Points of Ponderation…..Episode 2.20

A semi-regular attempt to address some of life’s minutiae that might otherwise be overlooked…..

 

 

 

I’ve remained largely silent about COVID-19/Coronavirus and related controversies for many reasons, the most significant of which is both sides usually make some valid points and it’d be futile for me to make anyone angry. The virus is undoubtedly very real, but I also believe it has been overhyped by the media. I’m not sure whether wearing a mask helps all that much, but it does seem like a rather minor ask if in fact it does some good. On the other hand, I understand the thought process about government overreach & infringement of rights. There is no question that it’s a slippery slope, and we seem to be at a critical juncture in our nation’s history. We began to open things up again only to see the number of positive cases spike. Having said that, I’m pretty sure we achieved the goal of “flattening the curve”, and continue to believe that the casualty rate is extremely small…the vast majority of people who contract the virus recover just fine in a couple of weeks. Of course the media will always focus on the saddest outcomes, and in our humanity we understandably don’t want to see one single death that may have been prevented. People are worried about jobs, closure of small businesses, & the economy, but those things feel inconsequential when compared to human life. I don’t know the right answers to any of it, which is why I choose not to involve myself in pointless social media scrums. I have friends with a variety of opinions who I respect & admire, and the truth is that all of this is new for us. We’re just doing the best we can trying to navigate choppy waters while maintaining some semblance of normalcy, and I am willing to extend a certain level of mercy in the midst of it.

 

I recently watched Hamilton, and it lives up to the hype. It’s a unique spin on history, with fantastic performances and beguiling music. Kudos to the folks at Disney+ and whoever else was involved in bringing the show into our homes.

 

 

Five months ago, in the last episode of PoP, I touched on loneliness & communication, and right now that all feels a little bit prescient. I currently find myself going thru another medical crisis, residing somewhere awful and too far from home. I might be here for months, which would be somewhat more tolerable if people who allegedly care about me actually showed it. I told myself the ordeal would be easier this time with smart phones, texting, Facebook Messenger, etc., but to be honest a little over a month into it I can count on one hand the number of folks outside my immediate family who have made any kind of genuine effort to stay in touch. And no, “Get Well” greeting cards don’t count…they’re lazy & outdated. Look, I don’t want pity, and I don’t expect anyone to put their lives on hold for me. Is it difficult to look at social media and see everyone else out enjoying their lives, having fun, going places, and basking in the beautiful sunshine?? Well…yeah, but that’s nobody’s fault. I don’t want anyone else to be miserable. Mark Twain once said “the best way to cheer yourself up is to try to cheer somebody else up”, and I understand the sentiment…but I’m not there yet. One of my favorite movies is Field of Dreams, and near the end of that film the main character says “I did it all. I did what they told me, and not once did I ask what’s in it for me! But now I’m asking what’s in it for me?”. That’s where I am right now. Eventually I’ll physically heal, but I think the mental & emotional scars may last a lot longer, and I’ll remember just how few people reached out, although perhaps my loneliness isn’t necessarily a product of where I am physically afterall.

 

 

 

 

A few thoughts about #BlackLivesMatter…..

  • I have…evolved…on my opinion of the retort #AllLivesMatter. I get it. I understand that such a reply comes across as dismissive. I saw several very good explanations online that clarified it quite well, my favorite being the idea of going to a doctor for a broken arm and they say “all bones matter”. Well, yeah…of course all bones matter, but right now can we focus on the one that’s hurting. Point taken.
  • Having said that, I am not in favor of looting, rioting, & criminal behavior. I feel like there are a lot of well-intentioned people in the #BlackLivesMatter movement whose legit concerns have been hijacked by people just looking to cause chaos & score free stuff, and that’s a shame.
  • While what happened to George Floyd (which sparked all of this insanity) is undeniably tragic, I think political commentator Candace Owens made a salient point: Floyd is probably the wrong person for African-Americans to make a martyr for their genuine issues. I’m not saying his death was right, and I have no doubt justice will be served. However, putting a career criminal who didn’t exactly represent his race all that well on a pedestal seems like it hurts the cause rather than helps it. I was personally offended watching “Reverend” Al Sharpton & thousands of others turn Floyd’s funeral into a televised spectacle, having personally known other families who weren’t allowed to have any kind of visitation after their loved ones recently passed.
  • Speaking of double standards, it also upsets me tremendously that most Americans are expected to practice “social distancing”, aren’t allowed to gather at churches, ballgames, or movie theaters without restrictions, and are constantly admonished about wearing a mask, but “protesters” get a free pass. The hypocrisy is staggering.
  • I’m not a fan of removing monuments & statues, but I am open-minded enough to have an intelligent discussion about it. You honestly have a real opportunity to change my perspective in some cases. However, what I’ll never agree with is the mob mentality of a bunch of people deciding to get together in the dark of night and deface or destroy such structures. Let’s move thru the proper channels and have the citizenry decide each situation in their own town. That’s democracy, and it can be beautiful. When statues of Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant, & Frederick Douglass are defaced it lends credence to the idea that all of this isn’t really about black lives anymore.

Winning Friends & Influencing People: Ways to Make People Like You

How to Win Friends & Influence People includes, in its intro, the following list of things that the book’s instruction will do for the reader:

   * Get you out of a mental rut, giving you new thoughts, visions, & ambitions

   * Enable you to make friends quickly & easily

   * Increase your popularity

   * Help you to win people to your way of thinking

   * Increase your influence, prestige, & ability to get things done

   * Enable you to win new clients & customers

   * Increase your earning power

   * Make you a better salesman & executive

   * Help you to handle complaints, avoid arguments, and keep human contact smooth & pleasant

   * Make you a better speaker & a more entertaining conversationalist

   * Make the principles of psychology easy for you to apply in your daily contacts

   * Help you to arouse enthusiasm among your associates

I’m not so much interested in the business angle myself, simply because I am at an age where my professional life is what it is and after nearly three decades in the workforce I am comfortable with how I handle myself & interact with others on the job. However, the potential benefits of learning Carnegie’s principles can easily be applied to personal relationships and general human interaction. If you haven’t checked out Fundamental Techniques in Handling People please do so at your leisure, but for now we move on to the next section.

 

First & foremost we must “become genuinely interested in others”. People are generally interested in themselves morning, noon, & night, but to be genuinely interested in other people is a most important quality. Once again we can look to the animal kingdom for guidance. A dog is the only animal that doesn’t need to work for a living. Hens must lay eggs, cows have to give milk, & birds have to sing. Dogs make their living by giving nothing but love. For us humans, we can make more friends in two months by becoming genuinely interested in other people than we could in two years by trying to get others interested in us. If we merely try to impress people and get them interested in us we will never have many true friends. People who are not interested in their fellow human beings have tremendous difficulties in life and oftentimes fail. All of us like people who admire us. We are interested in others when they are interested in us.

 

Secondly, though it seems like simplistic advice, “smile”. William Shakespeare wrote “there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so”. An ancient Chinese proverb warned “a man without a smiling face must not open a shop”. Greet people with animation & enthusiasm. Force yourself to smile. Act as if you are happy and that tends to make you happy. Actions & feelings go together. Actions speak louder than words, and smiling is an action. By regulating the action we can regulate the feeling. The path to cheerfulness is to sit up cheerfully and to act & speak as if cheerfulness was already present. The expression one wears on one’s face is far more important than the clothes they wear. People who smile tend to manage, teach, & sell more effectively, and they also raise happier children. There is far more information in a smile than a frown. Encouragement is much more effective than punishment. Conversely, an insincere grin doesn’t fool anybody and others resent it. The effect of a smile is powerful even when it is unseen. Your smile comes thru your voice. I used to be a supervisor at a telemarketing firm and I can confirm that this idea is absolutely true. People rarely succeed at anything unless they have fun doing it. You must have a good time meeting people if you expect them to have a good time meeting you. Everyone is seeking happiness. The one surefire way to find it is by controlling thoughts. Happiness doesn’t depend on outward conditions, it depends on inner conditions. It isn’t what you have, who you are, where you are, or what you are doing that determines happiness or unhappiness…it is what you think about. Abraham Lincoln said that “most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be”. Thought is supreme. Preserve a good mental attitude of courage, honesty, & good cheer. To think rightly is to create. A smile is a message of good will that costs nothing but creates much. It enriches those who receive it without impoverishing those that give it. It happens in a flash but the memory of it may last forever. It creates happiness in a home, fosters good will in business, and is a witness of friendship. It provides rest to the weary, daylight to the discouraged, and sunshine to the sad. It cannot be bought, borrowed, or stolen because it isn’t any good to anybody until it is given away.

 

Next, we learn the importance of knowing & using a person’s name. “A person’s name is the sweetest and most important sound to that person”. People are so proud of their name that they strive to perpetuate it at any cost, so remembering & honoring the names of friends & associates is one of the most obvious & important ways of gaining goodwill.  The average person is more interested in their own name than in all other names on earth combined. Remembering & using names is a way of paying a subtle yet effective compliment. When I graduated from high school I had the person calling names simply say “Sam Mano”, while nearly everyone else had their full name announced. My father had given me the middle name Anthony (and of course the legal first name Samuel), meaning that my initials spell Sam, something that I’ve always considered a rather ingenious idea from dear old Dad. After the commencement ceremony my parents asked me why my full name hadn’t been used and I immediately realized my mistake. I’ve regretted it for nearly three decades. If you forget or misspell a name you have placed yourself at a significant disadvantage. Emerson stated that “good manners are made up of petty sacrifices. Many people don’t remember names because they don’t take the time & energy to concentrate so as to fix names indelibly in their mind. They are too busy and make excuses for not remembering names. Politicians know that “to recall a voter’s name is statesmanship, to forget it is oblivion”. Be aware of the magic contained in a name and understand that it is wholly & completely owned by that one individual. Their name sets that person apart and makes them unique.

 

We then learn that it is vital to “be a good listener & encourage others to talk about themselves”. An interesting conversationalist hardly says anything at all…they listen intently. Good listeners are preferred over good talkers. Unfortunately the ability to listen is a rare trait. Listening is one of the highest compliments we can pay anyone because nothing is more satisfying than having the exclusive attention of the person to whom you are speaking. To be interesting be interested. People are much more interested in themselves & their wants than they are the problems of others. If you want people to shun, despise, & laugh at you behind your back then don’t listen, talk incessantly about yourself, & constantly interrupt others. A person who does that is intoxicated with their own ego and drunk with self-importance. Listening is not mere silence, but a form of activity. Hear with your eyes as well as your ears. Listen with your mind and attentively consider what the other person is saying. Even the most strident critic will usually soften & be subdued in the presence of a patient, sympathetic listener. Many fail to make a favorable impression because they don’t listen attentively…they are too concerned with what they are going to say next. People don’t always want advice…sometimes they just want a friendly & sympathetic person to listen. People who talk only of themselves think only of themselves. They are hopelessly uneducated no matter what kind of degree they might hold.

 

We must “talk in terms of the other person’s interests”. Make yourself agreeable. The royal road to a person’s heart is to talk about the things they treasure most. Talking in terms of the other person’s interests pays off for both parties. Both lives are enriched by the interaction.

 

And finally, learn to “sincerely make the other person feel important “. The lives of many could be changed if only someone would make them feel important. There is one all important law of human conduct: always make others feel important. Almost all the people we meet feel superior in some way, and it is important to let them know that we sincerely recognize their importance. Remember The Golden Rule: “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. If we obey that law we will almost never get into trouble, and the observance will bring with it countless friends & constant happiness. Frequently those who have the least justification for a sense of achievement boost their own ego with a nauseating show of conceit. If we’re so selfish that we can’t radiate a bit of happiness and show a little honest appreciation without wanting something in return we are doomed to justified failure. To do something for someone without them being able to do anything in return provides a feeling that lives on long after the act. Courtesy oils the gears of the monotonous grind of everyday life and is the hallmark of good breeding.

Points of Ponderation…..Episode 5.17

A semi-regular attempt to address some of life’s minutiae that might otherwise be overlooked…..

 

 

 

I have come to the conclusion that, despite ostensibly good intentions & genuine effort, and through no fault of his own, President Trump will never be able to fulfill his campaign pledge to make America great again. Not only is he dealing with influential opposition from Hollywood, a hostile media that has completely dropped the illusion of being unbiased, & unprecedented political obstructionism, but the simple fact is that what made America great in the first place was its people, a citizenry permeated with dignity, fortitude, patriotism, work ethic, entrepreneurial spirit, respect, common sense, & a belief in something bigger than the reflection in the mirror, and I don’t think that foundation is so rock solid anymore. Abraham Lincoln once said that no outside force would ever defeat our nation, that the United States could only be destroyed from within, and that is exactly what has been happening at a steady pace for atleast the past couple decades. God is welcome in fewer places every day. We promote the false notion that sexual orientation is biological but gender is a matter of choice. Christianity is allegedly corrupt but the religion connected to nearly all terrorism (including 9/11) is “peaceful”. Success and achievement are frowned upon as more & more people look to The Nanny State to support them. Drug abuse is rampant. The education system is flawed. Political correctness has soiled the landscape. Pandora’s Box has been open for awhile, and though I salute President Trump for trying to right the ship, the fact is that his detractors are going to fight him every inch of the way. Even if he scores a few victories here & there and makes a bit of progress I do not believe that a majority of Americans possess the intellect & wisdom to appreciate or take advantage of opportunities.  We may have more knowledge & awareness about more stuff than folks a century ago, but that doesn’t mean we are smarter. I wonder what ol’ Abe Lincoln would think about 21st century America??

 

 

Great information for those looking to eat healthier…..

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Though psychology is undoubtedly fascinating and an undeniably valid science, the truth is that regular folks don’t appreciate being psychoanalyzed by amateur enthusiasts of the subject. If you want to be a therapist then get up off your ass, go to school, & earn the right to judge people.

 

 

I’m just gonna leave this right here…..

 

 

I lost my mother 17 years ago. She was 52 years old. I was 26 at the time. Not a day goes by that I don’t miss her and wish that she was here to give me advice or even just to talk. Mom wasn’t a saint, and I certainly don’t claim that status. We disagreed & argued occasionally, and if I could remember specific words I said to her or details about times I was disrespectful I am sure I would be more aggrieved than I’ve already been all these years. However, overall she & I had a great relationship. I believe I was a good son, and I know I couldn’t have asked for a better mother. The bond we had and the void I have felt every moment since she has been gone is why I get so upset when others…especially grown adults…are abusive to their mother. I have zero tolerance for it. None. Parents & their offspring aren’t always going to get along. We all have the occasional bad day. But a pattern of contempt & abuse is inexcusable, and I have no desire to interact with those that treat their parents so horribly. My Mom used to say “give me my roses while I am living”. She had no patience with people who show up to a funeral home whining & crying over the loss of someone who they’d treated badly in life. She saw thru the insincerity & deception. They might not realize it now, but those who abuse their parents will one day suffer the same loss as so many of us have, and when that day comes they’ll either go on living their lives as if nothing has happened, thereby confirming their true evil, or they will be deeply saddened & remorseful with no possibility of a do-over. Neither potential outcome sounds very pleasant to me.

 

 

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