To Trust

One of the most valuable assets we can ever possess is trust. It can take many months and years to deserve it and one should be discerning when giving it to others. Although genuine trust requires plenty of time to build, it can be torn apart in mere seconds.

Trust is at the heart of successful enterprises, social institutions, friendships, and intimate relationships. If there is no trust then any relationship is built on an inadequate foundation. Basically, trust comes about when a person shows her/his vulnerability and is not taken advantage of.

It can be risky business when determining whether or not someone can be trusted. If you really want to find out, you must grant a level of trust to them. When that person feels and understands that trust, then she/he will return the trust–hopefully.

Building and maintaining trust does not occur due to clever techniques, tools, or tricks. Trust requires small, meaningful actions over time that reveal good character. We earn and give trust not because of slick public relations campaigns or smooth talk. To believe such superficiality is foolish and can be dangerous.

This subject of trust came up during a coffee date with my friend Jonathan. He has been recently hired by a jewelry store as an intern while he trains as a jeweler. Such a position requires a great deal of trust due to the valuable nature of the merchandise. Jonathan asked if I believed that “Trust is a gift to be given and not something that had to be earned.”

After a few moments of thought, I replied that I believe the matter is not a question of one or the other, but that trust requires both.

As to my friend’s new job, I reminded Jonathan that he had to be bonded. His new manager had a bonding company thoroughly investigate Jonathan’s past history and other background issues. The bonding company used several criteria to determine whether or not to advise the jewelry store that Jonathan was trustworthy enough to insure.

The bonding firm determined that the risk of Jonathan harming the jewelry store in any way was very low. So, my friend not only had to earn trust, but was granted trust in the process of being hired.

In matters that do not relate to employment in jewelry stores, banks, and accounting firms, it would be great if there was a way to hire a bonding company to help determine how much we could trust new acquaintances and lovers.

If we cannot trust someone enough we will be tormented by doubt; if we trust someone too much we could be deceived and betrayed. To evaluate the question of trust we have to rely upon both rationality and intuition. We can examine the data and evidence regarding the person or institution yet we often finalize a decision based upon a hunch or a feeling in the gut. 

“As soon as you trust yourself, you will know how to live.”–Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

In order to understand and skillfully grant and earn trust we must, first of all, trust ourselves. This works the same way a wise person deals with love. In order to authentically love someone and be loved by them, we must first love ourselves. In the case of trust, trust is also a vital aspect of love. We cannot fully love ourselves nor another person if trust is absent.

It all boils down to earning and granting ourselves trustworthiness. This trust will enable the sort of self that we will find the satisfaction and happiness we desire. Trust is the beginning and the foundation upon which good things are built. Where there is trust, the good life can flourish.

The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes actor, producer, and singer-songwriter, Eminem. “Trust is hard to come by. That’s why my circle is small and tight. I’m kind of funny about making new friends.”  

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I awakened half-an-hour before the alarm was scheduled to beep. I reflexively checked the sleep data and statistics on the smart watch, then powered it down. Then I stretched my body and gazed at the darkened ceiling. While paying attention to my breath. I remembered again how it is that my consciousness and viewpoint are unique and will never again be duplicated.

I then pondered the fact that there are billions of people on this planet at this very moment who have particular states of consciousness and highly subjective viewpoints. The act of remembering these facts brought to mind just how valuable life truly is.

Our lives are intrinsically valuable regardless if one is a third grade pupil in school or if one is King Carl Gustaf of Sweden. The woman waiting in line at the drug store check-out counter experiences the Universe in her own particular manner, but we are all common in that we experience the Universe. Each life has profound value, whether or not we realize this truth.

Most of us strive to enhance the intrinsic value of our lives by the means of compassion, friendship, inventiveness, love, and work. The value of these acts geometrically increases when we act in accordance with enhancing the value of other lives.

At some point in our childhood we learn about the concept of price. We find out that our toys and food cost a certain amount of money. We eventually discover that there is such a concept as value. A mindful parent teaches the child that price does not necessarily correspond with value. Although the kid’s teddy bear may have cost $25 to purchase, the child has become so attached to the stuffed toy that she would refuse to trade the bear in exchange for the cash.

At another point in our lives we realize that the price of things is more or less arbitrary. Why is a Rolex watch more expensive than a Timex watch? Of course there is the matter of materials and manner of manufacturing, but this does not necessarily mean that the true value of the Rolex is more than that of the Timex. Regarding the purpose of a watch, both of them display the time. There are many scenarios in which wearing a Timex is more valuable and beneficial than wearing a Rolex.

So, by and large the price difference depends on the creation of specialness and arbitrary assignment of monetary worth of each timepiece. In different scenarios, each one has a crucial value to its owner. For instance it is more prudent to wear a $20 Timex than a $20,000 Rolex when walking through a questionable part of town. It’s easy to understand that the understated Timex will not make the wearer an obvious target for muggers and other thieves. In this case a Timex is much more valuable than a Rolex.

“A value is valuable when the value of value is valuable to oneself.”–19th century philosopher and social leader, Dayananda Saraswati

There are many concepts that have infinite value but no convenient price tag. We understand that honesty, innocence, peacefulness, integrity, and trustworthiness are important virtues. It is when those virtues are lost, that people realize the true preciousness of those virtues.

In the end, the value of ones life is not only determined by the amount of days we are alive, but in the awareness and the use of them. When we fully comprehend that the Universe will only provide one’s unique observational portal for a limited time only, then true value will be more fully realized.

The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes 19th century engineer, industrialist and founder of Honda Motor Company, Sōichirō Honda. “The value of life can be measured by how many times your soul has been deeply stirred.”  

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Scratch Below The Surface

One of the best pieces of advice we receive from good teachers and parents is that we should scratch below the surface; you never know what you might find. By looking beyond superficial appearances, we’ve undertaken an investigation and have moved beyond simple observation. In other words we begin to learn more about whatever it is we’re investigating. As we investigate the inner works of a concept or thing we often realize that they are more than what they seem at first glance.

Say for example that we want to get to know more about a new acquaintance. We begin to focus our “inner radar” on the person. Perhaps we notice she tells plenty of lies; the fibs vary from minor to serious. If we choose to overlook this trait, we risk becoming entangled in further deceits and schemes. The new acquaintance can then drag us along as we rationalize the increasing levels of obvious vulgarity. We then risk becoming a confederate in league with that acquaintance.

Deceit is superficial behavior and credulous, uncritical, inexperienced people believe to be true. When the truth is finally revealed, some of the confederates stand by and defend the deceitful person.

Wiser souls engage in prudent, cautious investigation whenever they encounter new concepts, situations and people. Open-minded skepticism allows the truth to shine forth. Prudent testing and mindful acceptance are the first lines of defense against poor relationships.

The same methods can be used whenever we look within our minds in self-reflection. We can compassionately question the beliefs we have regarding ourselves. We discern which beliefs are self-deceit and which beliefs are our true nature. When we scratch below the surface of our favored self-concepts our inner visions become more clear. When we look within our hearts we begin to see the path to awakening.

“Monsters are real, and ghosts are real too. They live inside us, and sometimes, they win.”–Stephen King

It is wise to follow our own instincts to follow our hearts and investigate our inner cores. There, we confront our inner frauds and ally with our inner scientists. There is a place, deep below the surface of our public self where we reside all alone. It can be a place of self-deception or it can be the place where we recover our inner truths and joie de vivre.

The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes High Renaissance architect, painter, and sculptor, Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni. “Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.”  

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Listening To Others

One of the most wise recommendations is, that it behooves us to listen to others. Doing so is one of the most basic ways to connect to other people. Sincerely paying attention and comprehending other people’s communication might be the most important gift we give to others and to ourselves. This advice is very important and profound yet this advice is frequently overlooked and ignored. 

To genuinely listen to others demonstrates empathy and openness to fresh ideas. It displays the desire to be with another person in mind and spirit. This is an attractive, healthy manner with which to relate to others and to ourselves.

“It takes two to speak the truth: one to speak, and another to hear.”–Henry David Thoreau

We love the sound of our own words, whether spoken aloud or within our internal dialogue. We are familiar with our own point of view and derive a certain amount of smug satisfaction when communicating a message to someone else. However, in the overall scheme of things, it is not always valuable to listen to one’s own echo-chamber. To dismiss other people’s efforts to communicate generates general contempt from others. When in the company of another person the attention we generously pay to ourselves would be more wisely paid to the other person.

The presence of the wall constructed out of inattention and self-absorption is revealed during our listening phase of conversation when we utter, “As I was saying…” or worse, “What?” Such an attitude invalidates the integrity of the speaker and the listener. Plus, it is outright rudeness. This is especially unwise when the other person is expressing a message that contradicts our own opinion.

To speak and only listen to oneself rarely turns out well for the speaker and the listener. We do not gain any new knowledge nor wisdom if we only hear our own thoughts. The words of others might contain nuggets of wisdom that we find useful if only we could hear them. To only pay attention to oneself is a character flaw. When I discover I am guilty of doing this, I immediately feel a blush wash over my face.

The pompous speaker consciously or subconsciously seeks an adoring audience and copious amounts of applause and flattery. When we only listen to our own thoughts and speech, the acquisition of knowledge and wisdom is greatly hindered. When our aim is to hear “Bravo!” from our listeners, our spirit shrinks a little.

Contrary to many of today’s pop culture influencers’ messages, we are not always our best advisors and personal coaches. Quite often, wake-up calls come from the lips of our friends and sometimes even from our adversaries.

The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes 20th century sportsman, journalist, novelist and short-story writer, Ernest Hemingway. “I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen.”  

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A few thoughts About Obstinacy

Grandma J sometimes had to remind me not to allow my redheaded temper to become stubbornness. Looking back, I don’t believe I had more boyhood temper-tantrums than my young non-ginger haired peers. In hindsight, it seems that many of my accusers believed this negative, stereotype about all people who have red hair. Meanwhile, according to several other relatives, I was a fairly, laid-back, mellow boy. There were few signs of excess stubbornness nor obstinacy in my make-up.

I agree with those elders because I’ve pretty much been a “going with the flow” type of guy. However, I was surrounded by many obstinate grownups including my father, one very opinionated great-uncle, and a few bullheaded teachers. There were a few contrarian classmates to spice up classroom discussions. Otherwise, in my estimation, I pretty much fit in with everyone else in behavior and personality.

“Obstinate people do not hold opinions; opinions hold them.”–my college sociology instructor, Dr. Harold Prosacco.

If Doctor Prosacco was still alive today, I’m sure he would have a lot to say about the extreme levels of obstinacy present in today’s society. It seems that staunch, fanatical views are held by a great many national leaders and their followers. It seems as if they have formed their personal identities around their opinions about politics and religion, then locked themselves inside those boxes. I’d love to hear Prosacco present a lecture about today’s deadlock in the U.S. national debate. I’m sure it would be enlightening to say the least.

We humans are largely influenced by circumstances. Therefore act according to what we deem expedient and smart in some situations while being shrewd and unwise under different scenarios. To act in the same manner under different circumstances is not consistency, but is instead foolish and obstinate. Many of our institutional leaders appear to exhibit such false consistency by fanatically clinging to their own rhetoric and views.

Meantime, I still try to be mindful about my so-called redheaded temper. I’m probably also obstinate sometimes, but this trait seems to diminish as I grow older.

The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes 19th century conservative English statesman, Robert Peel. “Public opinion is a compound of folly, weakness, prejudice, wrong feeling, right feeling, obstinacy, and newspaper paragraphs.”  

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Inauspicious Days

I have the problem of stray cats using the perimeters of my house and garage as litter-boxes. So I did what most modern folks do when annoyance come up, I Google for a remedy. Some of the results claimed that cats do not like the odor of used coffee grounds. So, I’ve been brewing extra coffee lately. Whenever I’m finished preparing the coffee, I refill the French press pot with cool water in order to suspend the old grounds in liquid. I pour the funky mixture wherever needed outdoors around the property.

Yesterday, I brewed an extra batch so I could spread more grounds behind the garage. As I poured the watery mess of discard coffee grounds onto a bare patch of soil, some of the brown liquid splashed back from the dirt onto my favorite pair of sneakers.

As soon as possible, I blotted as much of the nasty moisture from the shoes as I could with a damp paper towel, yet the light grey shoe fabric still showed brown stains. I spent the next half-hour or so searching for a misplaced “magic eraser” and a spot-stain removing “pen”.

Eventually, I found the magic eraser in a cubbyhole inside my toolbox and the “Tide” pen was in the catch-all drawer. I was finally able to begin the cleaning task. I’m like a lot of people who fall victim to minor circumstances. They’re minor, niggling events; not major fall-backs. No, yesterday was not Friday the 13th; it was the eleventh. It doesn’t need to be Friday the 13th. Any day can be one of my inauspicious days. All that is required is for me to not pay close attention to what I’m doing.

Way back in 1974, during my exploration of New Age religious beliefs, I dabbled in Numerology. So, yesterday, while scrubbing the brown stains from the sneakers I pondered some allegedly unlucky numbered days. There was the obvious Friday the 13th, and the less obvious Tuesday the 18th. Some numerologists consider Monday the 9th to be inauspicious. Eight is believed to be less than lucky so any number which the integers add up to eight is suspect–especially the 26th (2 + 6 = 8).

I thought to take the entire date into account 6 + 11 + 2021 = 2038. In numerology, you reduce results to two or one integers. When reducing down to two numbers 2038 becomes 13. Aha, the unlucky thirteen appears! Reducing 13 even further we get 4.

The number 4 is believed to be inauspicious in some countries like China, Japan, and Korea. Many people believe it is bad luck to give a present that consists of four pieces to someone. (Also, 1 + 3 = 4)

Anyway the numerology calculations mean that yesterday contained two inauspicious numbers, 13 and 4. If I want to convolute the results even more, I can imagine that yesterday might be considered Friday the 13th by numerology’s reckoning. What about 4? Well, I had 2 shoes, 1 magic eraser pad, and one “Tide” stain pen; hence, 4 objects.

Although I don’t consider myself to be especially religious nor do I harbor many superstitions, I do recognize that I have auspicious and inauspicious days. I’m guessing they happen because of getting too little or too much sleep. Perhaps my bio-rhythm fluctuates or maybe I’m just more attentive on some days and inattentive on other days.

All I know is that during inauspicious days, nothing seems to go well. If I give a task a couple of tries yet the results are unsatisfactory, that might mean I’m having an unlucky day. Since everything is constantly changing, I’ll postpone the task until the next day, if possible. The second day’s attempts are generally successful. Does this mean that day two is one of my lucky days? Maybe it’s just due to the fact that everything just has its own day and that certain tasks should be performed on certain days. At least this sometimes seems to be true.

Then again, there is the matter of hours. The shoe accident happened around four in the afternoon. I began the actual chore of cleaning the shoes at around five o’clock. Here we have the unlucky number 4 versus the neutral number 5.

The entire mental exercise had become quite a distraction. Fortunately, all the scrubbing with cleaners and dabbing away moisture with a paper towel worked perfectly. The sneakers look as good as new.

The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes 17th century moralist and author of maxims and memoirs, Francois de La Rochefoucauld. “Our actions seem to have their lucky and unlucky stars, to which a great part of that blame and that commendation is due which is given to the actions themselves.” 

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Simplicity …Floral Friday

The indigo-purple fireweed flowers cover much of the riverbank behind my house. The University of Nebraska classifies them as weeds, but they are not at all bothersome as long as they’re not in a sugar-beet field. I love the rich color and the mild, sweet aroma of the small flowers. Birds seem to enjoy them; as do bees and butterflies. I like to snip a few stems each year as decorative accents.

As I pondered the peaceful sight of the colorful weeds, I decided to plan this week’s Floral Friday projects. One of them would include a humble bunch of fireweed stems. All three projects would embrace simplicity as the central theme.

The weedy flowers work well in this small Ikea vase. It’s a pleasing accent for my kitchen table.

A ceramic studio vase created by a local potter utilizes mounted, dry elements and willow twigs. Nothing more is needed.
A delicate, etched, Indian brass vase is nearly overwhelmed by the red-purple jumbo rose.

The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes 18th-19th century educator and founder of the Ethical Movement, Felix Adler. “Simplicity should not be identified with bareness.”  

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