Monday, March 26, 2012

Delayed Gratification and Living Well

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “The supreme lesson of life is to learn what the centuries say against the hours.”

The passing of time adds perspective, does it not?

The late Bishop Edwin Hughes once delivered a rousing sermon on "God's Ownership" that put a rich parishioner's nose out-of-joint. The wealthy man took the Bishop off for lunch, and then walked him through his elaborate gardens, woodlands, and farm. "Now are you going to tell me," he demanded when the tour was completed, "that all this land does not belong to me?" Bishop Hughes smiled and suggested, "Ask me that same question a hundred years from now."  [Bennett Cerf, Leadership, Vol. 1, no. 2.]

We do well to gain the perspective of time.

Whoever wrote the following was quite right:
   This is the age of the half-read page
   The quick hash and the mad dash,
   The bright night with the nerves tight
   The plane hop with the brief stop
   The lamp tan in a short span
   The big shot in a good spot
   The brain strain and the heart pain
   The catnaps until the spring snaps
   And the fun's gone.

Gordon Dahl put it this way:
“Most middle-class Americans tend to worship their work, to work at their play and to play at their worship.  As a result, their meanings and values are distorted.  Their relationships disintegrate faster than they can keep them in repair, and their lifestyles resemble a cast of characters in search of a plot.”

Keep the following in mind: You know not when, where, or how, but die you will.  And you can’t take it with you.  In the end, your end, when stripped of time and money, what will you have to show for your life?  So remember, it’s not how much time you had nor how much money you made; it’s what you did with your time and money that become the measure of your life’s significance.

How are you making your time and wealth count, above and beyond this life?

Monday, March 19, 2012

In Business just to make MONEY? How Sad!

Is making money the only reason why you work?  If so, does it satisfy?  More money!  Actually, we all have a longing for significance.  We want our lives to mean something.  Think about it, does money itself really give you the satisfaction and the peace of heart you desire?  My guess is that it does not.

Money is a means to an end, not an end in itself.  This is no great insight or earth shaking statement.  It is but a simple truth.  Yes, we need money to survive, to live.  It is the medium of exchange to get what we need and want.  But it guarantees nothing in terms of happiness, meaning, significance, or peace of heart and satisfaction of the soul.

How rich are you?  How rich do you want to be?  What is your net worth?  And exactly how much of that will you be taking with you, when you die?  It’s not money.  It is purpose that counts.  Living life with a purpose other than making-money is far more significant and fulfilling then living life for the almighty dollar.

There are non-wealthy people who are living quite contented and comfortable lives who will testify to this truth.  They make just enough to meet their needs and simple wants.  They’re far from poverty.  But more importantly, they are not driven by money.  There are also enough well-to-do people who have plenty of money in the bank and have all the latest toys, gadgetry and luxury items that money can buy, who are joyless and miserable people.  Thereby proving the point: money can’t buy happiness.

Sadly we have become a society in which, in matters of business, all that matters and the only thing that matters is the bottom line?  Forgetting that people matter too!  Workers, employees, and servers, even employers, shopkeepers, and shop owners, or entrepreneurs and investors, we are all people.  We have longings and desires, the want of significance.  We are more than mere cogs in the mechanisms of an economy.  We have hearts, we have souls.  We want lives beyond mechanized productivity.

Thus, a truly thriving and healthy economy is one that factors in people as people, one that allows people to thrive as human beings.  A great economy provides people with the opportunity to seek, find, and experience real significance as persons.  And so a thriving business will recognize and maintain the dignity and honor of the human soul and its need for respect and appreciation. A thriving company does not profit by using-up and/or oppressing its workers but will see to it that its workforce prospers along with the business.  Its happy workforce will see itself as part of a bigger and greater cause than merely making another dollar for the boss/owner/stockholders.

Here are some principles that positive, growing, and successful businesses should keep in mind:

1.    Care for the human dignity of your workforce.  Do no dehumanize your employees.  Respect your employees as much as you do your customers.  An unhappy employee can greatly sabotage your customer relations, even if unintentionally.  Provide a fair shake and a fair deal to all, employees as well as customers.  Your integrity, honesty, and sense of fair play will soon spread.  You will always then have trusting and loyal clients.

2.    The means are as important as the end result.  How one makes money is as important as how much one makes.  Make money with integrity.  Do not cut corners.  Do not lie, cheat, or steal along the way.  This is basic good business practice.

3.    Spread the wealth as much as you can.  What you give away will always come back to you, many times over.  Share as much as you can and you will never be in want yourself.

4.    Finally, produce something that gives back to society, and not merely takes from society.  Try to be in business for something greater than the almighty dollar.  You can’t take it with you.  And the size of your bank account will certainly matter very little, come Judgment Day.  And yes, there will be a reckoning for the life you lived here on earth—otherwise there is no real justice, economic or otherwise, is there.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Daylight Savings Time: Messing with Nature’s Rhythm

Nature has its own rhythm, which, it seems, we humans love to interrupt.  We speak of “nature’s way” yet regularly impose our own way upon her.  When it comes to Mother Nature, we regularly find ways to stop, change, turn around, control, manipulate, or re-channel the natural state of things.  Granted, sometimes Nature needs to be stopped or rechanneled.  Consider hurricanes, floods, and earthquakes for example.  But, do we always have to treat Nature as an object to master and control?

Take Daylight Savings Time.  We lengthened it under the George W. Bush administration.  The rationale was that it is supposed to save energy.  I don’t believe it does.  Sure, many Americans love that extra hour, the longer day.  I think we’re being manipulated.  The sun’s movement hasn’t changed itself.  It will shine as long as it always does, according to the season.  So I don’t need a government-rule telling me that I should get-up an hour earlier each spring, forcing me to lose an hour’s sleep just to adjust to the earlier rising of the sun.

In today’s industrial world, most factories already have twenty-four hour shifts with employees working in buildings that have no windows, thanks to artificial light and artificial climate control.  So who’s kidding who?  The fact is: medical experts tell us that Americans are severely sleep deprived, functioning in a state of desperate need for more sleep, not less.  We need loud alarm clocks to wake us up in the morning and umpteen sedatives and sleeping pills to knock us out at night.  We’re out of touch with Mother Nature’s natural body rhythms for rest and wakefulness.  Who do you know that gets up normally and regularly, without an alarm clock each day?

We live in a machine oriented world that is hostile to the natural rhythm of Mother Nature.  Think of the four seasons as a macro example of Nature’s rhythm: Spring, introduces rising energy forces engaged to bring forth budding new life.  This energy force reaches its peak in the summer time with buzzing bees, zesty fruit, and expanding growth; then comes fall, beginning its slowdown in preparation for that quiet, dormant period of winter rest.

But this is not good enough for us.  We have to push things, pick-up the pace.  We demand quicker, faster, sooner, and earlier.  Many, many years ago we humans timed things according to a rhythm of months, weeks, and days.  Then we invented the clock and reduced our time demands to hours and minutes.  Now, not even minutes are adequate measurements for our use of time.  We now speak of split-second timing, not to mention nanosecond precision.  When will it stop?

I don’t like Daylight Savings time.  I feel pushed.  I lose an hour of sleep and it takes me days to recover from it, if I really ever do.  In the fall I find myself looking forward to setting the clock back to standard time, normalcy!  I feel as if I actually sleep a little better and feel a little less rushed, and more able to slow down the pace.

It seems to me that the real issue is our impersonal mechanistic approach to life.  For centuries now, business and industry has been steadily trying to reduce its human workforce into perfectly controlled obedient and compliant automatons.  If they could turn humans into machines, they would.  Our modern technology and the ubiquitous computer has even made such controlling attempts over our lives that much easier and all the more pervasive.  Captains of cargo ships sailing the high seas, truck drivers transporting goods over our highways, and international stock traders monitoring the market 24/7, all know what I mean.  There is no rest, no peace, no shut-down time.  And Day Light Savings time does little to help us in this great need of ours to slow down the pace of our mechanistic life.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Faith & Politics, BOLD yet DANGEROUS

In today’s context you have to admire anyone in politics who unabashedly declares their religious conviction, a faith in God: "I am a Believer.  I am a Christian.  I believe in Jesus.  I am a man/woman of faith.  I have convictions."  It is something we should respect.

Voters appreciate men and women of conviction.  Voters want honesty, openness, and clarity: What motivates you?  Why are you passionate about that issue, this cause?  What is your purpose?  Who inspires you, shapes your ideals, and informs your vision?  What’s the source of your moral compass?  Where do you draw the line and why?

People of faith generally desire to do the right thing.  People of faith believe in a better way, a higher law, and a greater good.  This is their strong point.

It is also their weak point.  Precisely because people of faith believe-in and submit-to a higher law and a greater good, there is always the danger of becoming narrow-minded, self-righteous, and hypocritical.  Accusatory, judgmental, mean-spirited, harsh, unmerciful, uncaring, and condemning, this is how many non-believers experience People of Faith.  This is sad.  It is also what makes mixing-religion-with-politics dangerous.

God is perfect.  God is good.  God is right.  So, if I am on God’s side, I too am good and right and can count on God backing me.  Right!?  Ergo, we have the Self-Righteous One.

A nation-state of any Faith (be it a Christian State, Muslim State, Jewish State, or otherwise) claiming that their laws are backed by none-other than God Himself, to which all must submit, is always in danger of becoming Pharisaic—self-righteous, socially oppressive, and unmercifully condemnatory in applying those laws.

Let me put it another way.  On the one hand I am a Christian.  That is, I unabashedly and unequivocally believe that Jesus is the Son of God, Lord of Lords, King of Kings, and is the Savior of all humanity.  As such, I would invite you and anyone else to believe in Jesus and to freely submit to His Lordship in your life and accept His free gift of salvation for your soul.  However, on the other hand, I have no right to coerce you, forcing you to submit to my version of Christianity or my set of Christian rites, rules, laws, and regulations.

Indeed Jesus Himself said, “My Kingdom is NOT of this world.”  Christians are in the world but not of the world.  Therefore, it is a mistake for Christians (or other religious groups) to seek a kind of commanding dominance so as to control the moral behavior of ‘outsiders,’ non-believers (or even fellow variant believers) who may come out at a different place on many social/political/religious issues such as, for example, abortion and gay marriage.

Christians should be confident that Jesus will come soon enough, at which time all will be held accountable to Him.  Each of us will have to answer to God for our own choices and actions.  Have we been proud, arrogant, and rebellious before God or have we been humble, receptive, and submissive toward God?  But until then, Christians are to be generous, gracious, forgiving, compassionate, merciful, and redemptive—seeking to lovingly save those they believe are lost, not to bitterly hate and condemn them.

It is sad therefore that very few Humanists or Secularists see Christians as a kind, compassionate, and merciful people.  What’s worse is that those Christians who are most often in the public spotlight, especially those who have chosen to enter the political arena, are often the worst examples of this, demonstrating the least compassion and showing little mercy, having little care for others of different persuasions and backgrounds, judging and condemning their opponents with a vehemence that can rival the Dark One himself.

The danger is self-righteousness.  Indeed, be they self-righteous believers or secularists, religious leaders or politicians, the resulting character is always the same—frightfully oppressive, intolerant, and abusive of their power.