Sharing with you things that are on my mind...Maybe yours too. Come back to Wrights Lane for a visit anytime!

27 May, 2015

FAITH IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN POSITIVE AND NEGATIVE RISKS

Abraham believed and trusted God when he risked it all and took his family to a strange land. He did not question the Almighty, he simply packed up his family and went – even without knowing where he was going. Now that is a risk! Some call it blind faith and perhaps that is why Paul reminds us that if we saw where we were going we would not go there (2 Corinthians 5:7).

Thinking of God may give people the courage to seek out and take risks, a new study suggests.  The study was particularly relevant to me because I had engaged in a controversial exchange on this very subject on a Facebook church group site in recent days.

I have never liked the word "risk".  To me there is just something negative about it.

It is my contention that a more biblical way of talking about risk is using the phrase "to step out in faith." It is something that can really change lives. When you take a risk for the Lord, it means you are going out of your way to do something for Him and you have positive thoughts about the outcome. When you take normal risks that involve something other than religious faith, there is at least a 50/50 chance of negative results and you keep your fingers crossed. It is important to know the difference between positive and negative risks. Criminals, after all, are perhaps the most notorious risk-takers...They risk the consequences of breaking the law for the sole purpose of personal gain at the expense of others.

The aforementioned study findings, published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, goes against previous research that indicated religious people are less likely to engage in risky behaviour. To me, there is nothing new or surprising in that disclosure.

Lead researcher Daniella Kupor of Stanford University Graduate School of Business, noticed that the risks examined in the previous studies tended to focus on negative behaviour. She and her colleagues reasoned that thinking about God may have a different effect when the risks are morally neutral, such as skydiving, because they believe God will protect them from harm.

To investigate, they issued online surveys to nearly 900 people and found that those who were reminded of God – either by working on word scrambles that included God-related words or by reading a paragraph about God – were more willing to take risks than participants who weren't prompted to think about religion.

In one study participants were asked to choose which version of the survey they wanted to complete. One version would give them a small bonus payment, but involved looking at an 'extremely bright colour' that they were told could potentially damage their eyes, while the other version involved looking at a harmless darker colour.

The researchers found that participants who had been reminded of God before making their choice were more likely to opt for the dangerous version of the experiment (96 per cent) than those who hadn't been reminded of God (84 per cent). 

In a different study, the researchers posted variations of three advertisements online and recorded the click-through rates for each. Some adverts promoted an immoral risk, such as 'learn how to bribe,' others promoted a non-moral risk, such as 'find skydiving near you' and another set promoted no risk, such as 'find amazing video games'. In some cases, the adverts included a mention of God – for example, 'God knows what you're missing! Find skydiving near you.'

The research revealed that when the ads included a religious reference, people clicked on the non-moral risk of skydiving, more often. However, they clicked on the bribing – moral risk – less often.

"We were surprised to find that even a simple colloquial expression – 'God knows what you're missing' – influences whether people click on a real online ad that is promoting a risky behaviour," Ms Kupor said.

The study also indicated that people who were reminded of God perceived less danger in various risky behaviours than participants who were not reminded of God, suggesting that Christians have the courage of their convictions and do not consider a risk to be a risk when acting on God-inspired impulses of faith.

I publish the foregoing knowing full well that there will be those who say "so what?" and others who will not appreciate this risk-taking disclosure nor my reason for engaging it, choosing instead to believe that a risk is a risk no matter how you look at it, who takes it -- or how it is taken.

To my mind, however, it is better to have "faith" when taking a positive risk.  I'm no gambler, but it helps put the odds in your favor!

25 May, 2015

HERE'S TO A MORE FREQUENT "HALLELUJAH"!

I listened the other night to the magnificent Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra perform the "Hallelujah Chorus" composed by George Frideric Handel.  It is absolutely my all-time favorite rendition.

It reminded me of something written by my alter ego "Old Humphrey" some 200 years ago.  I have not consulted the old guy recently and was long overdue for a visit.  Here is what Old Humphrey had to say about the use of the word "Hallelujah":

"...Daisies and buttercups are to be found in the every day occurrences of life, as fair to look upon as the flowers of the field.  I love to bend down and pick a few.

"There is a text of Holy Scripture which says, Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatever ye do, do all to the glory of God.  And a letter that I have but just received from a Christian correspondent in the country supplies me with an excellent practical illustration.  The whole epistle has in it but four short lines; the last two of these are as follows:  'I am going out to dinner.  Country delightful.  Crops abundant.  Hallelujah!'

"Now that is just what I like.  Most people know what Hallelujah means -- 'Praise ye the Lord;' and we can all thank God for great favors, but how few of us put a Hallelujah to the record of our common mercies.  It strikes me that it would be no bad method to find out the lawfulness of our pleasures and the spiritual state of our affections, if we were each to ask this question in the midst of every enjoyment: 'Can I put up a hearty Hallelujah at the end of it'?"

"Hallelujah!" for sure Humphrey.  I'll try not to be such a stranger.

Note:  Humphrey always spelled Hallelujah "Halleluiah"...I have taken liberties with the old English gentleman's text here.

21 May, 2015

COMING TO GRIPS WITH THE THINGS I AM NOT...AND THE PERSON I AM

I recently took a five-month sabbatical from writing of any kind and refrained from involvement in the social media scene.  It was a time of reflection, soul-searching and coming to grips with the person I had become – or had not become, depending on how you look at it.  A truly revealing and rather humbling exercise, to say the least.  It is a process that some of us engage in with more intensity than others.

It has been said that the transition to true adulthood occurs when you recognize that you won't get most of what you dreamed about in childhood. Childish dreams are always lofty -- every child imagines themselves climbing to the top of society's hierarchy, usually inspired by a particular hero. Almost none of them will make it. Some will go very far, but still fall short.
For the rest of us, peace comes from putting away these childhood fantasies and all the imagined future versions of ourselves that never came to be. We finally accept our place in the world, knowing that we tried our best and did what we could. That is when we truly become an adult.  In that context, I cannot help but think that there are some individuals who may never completely achieve adult status per se.  It has taken me most of my life to come to that conclusion.

I know people who have clung to youthful dreams and ambitions all their lives.  They live out their fantasia by embellishing certain experiences and accomplishments to the degree that they come to believe the embellishments.  They will go to their graves convinced that they are legends in their own minds…And God bless them for that!  Far be it from me to rain on any parades.
 
For me, I’m just the opposite, however…I have never tried to fool myself and have bought in to the theory that you can fool some of the people some of the time, but not all of the people all of the time.  An honest personal appraisal tells me that I have never fully realized the expectations that I had for myself as a young man and I am left having to rationalize the person that I am as I write this on the 20th of May, 2015.  The chore is to stop telling myself that I have under-achieved and fallen short.  To dwell on this any further would only serve to be unnecessary public self-debilitation and dear knows I have done enough of that when exposing innermost thoughts and feelings in past writings.

I am by no means a perfectionist, suffice to say I concede that there were times along the way when I could have applied myself more to the task at hand and done a better job. That is simply a live-and-learn admission.  I regret that in my 78th year, time has just about run out for me and I will never have a chance to do some things over again.  That has been the downside to the aforementioned period of self-examination.
 
Too little, too late, I understand that expectations are meant to be energizing, motivating and serve like a guiding light towards living a purposeful life – very much like a lighthouse is to a ship sailing in dark seas. As people mature from infancy to adulthood, they begin to understand the differences between appetite satiety, and the deeper emotional appreciation of fulfillment, after accomplishing a cherished goal.

I accept too, that goals are based on what is valuable at certain points in life and they vary according to personal priorities, relationships and professional challenges. People change from being self-centered as infants, to meeting needs and expectations from a wider perspective, so much so that family, friends, and work are all factored in as we mature. Far from being static, expectations are ever changing in value, and, should be viewed as being based on a life continuum.

Failing to come to terms with unmet needs or not being able to achieve a goal is the perfect set-up for frustration, anxiety and stress. Whether to raise the expectation bar or lower it a bit for the moment is a personal decision, but it is a choice. All people want to experience their efforts inching towards getting what they desire, the dream, and the expectation. What truly matters is the sense of fulfillment that we receive at the end of the day which reinforces the fact that efforts were not in vain. This also means staying grounded and focused as failures have a way of eroding self-confidence.

I have had to recognize that stress and anxiety are part of the process of attaining any goal and I am trying not to let accumulated pressure erode the sense of inner joy with at least having tried my hand at more than my share of life experiences and challenges.  I was going to itemize the things that I have tried with varying degrees of achievement over the years, but the list is far too exhaustive to include in this space

We all need to forgive ourselves for having some shortcomings. There is no need to beat yourself up or be needlessly embarrassed over a failure or some imagined ill-doing.

How many times have we heard these three defiant words, “deal with it” when people are annoyed at shortcomings, and endlessly remind us that we are not perfect, every chance they get?  This strain of constantly trying to measuring up to fit a certain mold, just to get the affection, triggers an uncomfortable feeling that does not go away. This feeling of not measuring up gnaws constantly until some people despise themselves just a little bit, and then, a little bit more. The craving for love, acceptance, belonging and approval is normal, and is ingrained in our psychological makeup, but the cravings may go on overdrive, if we cannot cope or accept or own humanity in a kind, mature, rational manner. Simply put, no one of is perfect!

Certainly not me…I have a record to prove it!  And I now accept that fact as I get on with what is left of the “mellowing out” stage of life.

Thanks for sticking with me dear readers…and for hearing me out.  Hopefully, you know some of whereof I speak.

15 May, 2015

CRIMINAL KILLER COUPLE, MERE KIDS

Bonnie and Clyde Killed: May 23, 1934

Bonnie and Clyde Killed: May 23, 1934
Posse that killed Bonnie and Clyde
Posse that killed Bonnie and Clyde
On May 23, 1934, the legendary criminals Bonnie and Clyde were shot and killed by police while driving a stolen car in Louisiana.

Both Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker grew up in the slums of Dallas, Texas, but while Clyde ended up on the wrong side of the law by his teen years, Bonnie seemed to stay out of trouble. The two met in 1930, when Clyde was 20 and Bonnie 19; Bonnie was already married but was separated from her husband. Clyde was sent to prison for robbery not long after their meeting, but the two reunited when he was released in 1932. Clyde initially appeared to try to straighten out his life but soon returned to small-time robberies, this time involving Bonnie in some of his criminal activities.
Bonnie and Clyde, along with various accomplices, began a crime spree that would last two years. They mostly robbed gas stations, restaurants, and stores, sometimes hitting small banks as well, and in 1934 they engineered a prison break. Whenever the police caught up with them, Clyde and his accomplices rarely hesitated to shoot, allegedly killing nine officers of the law—and 13 people total—while they were on the run.
Clyde with gun. Photo of Bonnie at right.Bonnie was often portrayed in newspapers as a “cigar-smoking gun moll,” after police raided a hideout and found photographs of her with a gun in her hand and a cigar in her mouth. (Bonnie vehemently denied she ever smoked cigars, only cigarettes, and there is little evidence that she ever murdered anyone.)
Their crime spree finally ended in May 1934 when Frank Hamer, a Texas Ranger, and his posse tracked down Clyde and Bonnie in Louisiana. The group set up an ambush, hiding along the side of a road. When they saw Bonnie and Clyde’s car, the posse let loose with a hail of more than 100 bullets, killing both of the car’s occupants.
Clyde’s and Bonnie’s gunshot-riddled bodies were taken back to Texas, and thousands of people came to see their corpses. In accordance with Bonnie’s mother’s wishes, the two were given separate funerals and Bonnie was buried apart from Clyde in a different cemetery. At the time of their deaths, Clyde was just 25 and Bonnie 23 -- remarkably just the age of two of my grandchildren.  Today they seemed much older than that.

A "BRUSH" WITH RUB-A535 THAT I WON'T SOON FORGET

Yesterday I wrote about the freedom of aging...Today I write about "the stupidity of aging."  Well, I guess it could apply to any age but it is nice to have an excuse.

It's one of those things that happen to other people, but never to you.  The odds are however, that given time, most things will.

This morning I was habitually hovering over the bathroom zinc and reaching for the tooth paste that I keep in a drawer.  I applied a liberal dollop of paste on my tooth brush and began dutifully scrubbing just as the dentist once told me.  But wait a minute!  Something was wrong -- not the usual "extra fresh" minty taste of my Aquafresh, rather it was a medicinal taste that rapidly took on a penetrating heat that I had never experience before...At least not in my mouth.

A quick, all-too-late check of the tube from which I had dispensed the paste(?), revealed the shocking truth.  It was the RUB-A535 "extra strength" liniment that I ill-advisably keep in the same drawer.  I  couldn't believe it.  After a slug of mouthwash and a proper application of tooth paste, the heat sensation in my mouth gradually began to subside.

My usual coffee this morning did not taste the same though.  I wonder why?

The upside of all this is that I have the freshest mouth in town today.  The RUB-A535 is now kept in another drawer.

14 May, 2015

12 1/2 CENTS TICKET TO RIDE...IN 1957

The other day I was going through an old jewelry box that I hadn't opened in years...Who uses cuff links, tie tacks and clips, collar pins, pocket watches, lapel pins, money clips and fountain pens in this day and age anyway?

Much to my surprise, in the bottom of the box I came across three lonely Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) tickets from 1957 when I was without a car and working in Toronto.  The tickets at the time set me back 12 1/2 cents each or four for 50 cents.  A single cash fare in those days was 15 cents.  Today, that same single cash fare for a bus, street car or the subway is $3.00 and you can buy three tokens for a money-saving $8.40.  Boy, how times have changed!

Of course, the current TTC fares may still be a bargain considering the price of gas and astronomical parking lot rates in the city.  It's all relevant, I guess.

It would be interesting though to see if I could still use those old 12 1/2 cents tickets for a $3 subway ride on my next trip to Toronto.

11 May, 2015

WE'VE GONE TRANS CANADA

Click "View online" at http://www.tidbitsmj.ca/ to see "Wright Words" columns now appearing weekly in a Western Canada publication, "the best little newspaper you ever read."