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Archive for February, 2008

Name the greatest of all inventors:
Accident.
Mark Twain

X-Rays, microwaves, rubber and Velcro, were all accidents waiting impatiently to happen… to the person willing and smart enough to pay attention.

If we agree that nothing happens without a reason, then when something happens unexpectedly it means there’s a particular “reason” we don’t yet understand properly. “Unexpected” is merely another way of saying: “Pay attention now… there’s something here to learn.”

If we knew everything, then the unexpected could not exist. Only the ignorance of something can cause us to stumble over it. Every “Why did that happen?” and “Gee… that’s funny, that never happened before!” is a learning opportunity screaming for our attention.

Invention is mostly discovery. X-rays and microwaves existed long before Curie and Spencer. Mother Nature had the patent on rubber trees and cockleburs long before Goodyear had his cooking accident and de Mestral came back from his country walk.

The pride and strength of inventors, is their use of the words “Why?” and “How?” (and “Oops!)”. The world in its infinite generosity supplies the mysteries.

Accidents happen when we trip over the stones of ignorance… or steps of opportunity… the choice is always ours.

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If you can make a man laugh,
you can make him think
and make him like and believe you.
Alfred E. Smith

Humour is our physical and emotional response to the perverse incongruities of life. Without a sense of humour, we stumble from cosmic incident to comic accident, never seeing the connection. Our belly laughs, are wry detectors.

We laugh at the indignities that befall us, because the alternatives are too depressing.

We chuckle at both the small and large misfortunes ensnaring us, because we have no other choice.

Despite our best laid plans, life sometimes just happens to us. The knack of seeing the hidden irony is a precious gift.

Humour doesn’t come easy. Especially when the humour is in our follies and foibles. To laugh at ourselves is to acknowledge our shared, and all too common, weakness. We owe a debt of gratitude to those who, with the dual, and never dull, scalpels of tact and gentleness expose the humours within.

With every burst of laughter there’s the opportunity to reflect on what we’ve found out.

Our sense of humour is a symptom of our intelligence. Once we laugh, we know enough to pay attention.

When your audience is laughing, they’re listening.

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We cannot unthink
unless we are insane.
Arthur Koestler

Each thought shapes the world. Desire creates action, actions become habit, habits become the way we’ve always done things around here. Through our thoughts we become the world makers.

The sane live in the world the way others have built it. In thinking the same as others, we can walk only the well worn paths. Only by embracing a form of insanity do we acquire the ability to step outside clearly marked boundaries. To ignore those boundaries is to reject past thoughts…

…and in rejecting past thought, we reject in part, community. The creative person, by definition, stands outside the walls of acceptability. To fulfill dreams, explorers must walk away from people. There is no new territory where there is a crowd.

The sane see only what is, and are blind to all that isn’t thought of yet. Beyond the edge of the safe common map, lies naught but dragons until we think up new worlds there to live in. The new and original is always scary, until it becomes the familiar, the comfortable, the mundane.

Let go of reason, break the rules and create a world.

See what others can’t see, think what they haven’t thunk.

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What makes enemies of people,
if not the eagerness,
the passion for the same thing.
Bernard Berenson

We are drawn asunder and pulled together by the things we both hold dear. Peace and security, a land to live upon and to rest in peace beneath, these are our common hopes and dreams.

We’re divided by memories of injustices long past. In sacred remembrance we create new memorials to fuel the future feud of children aged before their time. A plague of amnesia would allow us to start afresh. A divine gift of tabula rasa for those as yet unborn.

Our justice is swift for we live in the land of the fair. We demand an eye for an eye, until we crawl on all fours in the land of the blind.

We rightfully give praise to those who fall in the clash of arms, yet the solutions must lie beyond the battle circle. When we no longer care who lives or dies, then death can no longer threaten the living.

Conflict can reach the point where the solution is either genocide or compromise. Civilized thought enables one and denies the other.

The lands we fight over are more pleasant if stood upon, than lain beneath.

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My father considered a walk
among the mountains
as the equivalent of churchgoing.
Aldous Huxley

Our concerns pale under the gaze of silent crags. It’s not the height of the towering stones, but their permanence that sits in silent judgment. Nature never makes us feel small, it can only make us aware of who we are.

Much of our life is based on the reflections others have of us. Alone in the mountains those reflections are stripped to the honesty of echoes.

Sans judgment or interpretations, we hear back only what we project. If we speak falsehoods, we hear them back and cringe.

Why walk wrapped in ego or pretense when even the issues of life and death fail to impress what was there before, and will remain long after?

When the peaks are unimpressed by the disguises we wear before others, we revert, in defense, to our inner truths.

The indifference of Nature sentences us to a peculiar form of solitary confinement. We realize then, the company we keep is of our own design and choosing.

It’s impossible to hide behind a mask in solitude.

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I give myself, sometimes,
admirable advice,
but I am incapable of taking it.
Mary Wortley Montagu

The further recipients are removed from the givers of advice, the more likely they’ll pay attention.

We never listen to our own advice. If we were that smart, we wouldn’t need advice in the first place. Besides, what we thought was the right thing to do us into this mess in the first place.

We seldom listen to the well intentioned advice from Mom, Dad, spouses or loved ones. Their perception is always clouded by their desire to protect us from ourselves. They’d like to remake us in their image and listening to them would place us under their control. We can’t have that, so we ignore them.

We sometimes listen to the associates we work with. Being close to us only on a daily basis, they must understand us better than those who live with us. Or so we think.

We always listen to the strangers we meet while waiting for the bus, or while in line for the afternoon coffee. Strangers have no vested interest in our adherence to their words of wisdom. Besides, they have no reason to lead us astray.

We’re irrational. We act as if being further from the problem, means the person is closer to our solution.

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A problem is a difference
between things as desired
and things as perceived.
Gerald Weinberg

Most of us don’t really believe in Magic. We don’t believe that merely thinking about how we’d like things to be will make it so. Yet if we watch ourselves closely, not only do most of us seem to believe in Magic, but we’re high ranking sorcerers with the world under our spell.

Throw a stone in the air and command it to fly — it’ll still fall to the ground. Everytime. Always. Gravity Rules. Even if it’s somehow vitally important to us that the stone flies, Gravity still rules, the stone still falls. We are not surprised or upset at the inevitable fall of stones.

Yet if we’re producing a report on a deadline, and the printer first runs out of paper, and then out of toner, and then the paper jams due to a mechanical failure, we’ll growl and curse a world that doesn’t work according to our schedule and whims.

Strange coincidences of multiple delays aside, our response to such happenings is curious. A falling stone never raises our ire, but the natural depletion of toner or paper ignites an angry fire. We always know where the fault lies, and it isn’t in the world.

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