Friday, May 23, 2008

What I Learned This Decade

(News-Herald, May 22) Today’s column marks ten years of filling up this weekly space. I have voiced many opinions (about 416,000 words—almost double the number of words in Moby Dick) but I decided to mark my anniversary by stating as clearly and briefly as I can what I actually believe. So…

There is a God. However, a human trying to understand God is like my dog trying to understand my Hawaiian shirt collection. Any human who claims to know exactly what God is about is full of bologna.

Most of human existence is wasted on silly junk that we just make up. We spend 95% of our time and care on things of no importance; only the other 5% has value or reality. Many people do not disagree with those numbers, but most disagree vehemently about what, exactly, constitutes that 5%.

Whatever you’re doing, try to spot the main point. This requires thinking and paying attention—the main point is almost never “to just go through the motions.” It is not necessary to be particularly smart. If you can just shut up and pay attention, you can fill in the holes in your smarts.

Comfort and convenience are the enemies of everything great and good. People go to great lengths to avoid anything difficult, uncomfortable or inconvenient. Everybody succumbs to this temptation now and then; that’s just human. Some people are ruled by it; they become truly bad people.

In every aspect of your life, you are always either getting better or getting worse. There is no standing still. If you think you have something mastered and no longer need to work on it, you are getting worse.

Life normally generates plenty of conflict, heartache and hurt. It is a foolish waste to make a special effort to add, on purpose, more hurt and heartache to the world. Our minimum responsibilities as human beings include looking out for each other and being kind.

Being kind is not the same as being nice. It is not kind to offer warm fuzzy affirmations to someone who is driving himself over a cliff. It is almost never kind to lie to someone, even though the truth can be hard.

Very few situations are improved by withholding the truth.

It is important to make judgment calls and to make the very best decisions that we can on any given day without waffling or flinching. At the same time, it would be a mistake to believe that you are so wise that you need never listen to another viewpoint. No good judgment was ever harmed by being re-examined. You can never learn too much.

Be a pessimist about the present and an optimist about the future. Be ruthless about confronting any ugly truth now, and always be certain that no matter how bad the situation is, the next moment could still bring something better. One of the great tricks of evil is the belief that if you have made ten bad choices in a row, the eleventh is sure to be bad and you might as well not bother to try. That’s a lie. No matter how many bad choices you have made, the next choice could be a right choice. Not only can you try to get it right, but you must try. Redemption is not just a possibility, but a responsibility.

There’s a long list of problems that government cannot solve. It’s a bad idea to use government as a tool to implement the horribly common human impulse to make other people behave the way we think they’re supposed to.

Life is like a card game. Fortune deals the cards, and those cards decide what choices you have. Within those limits, the outcome will be determined by your skill, wisdom, and nerve. Fortune (God, fate—pick your favorite) and human effort determine each outcome; to imagine it’s all fortune is lazy, and to imagine that it’s all human effort is egotistically foolish.

Every choice happens where the circumstances of your life intersect with who you are at that moment. Nobody can know what that intersection looks like but you.

Figure out what you believe the point is. Never stop figuring. At the same time, act as if you really mean what you say you believe.

Every moment in life is one of a kind. Filling it with spirit, meaning, beauty, purpose, use and sense is important. Growing and getting better, and helping others do the same, is most of what we are made for.

6 comments:

bojosmom said...

wesll said. nothing needs added,just well said.

bojosmom said...

make that w-e-l-l said, sorry for the typoabove. its too early in the a.m.

joanna said...

And a happy, happy birthday to you. I printed it for the boys to read, btw

Emily said...

This is so very good to read, and to remember. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Awesome Sermon...

Summarized..

"There is a God."
HE is ALL
"of what we are made for."

In every one of your Hawaiian
shirts, your dog certainly recognizes you and also knows much of what you are about.
There is that... relationship?

Response intended to encourage..
Write Boldly!

Mrs.C said...

If I could only tell you how many of your thoughts ring true in my own life. I hope you don't mind, but I posted this particular article on my blog. There are some ne'erdowells who often read my blog who might benefit from your words of wisdom. . . or not.

From my Flickr