“Do it right!!!” Coping with your physical location.

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Yesterday’s summation statement was “We must take personal responsibility for what we hear as well as what we think, say and do.” There is another layer to our personal responsibility that affects our whole being. That is the neighborhood, city, state, country, continent, where we choose to live. Those choices will affect who we relate to, what our opportunities are for work, leisure, and the types of people we will associate with, the politics we will live with and associate with, and the religion we will be immersed within. All these physical things are aspects of any place you will live within, and they will affect who you will become.

Where you now live affects who you are. That’s obvious. Who you choose for your friends affects who you become and who you are forevermore. Where you choose to spend your time affects who you are. What you read and the TV you watch and the virtual reality you participate within all affect how you think and what you become and what your eternal essence is. If you believe in such a concept. 

If every moment of your life affects the rest of your life, then it makes perfect sense to make every thought you think and every movement you move go toward a more desirable place to exist. You will be there for the rest of your life, and for your consciousness, that’s forever.

What these “Do it right!!!” posts have been exploring are things that are so obvious that no one wants to look at them. Probably that’s because they realize they are stuck where they presently are and it doesn’t seem worth the time, effort and money to make any changes. Besides, where is the place to go live, who are the people to associate with when we get there, and what project are they embarked upon that makes sense to me? For example, to go to Washington D. C. and get into public affairs, which sounds wonderful, appears ugly when experienced up close. The same for many of the other idealistic goals.

What to do now is the greatest challenge we will ever face, and we face it right now, all the time.

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“Do it right!!!” Coping with life’s pushes and pulls.

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The emotional state of a person can be defined and compared on an Emotional Thriving scale (ET) of 1. Wonderful, 2. Good, 3. Okay, 4. Difficult, 5. Catastrophic. That scale was intended to be applicable to all of Ben Franklin’s basic virtues of – Happy, Healthy, Wise and Wealthy.

What are the internal factors that prompt a person to choose to move toward a happy, healthy, wise and wealthy lifestyle and away from a miserable, sick, foolish, impoverished one? The Classic Greek and Roman creators of our civilization valued what they called virtue as the prime human characteristic. “Personal virtues are characteristics valued as promoting collective and individual greatness. In other words, it is a behavior that shows high moral standards. Doing what is right and avoiding what is wrong. The opposite of virtue is vice.”

Virtue versus vice is a vast subject discussed by every advanced culture, and no doubt around the campfires soon after humans learned to speak, tens of thousands of years ago. The 147 pre-Socratic Greek maxims, created by the Seven Sages of Greece, and published on a stone stele at Delphi about 500 BC, point the way to a virtuous life. I feel that that document is the foundation of our Western society.

When we come to moments of decision, which is every moment of one’s life, it must come to an action completed. That action is often a thought completed, such as an agreement with oneself about how one ought to be. And the moment before that action is made there must be the thought “shall I do this or suppress doing it?”

Therein lies a problem, because when listening to a person speaking, including our self-talk, we must understand what the speaker is saying before we can think about it and disagree. If that person is stringing out many ideas rapidly which, on consideration, our sensible self would disagree with, but there is no time to think about them and to disagree with them, then we become filled with these unwanted thoughts which settle into our mind as true. That is horrible! And the only way to protect ourselves is to avoid being in situations where counterproductive nonsense is being spewed so quickly we can’t inspect it and reject it.

To move toward the wonderful life and avoid a catastrophic one we must turn our attention away from morally corrosive ideas and focus our attention on growthful values.

We must take personal responsibility for what we hear as well as what we think, say and do.

 

 

“Do it right!!!” The future is all you can plan for.

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It’s obvious you can’t plan for the past, because it’s gone, and it’s just as obvious you can no longer plan for the present because it’s gone too. As soon as you think about “now” it’s gone. You can choose to be mindful of the present but even when you succeed with that awareness of what feels like the present moment it’s already past.

Perhaps what you can do is to generate habits that will spontaneously pop into action without your being conscious of the pre-planning at the moment of action. Most of your actions are like playing ping-pong; you keep your eye on the object of interest and let your body twitch a multitude of muscles to do what you want to do externally. You don’t think about philosophy or some wonderful words of wisdom, you hit the ball in the direction you want it to go in the future moment after it leaves your paddle.

A lot of life is like that, but there is a part of thinking that we like to believe is free will, that we are making decisions. It is in those moments that we are paying attention to what we are going to do. What we are going to do in this moment of thoughtful action and what we are going to do in this instant that will become part of history, an act that is forever fixed history. This decision is thought of as a mental act, and yet it may be a lot more like those moments of playing ping-pong when you just do what seems right and hit the ball so it goes where you want it to go. There’s nothing fancy about it. But one thing that you can do in those moments of decision is to be pointed toward a worthwhile goal.

We bring our whole being into the process of conscious decision-making and ultimately it’s so complex it’s like hitting a ping-pong ball in the right direction.

“Do it right!!!” Be healthy into the future.

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What is the value of being perfectly healthy on into your physical future? My answer, my opinion if you prefer, is that without perfect health all of Ben Franklin’s virtues, Happy, Healthy, Wise, and Wealthy, get degraded.

Monetary wealth in abundance means little other than the ability to give it away to family, friends or society if you are about to die. Or, if your health is terribly degraded, as it is when death is near, then huge quantities of money can be plowed into the ground trying to maintain a few more days of drug-induced breathing-coma. Having a Good level of wealth means you have access to medical care and can maintain a good life with paid personal assistance. Okay wealth will get consumed in a few days in a health emergency without some form of medical insurance. A Difficult level of wealth will be consumed in one day without government-sponsored help because at that monetary level few people will have personal insurance. Catastrophic wealth means your health is absolutely dependent upon the kindness of strangers. 

Money may not bring happiness but when it comes to health it can often prevent misery.

Happiness can be had for a while in a Catastrophic situation, even without any wealth, wisdom, or health. One of my most memorable experiences was in 1959 when I visited my father’s father’s brother and his wife in a nursing facility. He was ambulatory but mostly incoherent, but she was bedridden and as alive as an eighteen-year-old girl. Which in a way she was, because I was talking to her about my Grandmother, who was her best friend when they were teenagers. She was so excited hearing about my grandmother’s life and the success of her children, and even of me who was an Air Force pilot at the time. Both she and her husband died within the month, of old age.

The point is that even in extremely poor health situations, even near death, a person can be very happy.

Wisdom, when had in Wonderful abundance, can help in coping with lack of wealth, lack of health, and lack of happy external situations. However, wisdom can also eliminate situations that are not inevitable, unlike death. Wisdom can help bring into existence the best results of all the virtues because wisdom looks into the future and does those things in the present that will bring a long and happy life to you. As I concluded yesterday:

Wisdom is more valuable than rubies.” “Get wisdom and with all thy getting get understanding.

“Do it right!!!” The wisdom of looking into the future.

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The essence of wisdom is the ability to choose an action in every moment that will bring about an optimal outcome. There is a combination of factors that are needed to implement that perfect act, and the hereditary DNA that has been based on billions of years of experience and bred into a species has brought it into an existence that has broadly functional automatic behaviors.

Humans, in addition to those built-in behaviors, can learn from other humans, because of their language abilities, the probable future for many routine things. They also have some individual ability to look at situations actually in front of them and predict things that may happen in the future and this may be a type of wisdom available to all higher animals. Consider how predators will stealthily lie in wait, trying to predict the movements of their prey, and seize the optimal moment to attack. These habits may be built into their DNA but they also seem to have some individual observational planning.

There may be a normal statistical distribution of genetic ability for wisdom in humans. I don’t know of any existing test for that ability, but it might be an interesting test to create. It would, of course, gather even more furious controversy than IQ tests. Like IQ a WQ (Wisdom Quotient) would be profoundly influenced by the individual’s social environment over their lifetime of experience.

Discussed yesterday was the emotional state of a person which can be defined and compared on an Emotional Thriving scale (ET) of: 1. Wonderful, 2. Good, 3. Okay, 4. Difficult, 5. Catastrophic. That scale was intended to be applicable to all of Ben Franklin’s basic virtues of – happy, healthy, wise and wealthy. This present application of those virtues to wisdom isn’t intended to be a WQ scale; rather it is a brief description of various levels of wise behavior for describing an individual’s past conduct.

Wonderful wisdom is the ability to choose an action in every moment that will bring about an optimal outcome. The acts are ones which are beneficial to future humanity and maximize the health, happiness, wisdom and wealth of all currently living people.

Good wisdom is being able to consistently do things which benefit the individual and those dear to them. That will include friends, family, and the obvious things for the world’s environment.

Okay wisdom is seeing cause and effect clearly enough to maintain friendly permanent social relationships, to be a good worker and able to be relied upon for routine work to be accomplished on time with little supervision.

Difficult wisdom is associated with enough foresight to usually stay out of legal trouble but the person has no reliable long-term friends, and there is usually difficulty with family relations.

Catastrophic wisdom would be an individual’s propensity to choose actions that consistently get them into a worse physical and mental condition. What forethought they have is so dedicated to instantaneous ego pleasure that the results of those acts bring trouble and injuries to themselves and others.

Wisdom is more valuable than rubies.” “Get wisdom and with all thy getting get understanding.

 

 

 

“Do it right!!!” Go the right way.

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A person’s emotional condition can be improved if they get on a good path, look along it in a positive direction, and do the right thing. If they consistently do the right things they will move toward a more wonderful life. There are many paths to supreme personal happiness but going toward catastrophe on any path must ultimately lead to catastrophe.

The emotional state of a person can be defined and compared on an Emotional Thriving scale (ET) of – 1. Wonderful, 2. Good, 3. Okay, 4. Difficult, 5. Catastrophic. The action that will appear to be most beneficial to individuals on each level of the scale will seem different at different times and places. Seeing where someone is at present on the ET scale helps them to know where they should place their attention and what actions they should take.

For example, a person living a catastrophic lifestyle will find it difficult to maintain a healthier one for long. If they suddenly came into a thousand dollars it would probably be spent on drugs for getting high rather than getting a better iPhone, as a person living an Okay lifestyle, two steps up, would more likely choose to do. Or clearing up some bank loans as a Good lifestyle individual, three steps up, might choose to do. Or, investing the money in a promising stock as a Wonderful lifestyle person, four steps up, would be prone to do. But, each of those actions will not be appealing to a person living a Catastrophic lifestyle.

A single step up from a catastrophic lifestyle would be what is labeled a Difficult lifestyle. This style of using the thousand dollars is probably more available as something a Catastrophic person would find meaningful, and thus able to do. Perhaps renting a room would be appropriate for them and would be much healthier than getting high.

The Emotional Thriving Scale gives more actionable paths for people to use for directing their lives than the impossible to follow directives they are commonly given.

Some thoughts on how to “Do it right!!!”

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The post, “Do it right!!!” ended with,  “The point is that Happy, Healthy, Wise, Wealthy can be arranged on a scale of 1. Wonderful, 2. Good, 3. Okay, 4. Difficult, 5. Catastrophic and then they can be compared and improved.”

The day after posting that and rereading it I was a little surprised at how obvious the path to a better, or worse, life is and how easily those paths can be described. The next step up the ladder, or down it, is within easy reach from the step presently being inhabited. Most people, by my intentionally defining it there, are living in the Okay situation. When living there it is easy to imagine falling one step into a Difficult situation, and not too difficult to imagine moving up one step to a Good situation. Furthermore, the actions of living those other steps, only one level away, are easily imagined, and occasionally experienced by those at the Okay level. Thus, there is a guide to be found in a person’s experience to identify behaviors to be sought and those to be avoided.

The heaven to be experienced by people living the Wonderful life is probably too many steps removed from a person living a Catastrophic life to be understood and sought by them. For example, the relief from pain found in pain-suppressing drugs only gets them into more trouble because it leads them away from the behaviors found in a Wonderful way of living.

“Go the right way!” is easy to say, but it may be impossible to do for people looking the other way.

My prayer for today

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At the book club meeting at the 1st Presbyterian Church here in Bend, Oregon, the book currently being discussed is Unbelievable – Why Neither Ancient Creeds Nor the Reformation Can Produce a Living Faith Today. We have been discussing this book a chapter at a time for a couple of months now and presently are studying the section named PART XII – Thesis 10: PRAYER. Chapter 31 – The Death of Prayer, 32 – Prayer: An Act of Being or of Doing?, 33 – Driving Prayer Toward a New Understanding. It is astonishing how this group of older men can delve so deeply into a book that seems to challenge their church’s fundamental existence.

I informed these 1st Presbyterians at our first encounter that I have been attending Unitarian services since 1954. For me, it has been in association with their organization of college students named Channing Club. I arrived in Berkeley, California, in 1960 and immediately fell in with the Unitarian students. Those people are still meeting on a regular basis there in Berkeley, but I bought a house in Bend and moved here in May 2011. Thus I was a Berkeley Channing Club member for fifty-one years and needless to say that is my core source of lifetime friends and emotional influence. I mention these details because those people were not inclined to what is typically called prayer. And yet … when it came to writing up my feelings about prayer this is what I wrote and presented to my new friends here at the 1st Presbyterian Church:

Prayer for me is … Kindness in a physical action that helps another to live their life and live it more abundantly; and kindness only exists in our external world of actions. If a kind prayer is existing only in the internal world of my mind and is never expressed externally as a kind act, then it is easily forgotten and vanishes. If I were to only meditate on a prayer and then forget about it and move on and never act upon it, then it will die when I physically die and vanish forever.

Because I feel this way I do tiny actions to help unknown others whenever I can. For example, I shovel snow, carry water, chop wood, pick up litter, intending them as kind actions that help people who will be never be known to me, but the actions are completed and are part of the Universe forever and the kindness is liberated and out there and not locked in here, locked inside of my body, locked in my mind which will soon be dead and forgotten.

Prayer can be kindness in a physical action that helps another to live their life and live it more abundantly.

Finding Wisdom in Trivium

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Wisdom is to be found in the Wooden Books series Trivium, Quadrivium, Sciencia and Designa. I am seeking the wisdom found in the Classic education started by the Greek philosopher Pythagoras in about 500 BCE. These books are a modern attempt at bringing those foundational ideas of Western culture to the Modern world. I try to understand each idea on a page before moving on and am astonished by every page at the things those ancient people discovered and the perfections they created. Their ideas have opened my eyes and mind to the ubiquity of wonderful things with which the world surrounds us.

The mail delivered Trivium last week, but I had only finished Designa, and dipped well into Quadrivium when it arrived. Therefore I opened the package but didn’t make any attempt to begin, until an hour ago, when it happened to fall open to page 322. There was WISDOM, and that is where last night’s post ended; so I read those two facing pages, and as always with the Wooden Books series got to the essence of the ideas I have been sort of struggling with all my life. Sad to say these were things I sought for  but missed. That was sad because I was specifically seeking these exact things for decades. Way back in the 1960s I was reading H. L. Mencken’s books, especially his massive book on Quotations, where I spent months, possibly years, reading and rereading, looking for “common sense to an uncommon degree” (Coleridge). I spent years in that pursuit. I even wrote a book on the subject, “Tao and War”. But I never encountered such a simple statement as follows from Trivium:

Phronesis bestows both an understanding of first principles of general knowledge and good judgment, and a shrewd ability to apply what’s appropriate to each situation. It involves being good at reasoning, evaluating evidence, and comparing alternatives. Cicero translated the term as providentia, meaning foresight. The medieval Latin Schoolmen later contracted this into prudentia, referring to the ability to appreciate the uniqueness and complexity of any given situation, with appropriate awareness of the long-term risks and implications of each possible action.” p.322

When reading the links I made in the above paragraph it became apparent that even in those links the ideas discussed were so generalized that little wisdom could be gained by reading them. They spoke of practical experience as being necessary but gave no pointers as to how it could be obtained. Even Machiavelli gave helpful instructions; for example, get into close contact with the kinds of people you seek to become like. That advice is specific and actionable.

Yesterday’s post Do It Right, about the symbiotic relationships between happy, healthy, wise and wealthy did provide a path to follow. It was a prudent path and reasonable. I have posted about Jesus’ path, a staircase, as described in his Beatitudes, but that was a spiritual path and not a practical path such as Seneca was promoting at the same time, and now I have this path which makes more sense and is easy to do. For example …

Join groups of people who are trying to create good things and participate in their activities and avoid joining the opposite kinds of groups.

 

Do it right!!!

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To get a good life requires getting your relationships to happy, healthy, wise and wealthy right. If any of those virtues drops to a low level you won’t be living as good a life on the others. There may be easy opportunities for improvement on one of those virtues if you do the right thing. However, you might be out of balance with your optimum without even being aware of it, and need to pull a specific virtue up a bit and by doing that discover that the others will also be improved.

These recent posts have been comparing the concept of wealth to the other three virtues because it is more easily quantified. Basically, living a good life means having enough money in your normal social situation so you could live as comfortably as you currently do for over a year without any income and without any severe stress. 1. An ordinary American who is healthy and reasonable with a total estate of a million dollars ($1,000k)  can easily live without income for more than a year without difficulty. 2. But, dropping below one quarter of that amount ($200k) puts home ownership at risk, 3. and dropping below a quarter of that amount ($40k) puts even a rental residence at risk, 4. a quarter of that ($8k) puts a single rental room at risk, 5. a quarter of that ($1,600) is still a lot of money for a short term but it falls far below a year of living a normal life without any income. [ 2019/02/08 Six days ago the divisor was 4. I just changed it to 5 which now feels to me to illustrate the levels better.]

Happiness is largely an independent quality from money but we can arrange it on a scale in a similar way. 1. Perfect happiness is having daily enjoyable, meaningful things to accomplish with family, friends and thus living in a whole world with kind actions with everyone. 2. Good happiness is filled with pleasurable activities done together with family, friends, and community. 3. Okay happiness is having fun things to do with family and friends and community relationship mostly in the form of a job done as something to make money for oneself. 4. Difficult happiness is found in trying to make friends with people found in public places and just hanging out together. 5. Catastrophic happiness is when nothing seems to work, people can’t be trusted, and pleasure is only found in a release from pain found in large doses of drugs.

Health is measured independently of money, happiness, and wisdom but it can be arranged in a similar way. 1. Perfect health is to never have a physical or mental limitation of any kind. 2. Good health is to have minor problems once a year, like a cold, but always able to do all normal physical things with ease. 3. Okay health is to have a few chronic problems but they only impede a few activities so it is living by just avoiding doing those strenuous things. 4. Difficult health is a chronic problem and requires daily attention and some serious medical tracking. 5. Catastrophic health is a constant problem with frequent severe challenges to do anything and feeling rotten is a good day.

Wisdom is seemingly a totally independent virtue from those other qualities, but it too can be arranged on a scale. 1. Great wisdom is the cultivated ability to see all things clearly and thus be able to make optimum actions for making the whole future world function harmoniously. 2. Good wisdom is the ability to see the present clearly and adapt to its needs in ways that work out well for everyone within that world view. 3. Okay wisdom works well for seeing present needs and responding to them well enough to get needed things done and avoid serious trouble. 4. Difficult wisdom doesn’t see relationships between cause and effect accurately and sometimes makes serious mistakes that cause frequent personal problems and problems for others. 5. Catastrophic wisdom has a relationship with reality that causes serious problems for oneself and for everyone near and for all society in general.

The point is that Happy, Healthy, Wise, Wealthy can be arranged on a scale of 1. Wonderful, 2. Good, 3. Okay, 4. Difficult, 5. Catastrophic and then they can be compared and improved.