me since it shows why friends are much more productive than any 1 adversary.

I also like a quote by Cicero I found. He said “thus nature has no love for solitude, and always leans, as it were, on some support; and the sweetest support is discovered through the most deep friendships.” This quote reminds everyone that while acquintances are great, best friends are even more extraordinary.

The transcendentalists of the nineteenth century in the United States wrote a lot on the topic of friendship. Ralph Waldo Emerson is a great resource of meaningful quotations for friends. Emerson said “A Friend might well be reckoned the masterpiece of Nature.” This is likely my favorite Emerson quotation since it mentions how important finding good friendships can be. it is sad that most people today make friendships secondary to jobs, obligations, and everything else.

I stated earlier that we can benefit from the collective advice of the past. However, there are some great friendship quotes from the contemporary period too. One of my favorite contemporary quotes comes from Oprah Winfrey who said about acquintances “lots of people want to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down.”

This is one of the most amazing modern friend quotations because it summarizes what separates genuine friends from casual friends. I personally want friends who remain with me at all times, not only occasionally.

I expect you liked this article. I was able to connect with my good friend and I hope that you will find friendship with other individuals in your life also.

The author of this article definitely understands friendship quotations and friends quotes. Check out his website for helpful information on many themes.


Keep your Focus January 19, 2008

Posted by rengawman in Humor with a point, life, Motivation, philosophy.
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Diversity is death… that is a saying that I heard once at a conference a few months ago. lack of Focus is dangerous… It got me to thinking about a professor I knew in Rome. I can’t remember her name (which is probably a good thing) but I knew that she taught philosophy in English to a few English speaking students in town. I never had her myself as a teacher, but met her in a coffee bar in one of the universities I attended in Rome.

I was startled to hear how badly she spoke English- I knew she taught in English, and as I tried to strike up a conversation with her, her english just seemed to get worse and worse. Her accent wasn’t quite Italian, and it wasn’t quite German, nor could you say it was Spanish or French. I couldn’t figure this lady out really, even though her blond hair gave her away as something of the Teutonic variety.

Me fail English? That’s un-possible!

I asked her if it would be better that we spoke in Italian, as I figured maybe since she lived in town, her Italian would be better than her English. Just about anything would have been better than her English. So we switched gears into Italian, and I was started to find that her Italian was just as bad as her English. Finally, we switched into some broken Spanish (my Spanish was rusty at this point) and again, I was amazed to find that I spoke better Spanish than she did!

It turns out that she spoke 8 lanuages! And none of them well! I asked where she was from and she said Germany, but that her German wasn’t even all that good. I asked her what she spoke well, and she replied that English and Italian were her two best languages. She had apparently moved around a lot as a kid, and picked up a bit of everything as she moved.

I guess we can all be like that at times- Jack of all trades, master of none. But it is an expectation in our culture that we multitask- that we keep as many plates spinning as we possibly can without letting any of them fall. And there are plenty of people who are waiting for our plates to fall! The expectation is that we are supposed to be good at everything we do- be good soccer moms and executives- be good dads and football coaches- be members of the church and work and community- have a thousand friends who we write thousands of Christmas cards to. It can be maddening I tell ya!

But I often think of that professor in Rome- she couldn’t really speak any language well, and our conversation turned into a mismash of English, Spanish, and Italian. If we lose our focus, we will certainly be destroyed, simply because we can’t keep all those plates spinning at once.

Um… what a strange passtime

I once had a similar experience- I once took 22 credit hours one semester in college- studying 3 lanuages (Latin, Greek, and Spanish) in addition to all the philosophy credits I was expected to take. I didn’t learn any of those languages well, and I would have to say that by the end of the semester it was even hard to get my English straight! (I remember my friend jabbing me with a friendly insult, and all I could do was stare at him, because no coherent English words were going to come out.)

If we lose our focus and diversify our life so much that we spread ourselves thin, all we are going to be able to do is to stare at someone when they need a response. The same is true in our professional occupation as well- McDonald’s used to have good hamburgers, until they spread out into salads and chicken and cookies and all the other things that they do. If they focused on being the number one hamburger maker, maybe it wouldn’t turn my stomach so bad when someone suggests it as a nice pit stop on a trip.

Yuck… sorry Ronald

We can simply keep pulling the lever and hope for a jackpot- the reason slot machines work is because it is hard to take three diverse things and line them up!

So the solution is that we need to streamline our lives a little- understand what is important to us so that we can be a good focused person, and help the people around us. That means saying “NO” sometimes- that means drawing and keeping our boundaries with people and with ourselves. It means cutting out the fat and not sticking too many “irons in the fire.”

There are five areas of our life that we need to maintain- Spiritual, Intellectual, Physical, Professional, and Social. Those are the five necessary components to being a happy person, and yet we have to prioritize even those areas. Setting short term easily attainable goals in each of these areas, and cutting out the fat when necessary will make us a well rounded person. Even then, there are times in which one of these will take president over the others. We have to make sure that we are maintaining a balance in all of our lives.

Think of it like food- when I get a plate of food I might have a piece of meat, a potato, and a vegitable. Rarely do I try and eat all three at once- I like to enjoy the individual flavor of each- to mix them takes away from the flavor of each part of the meal. In the end we have to know where to quit and when to say yes. I would recommend a book by Seth Godin called “The Dip.” You can find his blog here: http://www.typepad.com/t/trackback/2123/17470696

If we stop trying to spin 10 plates, it may be easier to spin 5- now we just have to decide which plates to stop from spinning.

The Flabbergasted Philosopher is moving! January 8, 2008

Posted by rengawman in Blogroll, Events, Motivation, philosophy, Theology.
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I have enjoyed wordpress so much folks that I have installed it into my own domain (thanks to the help of “the Shadow,” a guy who works for wordpress).  So for now I will be moving my blog over to www.totalpossibility.com/blog.  The new posts will be there, but I will let the old posts remain here until wordpress.com gets tired of me.   (I will find some way to move them over.)

18,500 Visitors!

As of today, January 8th, 2007, I have had over 18,500 visits to my blog.  Not too shabby for a blog that is less than 6 months old! (totalpossibility.com isn’t far behind that!)

This blog has brought world peace! (OK that is a lie)

So far this blog has reunited me with old elementary school classmates, introduced me to new and exciting people, solved world hunger, and eliminated the threat of nuclear war.  Who knew a blog could do all that?!

 I am also changing the name of the blog to simply “Total Possibility,” to stay with my website’s theme. (Don’t worry, I will eternally be Flabbergasted… I hear there are pills for that…)  There will be more exciting changes to www.totalpossibility.com as well. (As you may have seen if you are a regular visitor there.)

 I will update the main website when I update the blog, so there will be regular updates to both totalpossibility the website as well as archives in the blog, so you can go to either.


Some other exciting stuff coming is that I am going to expand my blog out to some other, hand picked contributors so that there can be more of a variety to the blog on some various topics.

 In addition to that, I am planning to start a podcast, which is one of the reasons that I am moving the blog. (wordpress.com doesn’t as easily support podcasting vs. if I have it installed myself.  That podcast will not only be me yakkin’ but other contributors as well.

So go and visit www.totalpossibility.com, and help me out by clicking on some of the google ads that I have there. (I don’t pick that content by the way… google puts up there what it dang well feels like, so if there is something weird, blame google) (I try and find some way to blame google for all my problems)  It’ll only take a second of your time!

 Tell all your friends and neighbors, cats, and dogs, heck, tell that creepy guy you saw at the movie theater last week!  There was a guy who used to come into the movie theater that I worked at in High School who looked like Elvis.  Mean guy actually.  Cool hair though.

 Joshua Wagner S.T.B., M.A.
Founder, CEO, President, Mail Clerk, and Dog Trainer to:
 Total Possibility LLC
(OK there aren’t any dogs) (There are a couple of stuffed monkeys).


The Big Red Button (Accepting the Consequences of our Actions, the 5th Duck) January 3, 2008

Posted by rengawman in Humor with a point, life, Motivation, philosophy.
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Recently, that is, in the last few years, Staples, the paper and office supply company, had an advertising campaign where whenever someone pushed a big red “Easy Button,” office supplies would magically drop from the ceiling.  Whenever I see those commercials, and the big read button, I curl up into a ball and fall on the floor.  Maybe I even cry a little bit.  See, I have a thing for giant red buttons… PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). 

When I was about 12 years old, my Dad got transferred with IBM from our lush, expansive, peaceful, serene, and tranquil farm in Elida, Ohio, to the big bustling city of Dallas- Ft. Worth Texas, where IBM had its education center, and a hub for a big portion of its computer network.

I’ve Been Moved

Routinely, I would go to work with my Dad, and I would either spend hours playing with hole punches and staplers, or he would set me up at a computer where I could enter the world of computer role playing games, like Space Quest, or King’s Quest, which were popular at the time.  World of WarCraft has nothing on King’s Quest III if you ask me.

One of these times, we were in the big mainframe room at one of the centers in Irving, Texas, where the IBM education center was.  This room was expansive- so much so that if you threw a baseball, I doubt you could get it from one side of the room to the other.  OK, I can’t throw a baseball from home plate to first base, but you get the point! 

 This room was filled with huge mainframes, tape machines, terminals, and always had these gigantic air conditioners on keeping the whole place nice and cool.  My dad found me a workstation and I began to solve the puzzle which was King’s Quest IV.  I didn’t like that one because you had to be a girl, unlike the previous couple of King’s Quests, but I was content to play it anyway.

I got into the game, and began to realize that I needed to go to the bathroom.  I waited for as long as I could, and the pain told me that we had a critical situation brewing.  So I went over to my Dad and told him of my dilemma.  He pointed out that the bathrooms were around the corner outside of yonder door (pointing to yonder door).  He told me that when I wanted to get back in, I had to push the button beside the door (which was probably some kind of door bell.)

I had to go to the bathroom so badly that my brain was floating, and some of the instructions that he had given me may have been misinterpreted… so I walked over to the door and saw a button.  All I could remember was to push the button.  The button was large, and red, and had a plastic cover over it… kind of like the kind used to launch nukes in a movie.

I shrugged my shoulders and lifted the plastic cover, and pushed the big red button.  All of sudden, the lights in the big room went off, as did all the computers, as well as the air conditioners, terminals, coffee pots, Ferris wheels etc.  I had pushed the emergency cut off switch for the room.  Not only that room, but three of the buildings it was connected to.

All I remember is my Dad looking up in horror and asking me what I did. 

I still had to go to the bathroom, so my Dad walked me down to the bathroom where I stayed for the next couple of hours.  You would be surprised at how much flushing toilets can entertain you after awhile.

To this day when I see big red buttons, I feel nervous and anxious like I did that day.  Shortly after, IBM issued a memo that family members were not to be in the building.  Luckily, it was a Sunday, so it didn’t disrupt commerce too much, although several guys had to be called in to reboot the buildings I had shut down.  (Dad didn’t get fired by the way, although he came awfully close.)

Whether we mean it or not, choose or not, intend it or not, we have to learn to live with the consequences of our own actions and choices.  As creatures of free will, we are given the ability to make hundreds of big and small choices every day, one choice affecting the next.  In our culture, it is very easy to try and escape the consequences of our own choices.  That is a choice in itself, and eventually, we will have to face up, one way or another, to the choices that we have made.

It is impossible to escape consequences.  We can’t simply wait for things to work themselves out, as inactivity and indecision is itself a choice that we make.  Living with the consequences of our actions can have both positive and negative effects.  However, we are not ever bound and determined by choices we have made in the past.  That is just because we made a choice that got us here, or into a particular situation, or set of circumstances or consequences, doesn’t mean that we have to make those same decisions in the future.

Nor does it mean that we have to be determined by the consequences of other people’s actions.  What it means is that we must take responsibility for every choice we make, both good and bad, active and inactive, and work within the particular outcomes of each choice.

I didn’t mean to push the wrong button that day, but I did.  I had to accept and live with the potential consequences of that action.  I could have either faced them, or run away from them, but either way they would have caught up with me.

It is easy in our culture to try and run from consequences.  We have a lot of means at our disposal for doing that- drugs, alcohol, work, titles, uniforms, relationships.  Using these things to try and hide from consequences will only lead to more dire consequences in the future.  The key here, as I mentioned above, is acceptance.  Accepting what we have done in the past, understanding where it has brought us, and attempting to make better, more educated choices in the future.

There is a reason this is the last “duck,” that we need to put in a row- simply because it is the duck that is the culmination of the other 4 “ducks” that came before it.  If we understand our self worth, if we understand our need and fulfill our ability to love and be loved, if we defend ourselves, and deal with our own inner confusion, the consequences in every area of our life will be good, more or less.  We will be able to handle any consequence that comes along because it is itself the consequence of putting our ducks in a row.

If we don’t put those other 4 “ducks” in a row, we will have other consequences to deal with- being unhealthy- being scattered- never taking responsibility for our actions and trying to correct ourselves and stay on course.

This requires a lot of work to “keep our ducks in a row.”  Constant work, but the consequences of that work, of self examination, of proper love of self and neighbor, will itself lead us into good healthy decisions and consequences.  So what we have to do is to accept where we have been, and use it as a jumping off point for where we would like to be.

Are your ducks in a row?  Do you understand your worth?  Do you love yourself and others?  Can you defend yourself in a proper way?  Where does your inner confusion lie?  Do you accept the fact that you are where you are because of choices you have made?  I know that personally, I have only been putting my ducks in a row in the last couple of years, and it requires a lot of constant work and vigilance.  The consequences are worth it though.

Stuck in a Car Wash! (Dealing with Inner Confusion) January 1, 2008

Posted by rengawman in cars, Humor with a point, life, Motivation, philosophy, Theology.
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Oh this is a great story…

Last year, during a cold snap in February, the roads were covered with salt, which meant my car, Lucy, was also covered in salt.  So on my way home from a friend’s house late one night I was concerned for Lucy and the many layers of salt she had on her, and before acrewing a new layer, I figured I would give her a quick run through the car wash.

Now I understand the absurdity of the idea of washing my car in below freezing temperatures, with salt coating the roads, and having to avoid the army of salt trucks I saw on the way home, but for some reason it seemed like a good idea. So I went to one of those “touchless” car wash, put my credit card in, the door opened and I pulled in, business as usual. The car wash ended and I am sure Lucy looked nice and clean. When it came time to leave, the garage door in front of me wouldn’t open, and the one I came through was closed… so basically, I was trapped. I got out and pushed the emergency release button, and the door was still shut.   Frozen solid!

I was trapped…
I was trapped… there was no door to the outside for humans either, and since I have not experienced the resurrection, and I am not GOB or David Copperfield (the fictional character nor the magician) I could not walk through the walls, and I felt a certain sense of dread come over me… Plus, inside the touchless carwash there is always water shooting from all directions, so to get out of my car was like walking through an obstacle course of water. At one point I was standing there thinking about what to do for a minute, when I realized that one of the streams of water was hitting the upper part of my right leg which I didn’t feel for about 30 seconds, as the water was also warm… I don’t have to tell you what that looked like… or felt like, as the water was very warm. Plus there was steam everywhere which fogged up my glasses. I was in a bad position. I did begin to laugh at this point, and realized how funny the situation was. THEN I moved out of the way of the stream of water. HA!!!There was also no phone number posted to call, plus it was 10:30 at night. Anyway, I walked over to the other adjoining carwash chamber (great descriptive word there) (reminds me of the carbon freezing chamber from Star Wars), and I hit the release button for the garage door and that one opened. Instantly the steam increased 3 fold as it contacted the arctic air outside, and I must have looked like an alien emerging from the belly of the space ship.

Too bad nobody was there to see it. So it’s cold wet and steamy, and my pant leg was drenched but I had my sweet freedom. Except Lucy herself was still trapped. I called a number that I finally found and left a message for “Greg.” Greg never got back to me, so I went back into the car wash, backed Lucy up to the back door, went around and bought another car wash, which opened up the back door and I backed her out into the cold, again in the midst of all is steam, Lucy emerged. Great story huh?

There were moments while I was trapped in that steamy mixture of cold air and hot water that I just didn’t know what I was going to do.  I was terrified at moments that I was going to have to spend the night in the middle of the car wash.  Did I call 911?  If I did, was it enough of an emergency and would I get in trouble?  Worse yet, would the cops get there and just laugh at me?  Talk about inner confusion!  I was at my wits end!  There were seemingly a thousand options that I could have pursued in securing my freedom, and none of them seemed adequate.  Plus, once one door opened (literally!) all the other ones in front of me were still closed.

The cops would have laughed at me…

I think this is a great analogy to how a lot of people view life.  They are in situations which baffle them- really it isn’t the situation that baffles them, rather it is their own interior confusion that makes life-situations baffling to most people.

All of us deal to some extent with inner confusion.  A lot of us like to avoid it because it makes us feel uncomfortable in our own skin.  We are sort of like that car wash in some ways- like the water that was squirting in all directions, clouding up the cold air with steam, so we are often a flurry of emotions, thoughts, fears, rationalizations, and any number of things that “fog up” our interior “lenses,” and prevent us from understanding who we really are, and what we need to do.

Inner confusion

Dealing with this confusion is a basic human need.  All of us get stuck in the car wash from time to time.  Maybe we can relate to my little foible in the car wash last year- we know we are stuck in the steam and the sprays of water, closed behind doors that won’t open due to our choices or circumstances, and we are too embarrassed or afraid to ask for help.  I was afraid to call the police to get help because I figured they would laugh at me.  Maybe some of us are ashamed about our own inner confusion and rather than seek help and be ridiculed or hurt, we prefer to spend the night in the chaos of our own “inner carwash.”

Eventually, I took the time that night to think my way out of the carwash, and if we take the time, calm down, and really begin to look at our inner confusion, both the causes and the effects, we may just figure out a way to free ourselves from the bondage of our own inner confusion.  That takes work- it also invariably requires another person, or people to help us.

The first requirement is a relationship with a Higher Power.  God made us, he can help us to figure out what is going on inside of us.  He can calm us and give us a new perspective on our own inner confusion.  Really we are wonderfully designed, and what seems like chaos to us is actually working properly.  Going back to our carwash, the streams of water, the steam, and all the other elements of the confusion car wash told me that everything was working properly!  It just seemed confusing to me!  Once I figured out the glitch, I was free in a matter of minutes.  Often what seems confusion to us is confusing because of a matter of perspective.  God has the ultimate perspective on how we are supposed to work.  Unlike “Greg” at the car wash, when we call on him he will come and help us fix the problem.  We have to call Him first though.

Second, we need a community of support.  Maybe that is family, maybe it isn’t.  Maybe it is friends or a support group.  The first step to managing the seemingly unmanageable inner confusion we all face is admitting that we might have a problem, or a glitch in the mechanism.  Once we do that we can go to people that can help us.

As I have mentioned in other blogs, you can’t see your own face without a mirror.  We need someone outside of ourselves to be vulnerable to- both human and divine, that can help us sort out our inner confusion.  This is an ongoing process if we want to be happy and free.

Of course, there are inappropriate ways to deal with inner confusion as well- avoidance behaviors that try and suppress the inner confusion we all face- Drugs, alcohol, bad relationships, or any number of things.  These things not only are ineffective against suppressing our inner confusion, they make it worse.

In the end of the day, we simply need to make sure that we are rigorously honest with ourselves, our friends who we trust, and with God.  We need to be humble enough to make that call when we need to when we are stuck in some situation, even when fear is telling us not to, or we are afraid of being hurt or made fun of.  Only then can we begin to sort out that inner confusion which at one point or another, plagues us all.

American Gladiators are Back!!!!! (The Third Duck: Defending yourself) December 28, 2007

Posted by rengawman in Humor with a point, life, Motivation, philosophy.
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This is the third in a series about “Getting your Ducks in a Row.” 

Thank goodness for this writer’s strike, because it is bringing back one of the greatest TV shows to ever grace the screen: American Gladiators.

Back in the 80’s I remember sitting through horrible episodes of Saturday Night Live (ok they weren’t as bad as some of them now) just to watch American Gladiators.  I am not sure why the show ever went off the air, other than the fact that they messed with some of the more popular games, eliminating some of them all together, or replacing them with goofy substitutes that they thought would liven things up.  I mean, who liked that stupid swinging one anyway?  That was just dumb if you ask me.


It was a great concept- average Americans- Americans just like you or me taking on buff, steroid induced machines in some really physically challenging competitions.  Well, some of them were physically challenging anyway.  Like the Eliminator at the end of every show, or the one where they had to out-clime one of those buff Gladiators on a climbing wall.  It was great competition as the Gladiator, who was always in much better shape than the opponent scaled the wall like Spider-man to pull down his contender. 

There were games though that required almost no physical prowess whatsoever.  I can’t remember the name of it, but one of the games gave the Gladiator a high powered gun that shot tennis balls at the contender.  The contender had to hit a target just above the Gladiator’s head to win, using only tennis balls thrown by his arm. (OK he had some weapons of his own, but they never seemed to have great aim.)  The Gladiator would just sit up there and fire tennis balls at mach 5 at the contender’s head.  Now that is good TV.

Unfair advantage…

Sadly, the original Gladiators Zap, Laser, Gemini, Mitch, and Sneezy, (I may have some of those names wrong) got canceled and had to go back to working at Pay-less, as the most buff shoe salesmen ever.  They faded into obscurity, only to be seen in re-runs.

Now they are bringing back the Gladiators thanks to the writer’s strike, and the world will be a better place.  Once again we get to see average American’s get the crap beat out of them by over juiced men and women… I hope congress doesn’t ask THEM about steroid use…

Still, you have to give those average athletes credit… I would never want to go against a person who calls themselves Viper or Ice.  They often stood up against these big people and defended themselves well.  My favorite event by far was the pugel-sticks, where they stood up on big pedestals with giant cue-tips and attacked each other.  It was great.

Nobody stood there and took it though- they defended themselves, even if unsuccessfully, they still had to learn somehow along the line how to defend themselves.  This is the third “duck” in the series of 5 ducks that I mentioned in a previous post.

One of our basic human needs is to learn how to defend ourselves.  That can be hard to do- there are a lot of people that get into situations that prevent them from learning how to do this- how to defend themselves physically, emotionally, or psychologically.  It seems that they are going up against someone much more scary than any American Gladiator could ever be- be it a parent, a spouse, a family member, or even a boss.

Some people think that in order for people to love them, or in order to love someone (the second “duck”) that means that they have to let someone roll over them.  That is not the case- each one of us needs to learn how to defend ourselves, in order that we might love ourselves and others.  Being rolled over is not a loving thing to do for anyone.

Some people learn how to defend themselves inappropriately too.  Some people turn to addictions to insulate themselves from their own emotions or fears.  Drugs, alcohol, shopping, sex, food or whatever you want to put in that list (because you can be addicted to just about anything or anyone) is a quick and easy alternative to actually standing up to what we fear and defending ourselves in a healthy and appropriate way.  In the end, those quick fixes that we use for self defense end up isolating us from others and ourselves, they prevent us from loving or being loved, they add to our confusion, and diminish our self worth.

Another unhealthy way to defend ourselves is to try and control the situation- to roll over other people so that they cannot hurt us, or to try and manipulate situations so that we are always king of the mountain.  Ultimately to roll over other people to defend ourselves is also self defeating for the same reason that addictions are.  Basically, you begin to isolate yourself from other people as they come to fear you and your attitude and reactions to things. 

The King of the Mountain is always lonely

Defending ourselves does not mean to isolate with addictions, or to try and control every single situation by rolling over people.  In the end, it is more damaging to do either, and you will end up alone, fearful, and angry at the world.  I have seen it happen in people’s lives.

How do we properly defend ourselves?  I believe the key is in setting healthy boundaries and then keeping them. 

If we have someone in our lives that is toxic or dangerous to us, we have a right to set our own boundaries with that person.  That doesn’t mean imposing boundaries on them (that probably wouldn’t work anyway) but it means that if we have a toxic person in our lives, we choose when to see them or not, the setting and the circumstance.

That means that defending ourselves is to not put ourselves into a situation that we will get hurt by.  It means knowing ourselves well enough to set boundaries that are healthy, not exclusive, and it also means uttering the most difficult word: “No.”

Setting boundaries means saying no to some things.  Loving someone doesn’t mean you always say yes to every desire that they have.  Loving someone sometimes means you have to say no- it sometimes means that setting a boundary means that for their own good you have to put some distance between them and you.  It doesn’t mean that you don’t love them, but what it means is that you love them enough to protect both yourself and them.


You don’t even necessarily have to tell difficult people about your boundaries- it is you that has to keep them, not the other person.  That may mean removing yourself from a dangerous or abusive situation.  That may require you to ask for help in order to preserve yourself.

Really defending yourself and loving yourself aren’t too different.  It would be silly for that contender in American Gladiators to just stand there and take a beating from someone twice his size.  We, like that contender, have a right to healthy self preservation- to say no- and to make sure that we are in an environment that is happy and healthy. 

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More Important than The Bible- Opinion and Truth December 21, 2007

Posted by rengawman in Humor with a point, life, Motivation.

I found Waldo… he is strangely alone…

Do you remember those pesky magic eye puzzles that were all the rage ten or fifteen years ago?  About the same time as we were trying to find that stupid Waldo guy (who apparently liked to hang out in large crowds… I can relate) every single mall had a kiosk where they sold these stupid magic eye puzzles.

To the naked eye, it looked like a Jackson Pollock painting- a hodgepodge (love that word) of colors sort of splattered onto a poster.  Apparently, if you stared at this thing long enough, crossed your eyes, stood on your head, and had a few drinks, the image would change and you would see a farm-scape or a sailboat, or Waldo, in 3D appear before your very eyes.  It just so happened that the next kiosk over sold little bottles of Advil and eye drops, because not only did you have a headache from staring at these stupid posters, but your eyes dried out because you had to hold them open for so long trying to figure out if it was a monkey or a baseball bat that magically appeared out of the mixture of colors and textures.  These stupid things were just as popular back then as hyper-color t-shirts.  (Yea… remember those?  If you touched them they changed color because of the heat in your hand.  Until you washed them once.  I am sure we were all poisoned by those shirts somehow.  Maybe that is how we could see that magic eye puzzle- the hyper color t-shirts were making us hallucinate.)

I have to admit trying out these magic eye puzzles myself the first time.  I walked by the kiosk and saw people just staring into the collection of various eye puzzles, and decided to join the herd.  3 hours later, I think I saw a camel in a space suit pop out in 3D.

It is the Mona Lisa… you see it don’t you?

There were always three types of people at these kiosks- the people that would walk up and look into the magic eye puzzle and instantly yell out (as if any of us cared) “I SEE IT!!  IT IS A SUNSET IN TOKYO IN JUNE!”  Others, grumbling, also loud enough for people to hear, “I just can’t see it, it is just a bunch of colors running together… I just can’t see it… are you sure that’s there?”  The third type of person was the type that felt sorry for the second type of guy who couldn’t see the dolphin jumping out of a bowl of spaghettio’s and would help out assuring the incapable person- “It’ll be alright- just relax- let your eyes cross- don’t you see the dolphin?  He’s right over there!”

This one is meaningless… they just made this one to mess with us.

I think that the most entertaining feature of the magic eye puzzle was not the magic eye puzzle itself, but watching the people stare for minutes at a time into what looked like a child’s finger painting. 

I know the feelin’ buddy.

I did eventually see the images pop out of the posters, and it was neat, but I wonder if there was anything there at all, or if I was just buying into the hype of the magic eye puzzle.  Maybe there was something there and maybe there wasn’t- was it my own perception, or was I borrowing the perception from my neighbor who gleefully “got it?”

Here is an interesting fact I heard recently- up to 90% (90%!!!!) of our perceptions are borrowed from other people.

I will let that sink in for just a minute.

It’s like Homer Simpson once said- 42% of statistics are made up on the spot, but only 12% of people know that.  Sometimes we trust in the perceptions of others more than we know.

So when it comes to a world view- a cosmology as the philosophers like to coin it, a lot of our views come from what other people have told us.  I think that is what Nietzsche was talking about when he was talking about his “will to power.”  The will to power is the ability to impose our own perception onto the people around us.  It works- just watch the news.  They are imposing their views on us all the time, and I am even tempted to believe it simply because it is easier to believe them than to do the research on my own.  I don’t have the time, the resources or the energy to do that.

Perception is a tricky thing.  As I have mentioned in past posts, there are as many perceptions as there are people- if I am looking at this chair, and so are you, we may be seeing the chair differently- I may think it is red, and you may think it is violet.  Perceptions, whether given or borrowed, are never 100% accurate.  That is where communication comes in, in order that we may cut through what is mere opinion to the objective truth underneath.  Life is constantly about that- it is a constant battle that I think a lot people really don’t engage in too well because it is a lot of work.  Rather they would just rather accept the perceptions of others- culture, media, or what have you.

The rose colored glasses of opinion.

What is more important than the chair in our above example is not the chair necessarily, but our perception and our interpretation of the chair.

In a like manner, when we talk about theology, more specifically the Bible, it really isn’t the Bible that is important these days, but it is MY personal interpretation of the Bible that is important.  You can really interpret the Bible in any way you want- a great example that I like to use is the whole slavery issue in the history of the United States- the abolishionists used the Bible to go against slavery, while the south used it to support slavery.

So when it comes down to it these days, what is more important than the Bible, or the Koran, or the Torah, or the Big Book in this culture, is our personal interpretation of the book- I can interpret those books to mean whatever I want them to mean- or whatever someone has told me to interpret them as.  In order to interpret the Bible in the proper way we would need to go back to the original intention of the author (and the Spirit that inspired that author) and begin from there for a proper and true interpretation.  Otherwise the snake handlers are just as justified to handle snakes as any of the mainstream religions.

It is a fine line between figuring out the truth and separating it from mere opinion or perception.  As I said, this is probably the work of our lives, because the intellect seeks the truth.  I do not think that there is a simple answer to this problem, as it goes back to the radical individualism of our modern western culture.  Truth is out there though, it is simply not a matter of perception, but finding the truth requires us in some sense to question the perceptions that we have, the perceptions that others have, and to find the truth that underlies it all.  That doesn’t mean that a generally accepted perception isn’t necessarily true, but we should deeply question EVERYTHING in our search for what is true and what is merely opinion.

There are two philosophers that come to mind here that I think would be important to mention.  The first is Francis Bacon, and the other is Martin Heidegger.  Both of these guys were advocates of what I am talking about- Bacon said that we have preconceived “idols” of the marketplace- accepted notions that were given to us by our upbringing and inculturation that we accept as truth.  That doesn’t mean that they aren’t true, but that we need to toss them out every so often to test them to find which is true, and which is simply an “idol.”  Heidegger on the other hand advocates a similar plan- that is to “step into the clearing of being,” in other words like a forest to step into a clearing that the sun (being) is unobscured by the trees of perception and opinion.

The “clearing” of being

Only when we step into the clearing of being, and get rid of the idols of the marketplace, can we begin to compare our own and others perceptions of things- including things like religious texts like the Bible, the the truth.

I remember my first day in philosophy class ten years ago- we studied… I think it was the Phaedo by Plato (I could be wrong on the title of that one)- the whole thing centered on the difference between mere opinion and truth.  Its conclusion was that opinion can be true, but isn’t necessarily true, and it is our task- really our deepest desire- to separate opinion from what is objectively true.  That’s about as hard sometimes as seeing those pecky pictures in the magic eye posters.

At the end of the day, finding truth is sort of like picking Waldo out of one of those “Where’s Waldo” pictures.  There are a lot of things that LOOK like Waldo that are not, just like there are things that APPEAR true which are not.  We can never be content with a look a like to the truth, just like we are not done with our search until we find Waldo, or see the 3D image in the magic eye poster.

Where’s Waldo?  Where is the truth?

Thermostat in my Car December 21, 2007

Posted by rengawman in cars, Humor with a point, life, Motivation, philosophy.
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A wise man once said- “Walk right side of road, squished like grape.  Walk left side of road, squished like grape.  Walk middle of road, you safe.”  That wise man:  Mr. Myiagi from the Karate Kid series.  He could also beat up guys half his age and twice his size- AND catch flies with chopsticks.  Which go great, by the way, with a little soy sauce and Cantonese rice.

He could render a man, or a fly, unconscious in 10 seconds with those chopsticks.

 It is funny- I have never been the kind of guy to walk down the middle, although I am certainly learning.  I am a guy that if I do something, I want to do it all the way and absolutely- giving everything I am and have to a particular pursuit.  Sometimes that has worked out for me- like in school or in work, and other times it hasn’t worked out so well for me like eating that has plagued me in my past.

He even makes standing in the street look cool.

A great analogy for who I am, and I suspect who a lot of people are is the thermostat in my car.  If it is hot outside, I always put the air-conditioner on full blast, fan all the way up, knob turned all the way to the cold side of the dial.  I love getting it so cold in my car that you can see your breathe and draw things on the frosted glass of the car.  Personally, I don’t think there is anything better than getting out of a cold car into a hot day. 

Ahhh… summertime.

Once it does get too cold for the yeti (or bigfoot as he is commonly known in West Virgina, according to my friend Doug Ondeck) I don’t merely turn the thermostat down- nope, I turn the fan all the way off.  Then when it gets hot again, I turn the fan all the way on full blast.  There isn’t a lot of middle ground with me.

What the dashboard of my car looks like- it is red like Knight Rider (3rd reference)


 The same thing happens when it is cold outside.  My car, the coolest car ever in the world, has a remote starter on it.  So what I do is I start the car, making sure that the heat is all the way in the red part of the dial, and the fan is on 4.  Then I set a lump of dough on the seat, and by the time I get out there, the car is so hot it can cook the lump of dough into bread.  Who doesn’t like fresh bread on their way to work?  I know I do.  Then I usually turn the heat all the way off.  Not much middle ground there either.

OK I don’t turn up the thermostat quite this high.


I guess Mr. Myagi is right though.  I notice that I have done a lot of things like that in my life.  Some have said that it is an all or none proposition with me.  I suspect that there is a little area in everyone’s life where it is all or none, or there is a lot of excess. 

The greeks defined virtue as the golden mean- walking down the middle of the road, not too much one way, or too much to the other but virtue is found in the middle- in moderation.  That is something I am actually learning about in my life right now.  You can in fact have too much of a good thing.

I think we should take the European view of life.  If you ever eat in France you know that their portions are never big- it is just enough to get a taste, and not enough of anything to fill you up (except for that one Christmas dinner I ate there.  That is another blog).  Here in the States when you go to a restaurant the portions are so big, you usually need to get carried out on a stretcher!  Thanks a lot Cheesecake Factory!

Typical meal at the Cheesecake Factory


That is how life should be I guess.  We should try and set the dial to something that is consistent- not too hot, not too cold.

I am actually trying to do that in my life right now.  I notice that when I am in the car, the fan is on about 2 or 3 (out of 4) and the knob is set at a comfortable quarter point, never too hot or cold.  I am trying to learn how to walk down the middle of the road so I don’t get squashed like a grape.

Maybe you have something that is a little extreme in your life.  The way that we move back into the center is to do it slowly and consistently.  It is funny how when you work on one virtue, they are all connected and when you find the golden mean in one area of your life, you find it in others.

Peeking Duck- Self Worth December 21, 2007

Posted by rengawman in Humor with a point, life, Motivation, philosophy, Theology.
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1 comment so far

As I mentioned in previous posts, actually, about 3 days ago, I mentioned my fondness for Chinese food.  Usually when I go into Chinese restaurants, the entrees that I order always have some similar elements: They are chickeny, the contain some kind of nut, and they are spicy.  Every so often though, I like to order duck, as it is a nice change of pace from my nut-chicken-spicy combo that I usually get.

The only reason I wrote that above paragraph was so that the title of this post might at least have some reference to Peking Duck, often served in Asian restaurants.  I did that so that the pun I used in the title might also have a reference.  Other than that, the above paragraph has absolutely no purpose in this blog.  Thank you for reading.

Anyway, as I mentioned yesterday, I was visiting my spiritual director from Toledo.  A great Jesuit who I got to know in Rome 7 years ago when he was the director of spiritual formation at the North American College.  When I arrived in Rome, tired, smelly from the flight, and covered in ketchup (that is another story) they shoved us into the refectory for our first Italian meal.  My now spiritual director was at my table, and was the first people I ate with in that city.  I remember him making bruschetta (pronounced Bru-sk-ett-a) out of the bread on the table when he toasted it an poured cheese and olive oil on it.  He was a good salad maker as I recall as well.  Beyond that, I really never knew him until I got a friend’s ordination a few year ago in Michigan, and he offered to be my Spiritual Director.  He has stuck with me in these last years in thick and thin- he has been a real blessing to me, and I am sure others who have struggled through the years.

I was covered in Ketchup the day I arrived in Rome… mmm … ketchup

One of the things we talked about this week was, as I mentioned in yesterday’s post, getting my ducks in a row.  Those crazy ducks.

The first of the five ducks, or psychological needs that we have to wrangle up, is that of self worth.  Man have I struggled with that.  Where do we get our self worth?  How do we find it?  What are the sorts of things that prevent us from realizing our self worth?

Primarily, as I have mentioned in previous posts, we are made in the image and likeness of God, which has two implications by nature.  One is that we have free will, or we should have it, and second is that we are capable of entering into relationship with other people. (See my post on the Trinity and its interior relationship if you need material to put you to sleep).  Free will and the ability to enter into relationship culminates in love.  Love, as my director tells me, is willing the good of another.  I always say that love is a choice, not a feeling, so even if it hurts, we have to do what is the greatest good for ourselves, our communities, and our neighbors.

That being made in the image and likeness of God is what primarily gives us our self worth.  No other creature, not dogs or angels, can claim to be made in God’s image and likeness.  They cannot express free will, or enter into relationships in love the way that we can.

The problem is that we have a hard time perceiving that we are made in that image and likeness.  The primary cause of that: Sin.  Now, I am not going to go into depth here about sin, but I already have in this post here.

Sin primarily detracts from the beauty and worth of every person, not because it destroys the fact that we are in the image and likeness of God, but because it tarnishes it like a mirror can get tarnished, making it difficult to see our reflection of God’s divine nature.  When we sin, in any of the stages, our instant reaction is like the of Adam and Eve’s- we see that we are naked, and we are ashamed of ourselves, heck, we even become ashamed of the fact that we are not living up to the image and likeness of God in which we were created.  That leads us to do what they did- they cover themselves- they cover their nature.

So it is sin that detracts from us seeing our self worth- that dignity that we have been made in God’s image and likeness- each and every person.  From the greatest saint, to the greatest murderer, nothing can take that image and likeness to God away from us, but sin can make it harder for us to see.

So we are constantly having to rediscover our self worth- we really do need to have this duck in a row if we are going to get the others in line.  We want to know we are worth while, and we will, without a doubt, seek some kind of validation of that self worth, or we will try to cover it like Adam and Eve, and we will be ashamed of something that is so beuatifually created by God.

Some of the ways that we try and find validation is through relationships.  That is ok if the relationship is healthy.  Often though we seek people that we relate to, or are similar to, in order that we might validate ourselves in them.  Sometimes that means multiple marriages, sexual partners, remaining in abusive situations, or any number of things.  There are people that constantly seek the validation that only God can give to them.

There are ways of covering it up too.  People who are ashamed of themselves cannot face or accept that they are worthwhile and try to cover their nature with booze, or drugs, or shapping, eating, jobs, uniforms, or any number of potential addicitions that are out there.  We can even be addicted to people or ideologies!

In the end if we truly want to find our self worth, we have to “peek” (ahh there is my title reference) into ourselves- take the good with the bad, and see that underneith it all, we still have that beauty and that dignity of being made in the image and likeness of God, despite the fact that we are a bit tarnished at times by our choices to turn away from the inherent dignity that is in each person.

The other way to find self worth requires a bit of spirituality I think.  We need to see ourselves as God sees us.  He doesn’t require us to be handsome or smart or funny or have a great job or a great car or any number of things that give us validation in our culture.  Rather, he loves just because we exist.  Unconditionally.  Whether we love Him back or not.  That is the ultimate validation of our self worth.

Once we begin to realize that we have self worth, it directs us toward putting our second duck in a row, which I will talk about tomorrow- the need to love and to be loved.

Getting your Ducks in a Row December 20, 2007

Posted by rengawman in Humor with a point, life, Motivation, philosophy.
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1 comment so far

About a year ago, it was time for my mom to move out of the house that I had gone to High School in, and which she had lived for the previous 14 years.  There were a lot of memories in that house- it is the house where my Father passed away- it is the house that I “left home” from, and that I often returned to, to visit my parents, and our dog, Snuggles.  I did not name the dog- we adopted her.  Admittingly, she was a cock-a-poo, so while Snuggles actually kind of fit her, I am pretty sure she hated that name.  I would have named her Bone Crusher, or Megatron, after one of the Transformers if I had my druthers.  But I never have my druthers.  I am druther free.  No druthers for me.

Not the actual Snuggles, but close enough for our purposes

As we were in the process of moving mom out of her house, where she was by herself and only using about 20% of it, and into her condo, mom had a phrase that she liked to use.  Nothing could go on in life, until she got her “ducks in a row.”  There were many ducks to get into a row when we were moving mom- I know.  I helped move all those damned ducks with my brothers.  Actually, the ducks in a row thing become something of a joke between all of us and we often laughed about it.

When the moving guys came to move the big stuff that would have otherwise given my brothers and me back trouble and hernias, I remember looking out the window at the moving truck, and not thinking much of it.  Then I saw it.  There was a giant duck on the side.

Me and the duck- I look upset at the giant duck.

I pointed this out to my family, and we all shared a chuckle.  Mom said she didn’t hire them because of the ducks.  I am beginning to wonder.

At any rate, “ducks in a row” is a phrase that my spiritual director likes to use as well.  He says in that in our lives we have 5 basic psychological needs- five ducks as it were- that we have to keep in line if we want to live a happy and sane life.  The problem with these psychological and emotional ducks is the same problem with real ducks: they tend to wonder around and get out of line.  There is nothing worse, I imagine, than trying to wrangle up a bunch of stray ducks.  It is probably a constant struggle if you yourself are not a duck. 

In short, we are trying to get our ducks in a row all the time, or we should be.  I think a lot of people don’t try to keep their ducks in a row by good healthy means, but through things like trying to get the ducks drunk, or to feed them until they can’t move, or by spending lots of money on things they don’t need.  There is a lot of ways to try and cage the “ducks” rather than keeping them in line- but the catch in our lives is that not only do we have to keep our ducks in a row, we also have to do it in freedom- not by some artificial means.

So what are these 5 ducks that my Spiritual Director told me about?

1. Self- Worth
2. Ability to love and be loved
3. Ability to defend myself
4. Ability to deal with my own inner confusion
5. Ability to accept the consequences of my actions

I think these are pretty good ducks, and a lot of the spiritual direction that I get from him concerns these ducks.

Over the next couple of days I will take each of these ducks and look at them in depth- both generally, and in terms of my own life… enjoy wrangling your ducks!