Adolescent Sexuality, Agape, Anger, Authenticity, Being True To Yourself, Education, Erotic Love, Fear, Friends, Gratitude, Horniness, Human Nature, Infatuation, Learning, Life, Living, Love, Lovers, New Love, Passion, People, Possessiveness, Relationships, Romantic Love, Self, Self Identity, Self Image, Self-Flourishing, Self-Knowledge, Sexuality, Sharon, Talents and Skills, Teacher, Unconditional Love

Sharon’s Love for the Horny Misfit Boy

(About a 20 minute read)

Many a beautiful friendship has sprouted from awkward soil.  In fact, most of my deepest friendships in life have begun clumsily.

I know of no inviolate law of nature that dictates the conservative beige panties of a young school librarian cannot possibly be the start of a profound bond between her and an insufferably horny 14 year old boy misfit.  I know of no law that states such a thing cannot happen.

Yet the very last thing on my mind when Sharon’s angry voice shook me awake that Spring morning was, “This is the start of a beautiful friendship”.

Continue reading “Sharon’s Love for the Horny Misfit Boy”

Advice, Gratitude, Happiness, Life, Living, Love, Quality of Life

How to be Happy Even During Tough Times

SUMMARY: Three things that can help us be happy even through moderate tough times.

(About a 4 minute read) 

I have yet to figure out why anyone would gamble.  It seems to me life itself is so much of a gamble why pick an entertainment that isn’t much different from it?  Might as well choose to paint houses in order to distract yourself from the paint fumes.

Of course, one of the biggest gambles in life is the pursuit of happiness.  Even Thomas Jefferson believed our only right was to pursue it — there being no right or guarantee to attaining it.  And — either I’ve been reading the wrong self-help literature — or just about everyone, even the people who map out strategies for other folks to be happy, is pretty sure that there are times when life is simply too tough to be happy.

Continue reading “How to be Happy Even During Tough Times”

Courage, Dying, Fun, Gratitude, Honesty, Human Nature, Impermance, Life, Play, Quality of Life, Spirituality, Wisdom

Cheryl: Skipping Like a Child Into Her Night

(About a 7 minute read)

I worked after hours when I was in high school in a funeral home owned by perhaps the kindest and most compassionate man in town — in a town with a decent number of kind and compassionate men and women.

In addition to both his kindness and his compassion, H.P (for Herbert Paul) combined a matter-of-fact realism about death with an easy going attitude towards it.  For instance, he had a number of gentle — but wholly appropriate — jokes that he was apt to tell to the families at visitations in order to soften their grief.

Continue reading “Cheryl: Skipping Like a Child Into Her Night”

Anxiety, Art, Boredom, Deity, Goals, God, God(s), Gratitude, Homeless, Human Nature, Late Night Thoughts, Life, Obsession, Poetry, Quality of Life, Television, Unconditional Love, Wisdom

Late Night Thoughts: Personalities and Ecosystems, First Dates, Thinking Gods, and More (July 21, 2018)

(About a nine minute read)

It’s becoming evident to me that our personalities are in some ways like ecosystems.  One thing affects another, and if we aren’t careful when we go about improving things,  we can run into unintended consequences.

Back when I was in business, I became obsessed –there’s no other word for it — obsessed with time management and achieving or exceeding my goals.  For some years, I worked hard to improve myself along those lines, and it paid off quite well at first.

Each day, I would, while eating a quick  breakfast, review all my goals, both business and personal, both short and long-term.  By the time I got to the office, I was so focused that very little could completely distract me from what I intended to accomplish for the remainder of the day.

But I took it too far.  One day, I was sitting at a stoplight when it turned green while a pedestrian — an woman perhaps seventy or even eighty years old — was still in the crosswalk.  She was using a walker, you see, and quite a bit slower than I wished.

I didn’t honk at her, creep my car forward — nothing like that.  I had plenty of time that morning.  Besides, it had of course happened many times before that I’d had to wait on a pedestrian.

But this time I became aware, as I never had before, just how harsh were my thoughts towards her.  I was basically treating her in my head like a treat a fierce business competitor.  She was between me and what I wanted to accomplish, and with a bit of genuine shock, I realized what it really meant that I was not seeing her as fully human.

Of course, after that, I began to see other unintended ways my assiduously cultivated ability to focus my efforts had altered me.

♦♦♦

Have you noticed how felt gratitude possesses in some much smaller measure the power of unconditional love to renew us, to make us born again?

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How to save money on a first date…

GLORIA (At Door):  Hello!  You must be Paul, yes?  Well, here I am, Gloria!

SUNSTONE: Welcome, Gloria!  I’m so pleased to meet you!  Did you have a hard time finding my place?

GLORIA:  Not at all, but I must admit, I was a bit taken back at first that you wanted to meet up at your cottage.  That’s quite unusual you know, for an online date.   But then you explained you don’t own a car.

SUNSTONE:  What convinced you to come anyway?

GLORIA:  I was reassured when you said you wouldn’t insist I came in.  Nothing personal, you know, but you can’t be too cautious on a first date.

SUNSTONE:  Thank you so much  for coming. I’ll be ready in just a moment, Gloria.  I have to make a quick phone call to animal control.  My cat has escaped and I’m sure she’s in the neighborhood somewhere.

GLORIA:  Of course please make your phone call.  I’ll wait here.   What does your cat look like, in case I spot one while I’m waiting.

SUNSTONE:  She’s got green eyes, short tawny fur, big paws, and weights about 300 lbs.  You might actually spot her:  She never goes much further when she gets loose than the first pedestrian she spots.

GLORIA:  Three..hundred…pounds?  I can see in your eyes, you’re not joking, or are you?

SUNSTONE:  Oh no, she’s quite the mountain lion.  I raised her from a kitten.

GLORIA:  Oh My God!

SUNSTONE:  You’re welcome to wait inside if you’d like.

GLORIA:  Yes, yes, I think that would be a good idea.

SUNSTONE: By the way, I have Netflix and, even though I’m not much of a cook, it won’t take long to make some of my deep-fried mac and cheese….

GLORIA: I cannot believe this is happening!

♦♦♦

A petite homeless woman knocked on my door one night last winter, the day of the first snow of the season.  She had about twenty reasonable requests of me, not more than one of them that I granted her.  Five dollars for cigarettes was all I gave.

“Uncharacteristic of me”, I thought after I’d sent her away.  But while she still was there, the thought had crossed my mind, “She might steal from me if I let her in, and turn my back”.

It wasn’t much more than a mild self-caution, but it had been enough.

♦♦♦

I have long been uncomfortable with the notion that a god — if one or more exist — thinks.  To be sure the notion is an anthropomorphism: That much is granted.  But it seems to me an especially preposterous anthropomorphism — much on the same level as believing a god had a beard.

For one thing, what we humans mean by “thought” is essentially symbolism.  That is, our thoughts bear much the same relationship to reality that a map does to its terrain.  When we think of a house, we’re not doing anything greatly different in principle from what a cartographer does when he or she places a small dot, a star, or a square on a map to represent that house.

But suppose that’s the same as what it means for a god to think.  Wouldn’t that place god at least partly outside nature — outside the natural universe — in much the same sense a map is separate from its terrain?  I think so, and that rather alarms me.  I’m not a theist, but if I were one, I would believe in a deity that was co-extensive with the natural universe, rather than in any way outside of it.

Yet my preference for a pantheistic deity is merely personal.  There’s no reason to hold that view other than for one’s own reasons.  To me, a more serious criticism of the notion that deity thinks begins with the recognition that thinking takes time.

The thought, “I’ll go to the store, buy some milk, lace it with Colorado weed, and sneak it back onto the shelf — fun, fun, fun!”, doesn’t normally present itself in our minds all at once unless we’ve previously come up with it.  Rather, it takes time for those thoughts to unfold.

But what would that mean to a deity?  Would it not mean the deity was subject to time?  Subject to past, present, and future thoughts?   Or if Einstein was correct in suggesting that time is an illusion, then for the deity to think like a human, it too much suffer from the same illusion.

Moreover, if it is the case that deity is subject to time, then doesn’t that imply the deity is at any given moment (except, perhaps during the very last moment of its existence) not omniscient, not all knowing?  For it would not know what it’s next thought would be.  And if is not all knowing, how can it completely know what it itself is?  As an example, if it was external, it would not know it — being subject to thinking within time.

There are many implications besides those, but I think you might see the point now:  To say deity thinks like we think is at least to say that deity is limited in knowledge and perhaps subject to at least one illusion.

Then beyond all that, you would have the problem that humans have cognitive biases, are notoriously imperfect at predicting the future,  entwine thought with emotion, and can’t keep their minds off the studly guy or beautiful gal next door, etc, etc, etc.

♦♦♦

Fragment of a poem in progress:

How many souls would we need
If we needed one for each soul
Stolen or lost by us
On the way?

And what sum of souls is tallied
By thirty years without loving —
Without loving freely?

♦♦♦

Tonight, it strikes me as curious morality and wisdom are not the same thing.  I often hear people defend the practices of distant ages by saying something along the lines of, “Well, given the morals of that time and place…”.   Perhaps.  But have some things always been wise?

 ♦♦♦

In a novel written in the 1920s,  a woman is planning a dinner party she’s giving for about a dozen guests.  Carefully, very carefully, she considers each of several seating arrangements,  imagining as best she can the conversations the different arrangements will prompt.  She pays little attention to who has the honor of sitting next to who: It’s the conversations she’s focused on.  And she goes further than that.

She plans how she will prompt each guest at key moments through-out the evening with questions she’s selecting just for them.

My father was born in 1900.  In the early 50s, he noticed the conversations among his circle of friends had begun to shift away from a wide range of (probably pre-selected) topics and towards talking about the high points of the past night’s or past week’s television shows.

“The art of conversation is dying”, he told my mother, “It will be buried soon.”

♦♦♦

“There are no boring speakers.  Only bored audiences.”  — Speaker forgotten, but an English lord, circa 1890s.

One day, an old couple in their 70s came into the restaurant where I had just begun waiting tables.  It was my first day, and I didn’t yet know who the regulars were, but it didn’t matter in their case, because they very quickly told me they’d been coming to that restaurant for lunch almost every weekday for the past forty-two years — ever since the day or so after they’d gotten back in town from their honeymoon.

Before I had time to fully digest that incredible news, the woman pleasantly instructed me, “Just tell Amie” — she was the cook —  “we’ll have our usual sunny-sides-ups today.  And, young man, I’ll need the jar of salsa you’ll find on a shelf in the mini-refrigerator at your waiter station, please.”

It wasn’t until after my shift, and I had time to reflect, that it fully sank in how odd  anyone would spend forty-two years going for lunch to the very same restaurant!

As the days turned into weeks and months, they certainly did come in nearly every weekday, excepting only the weekends.  I noticed they had almost no conversation between them.  They would more or less routinely invite others — usually semi-regulars — over to their table and then they might chat lively enough.  But on those occasions when they sat alone, they were almost totally silent.

Sometimes it seems quite curious to me we get bored with the people we love the most.  After all, isn’t boredom so often a form of turning away, of withdrawing from people in practice, if perhaps not actually in principle?

♦♦♦

Was it television that did in the art of conversation during the 1950s?  Or was it the decimation during the war of the upper classes — the people mostly responsible for sustaining the art?

Compassion, Friends, Gratitude, Love, People, Poetry, Relationships, Romantic Love, TJ

Grace in the Night

Grace

In the night
After I came alone to Colorado,
I climbed to a high place in the wind
Where I was surprised
By the size of the moon.

Not sure why,
I stretched my arm out to her,
Who then seemed a foot beyond my hand,
And beyond any grasp of mine.

But her light,
Fell on my fingers like a grace given to me,
Who could neither earn nor deserve her grace.

I sometimes feel, love, you are like the moon
I have reached for when alone in the night
And have found her beyond what
I can deserve or earn,
And beyond any grasp of mine,

For your compassionate love has taken my hand
And, by some miraculous grace of your heart,

I no longer stand in the dark, alone in the wind.

Emotions, Friends, Gratitude, Happiness, Love, Meaning, Nature, People, Relationships, Values

It’s My Lucky Day … Again

The other day, I met someone online who I suspect might make a good friend.

Of course, it’s too early to tell for certain.  We’re at that stage where it’s still readily possible to discover she has horrifying, soul-crushing secrets — such as she tortures animals, locks her mother in the attic, beats her kids, or worse, harbors a fondness for the music of Britney Spears.

But so far I’ve found her to be kind, intelligent, charming, and respectful — so if all goes well, I hope to befriend her.  And I’m finding that pretty common these days.  I have met many good people online, and I should by all rights be getting used to it.

Still, a part of me cannot believe my good luck to have met so many remarkable people.  A part of me protests that I must be delusional to think I’ve found so many kind, decent, intelligent, etc people in the world.  Protests that I would be lucky enough to have found just one such person, let alone all the people I have found.

It’s much more than nice, at 51, to still have days when I feel impossibly lucky.  I’m finding as I get older that most of the time I feel so lucky it has something to do with the people I know — rather than, say, with my material circumstances, or the overall nature of this world.

I suppose it could easily be different.  Indeed, there are so many problems in the world that perhaps I ought not count myself (or anyone else alive these days) as too lucky for words.  Besides which, the world has always been an extraordinarily cruel place — if you wish to make a point of the perfectly obvious.  But apparently, my heart ignores that dismal reality.  And for that I’m grateful.

Depression, Emotions, Gratitude, Health, Mental and Emotional Health, Spirituality

A Few Thoughts on Gratitude

Sometime last week, Becky said, “You need a haircut.  So do I.  I’ll make an appointment for us with Mildred on Saturday.”

For a while now, Becky has insisted Mildred cut my hair because she believes Mildred is the best stylist in town.  Becky is quite right about that, I think.   In all likelihood, Mildred gives me the best haircuts I’ve yet had in my 51 years. She’s a beautiful, petite woman with bronze skin whose eyes sparkle.  When I sat down in her chair yesterday, she promptly chided me for not coming in sooner.  “It’s been a while”, she said accusingly, “Tisk. Tisk. Tisk.”

After I’d made my obligatory promises to reform myself and lead a much better life from then on,  I spent a few moments allowing myself to feel gratitude to Becky for arranging a haircut, and gratitude to Mildred for the good work she does.  I’ve learned gratitude is a good feeling when it comes of its own accord and is not forced. It seems to lighten our hearts and leave us more upbeat, among other things.

Cicero valued gratitude so much that he said of it, “Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others.”  And Alfred Painter somewhere mentions that, “Saying thank you is more than good manners. It is good spirituality.”

There was a time when I couldn’t feel gratitude.  A few years back, I was afflicted with a depression that lasted nearly a decade because I allowed it to go untreated.  During that period, the emotions I could feel were considerably narrowed, and gratitude was not among the few left me.  Then, one evening a month or two after I’d begun therapy, I was crossing a street on my way home when I suddenly became aware of feeling gratitude again for the first time in years.

That event was a revelation. Until that evening, I wasn’t aware of how depression had taken away so much of my emotional life.  And it was also a victory of sorts: It was then I first understood I was going to get better.  Since then, I have considered it a gift to be able to feel gratitude.