To Perceive

Wherever we find an object or develop a concept, there is perception. When we examine a thing or a thought we arrive closer to the reality or detoured by falseness of what we had previously believed about it. When we examine the thing or idea as objectively as we can, we become less tricked by it’s superficial appearance.

While contemplating the thing or thought, we can take a mental step back and examine if we like it, dislike it, or feel meh about it. Is it something our emotions tell us we should acquire or dismiss? We can further examine our emotional impressions and opinions about the object or idea and try to understand the how and why we feel this way.

Often times we become so attached to our perception of a concept that we refuse to accept the objective reality of it. The Buddha once gave a sermon about a widowed merchant who traveled away from his city to engage in some trading. He left his son behind to guard over his home. While the merchant was gone, thieves came to steal the merchant’s valuables, then burned down the home.

When the merchant returned, he saw the ash-heap that used to be his home and the charred body of a boy. The merchant went into mourning, had the boy’s body cremated, then placed the boy’s ashes into a special pouch so the merchant could carry the cremains wherever he went.

Meantime, what had actually happened in the merchant’s absence, was that the thieves stole valuable objects and kidnapped the merchant’s son. The boy, whose body had been found by the merchant, was that of a poor, unfortunate bystander. Three years later, the merchant’s son escaped from the clutches of the kidnapping thieves and ran back home.

The son arrived at his father’s rebuilt home late at night. He entered the house, only to find his father laying on the floor, holding the special pouch of cremains, sobbing and suffering. The father asked who was in the room. The son replied he was the merchant’s long-lost son. The merchant refused to believe the young man; explaining that he had cremated the son’s body and carries the ashes with him wherever he goes. He told the young man that he must be a trickster who only wants to take advantage of the merchant. The merchant then expelled the young man and forbade him from ever returning. Thus, the merchant ended up losing his real son forever.

Among other interpretations, the parable demonstrates how easy it is for reality to be distorted by our emotional state and that we can make unwise decisions because our perceptions are flawed. What we see is not necessarily what others see. We live parallel lives with others who have not exactly shared our experiences, interests, and traumas.

What is obvious to others is not obvious to us and vice versa. As outside observers, we see that the merchant suffered great trauma and closed himself off from the reality of his son’s existance despite the boy’s very presence in the merchant’s room. The merchant’s refusal to accept reality only led to more suffering–his own and that of his son.

The parable also demonstrates that it is unwise to become too attached to our perceptions and opinions. It is good to consider other viewpoints and examine them with objective discernment to avoid going down a dead-end alley and wasting our precious time on our own and other’s opinions. It’s better to calmly seek out the core reality of things and ideas with the tool of objectivity.

Ciao


The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes Maltese author, inventor, philosopher, physician, and psychologist, the late Edward de Bono. “Most of the mistakes in thinking are inadequacies of perception rather than mistakes of logic.”

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To Be Fair

One of the first interpersonal impulses we feel as children is the necessity of fairness–especially as it applies to ourselves. The matter of justice is strong in other species, too. People who have more than one dog have observed that it is smart to treat them all equally well. Any favoritism will be spotted instantly by the dog that is snubbed.

If we were fortunate enough to be raised in a family that took into consideration good etiquette, good sportsmanship, kindness, and ethical behavior, then the concept of fairness was instilled and expanded from merely being fair to oneself to expanding and extending fairness towards others. This type of upbringing seems obvious, but it is not always the norm in certain families.

Most people I know were raised in an environment that exemplified the virtue of justice. In school, we were expected to act like good ladies and gentlemen and to treat our fellow pupils with all due respect. During recess, the teachers and coaches instilled the concept of good sportsmanship. Aside from the bullies, most kids understood the value of treating others in a civil, fair manner. By my personal observations, this still seems to be the case with most children today.

In my former profession as a media worker, I aimed towards the journalistic ideal of objectivity. I learned early on that total objectivity is practically impossible because reporters are human beings and that human beings are always under sway of subjectivity. However, it is ethical to honestly aim towards objectivity. While doing so, journalistic ethics stress the need for fairness in reporting.

This does not mean that all sides carry equal weight in controversial issues. A good reporter develops healthy skepticism and learns how to detect bias, prejudice, and injustice in pursuit of fair reporting. The fact that there are less than ethical commentators and reporters causes harm to the craft of journalism. The lack of objectivity and fairness by some, has given rise to today’s popular distrust of “mainstream media”. Popular opinions about the media aside, I still believe in the basic journalistic standards of stating the facts as objectively and fairly as possible.

“You’re morally tainted if you don’t treat both the accuser and the accused with fairness and with respect, and with due process.”–John F. Kennedy

The Kennedy statement is strongly worded, and rightly so. Mid century United States was a less fair and just nation then than it is today. The pursuit of fairness and justice for all required more than a milquetoast leader. This is still true to this day because there are so many powerful forces that desire inequality, favoritism, and unfairness in society. The dangers of anti-democracy movements are ever present. It’s important to be wary of popular movements that downplay the importance of fairness and justice for all. To embrace fairness is one of the primary responsibilities of citizens who live in democratic republics.

There is a traditional Taoist saying that advises the student to never oppose what is fair and just. If the student ignores this advise, then the student will acquire a legacy of shame. The saying goes on to state, “One should not enter in among power brokers. The stain will last all of one’s life.” In my view, this restates the necessity to not violate the basic human desire for fairness.

The historical figures who are most admirable are those who advocated democracy, freedom, opportunity, and fairness. They advocated against oppression, greed, prejudice, and other injustices. They understood that for the best possible future that it was necessary to exercise fairness in their everyday thoughts and behavior–especially when it seemed most difficult to do so.

These are just a few of my reflections about fairness as a high ideal in a world that is frequently unfair.

Ciao


The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes Ancient Greek philosopher and sage, Epicurus. “Anybody can become angry–that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way–that is not within everybody’s power and is not easy.”

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The Days Slip By

“This will probably be the last time I will ever drive home to Norfolk.” While this statement from one of my old buddies hit me like a brick, it was not unexpected.

Years ago, Ward and I used to goof off and hang out together in this small, Northeast Nebraska city. He eventually moved to Lincoln and became involved in the theatre crowd. He also met his future husband there as well. We fell out of touch as friends often do when they relocate.

A few years later, he and his husband moved to Denver, Colorado and bought a house. More years passed and his husband passed away after a lengthy chronic illness. Two years ago, Ward decided to pay a surprise visit to me at my house. That’s when he filled me in about the events that took place during the gap when we had lost touch with each other. That’s also when he said he has multiple sclerosis.

After he returned home to Denver, we checked in with each other through Facebook because he isn’t much into letter writing, emailing, nor phone-calls. Also, Covid came up last year, so there was no facetime last year. Then, late last month, Ward dropped by my house unexpectedly again. We enjoyed a pleasant visit despite his worsening health. It was upon his parting that he stated he wouldn’t be able to drive his vehicle much longer–especially lengthy trips.

Since then, I’ve been thinking about my friend and the many ordeals he’s been through. He remains outwardly cheerful in his daily dealings, but I know he’s suffering within. Ward is one more reminder that our time on Earth elapses faster and faster as we age. With each passing day we may face challenges or perhaps an existential crisis. If we do not fall into the trap of mundane routine, we are given the challenge and opportunity to make the most of each day.

As I remember what Ward told me about his life, I again realize how each of us travels our journeys and that the path of life takes us to mental and physical places that seem unimaginable. Our destinations are not necessarily the ones we intended. We believe one thing, then it turns out that we mistook fantasy for reality. Perhaps there is time to backtrack, but it may be the case that it is too late to do so. These are the seeds of regrets and our eventual acceptance of what was, is, and will be.

According to the most recent data and theoretical reckoning, the Universe exists indefinitely. However, our bodies do not. The body does not exist a second time. At best, it is possible for some of us to live 100 years, give or take a few. The days which we are allotted slip by swiftly in hindsight. It is easy to take our days for granted and assume that we will enjoy countless more of them.

Those, who wasted their lives or who were led down the garden path will encounter regret and sorrow. Meanwhile, those who engage more fully with life live happier, more joyful lives, despite their limitations. Sometimes the joy arises out of limitation.

Ciao


The Blue Jay of Happiness contemplates a line from critic, essayist, and novelist, Marcel Proust. “Time passes, and little by little, everything that we have spoken in falsehood becomes true.”

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Time To Renew

Considering the holiday season and year-end catching up, this time of year is rather hectic for a great many folks. It’s easy to forget to take the time for contemplation, and personal rest, because we feel so rushed. Failing to do so, it’s easy to become depleted and impatient.

The need, not want, for renewal is present. We can take a few moments and enjoy a casual walk in the park, some quality time with a pet, a warm bath, formal meditation, or whatever works to help nurture the inner self and peace of mind. If you have a special ritual or practice that works for you, now is the time for it.

In today’s world, it’s common to become disengaged and disillusioned with aspects of life such as hobbies, personal projects, relationships, work, and so forth. What was once started enthusiastically, now feels bland or overwhelming. You wish you could jumpstart the excitement you once felt about the life choice.

We’ve known all along that life pitches curveballs, but why today? Who needs that right now? The thing we forget is that everyday is like the championship playoffs in the world series of life. If we want to achieve a good showing, it’s best to keep the lesson of the moment in mind. We don’t have to be baseball players, entrepreneurs, or celebrities. Often times, it’s just that we wish to live a good, meaningful life. There is the desire to want to share our blessings and benefit others while enhancing our own well-being.

It might be that one needs to pause for awhile and open our minds to ways to simplify our lives to enhance our personal growth. Maybe it’s more along the lines of stilling the monkey minds that chatter and scold us from inside of our heads.

By taking a mindful break in the action we rediscover our inner essence and who we really are, underneath the layers of self-perception. Knowing that we’ve endured many challenges, we understand that we’ve been temporarily hindered in our journey down our life paths. By taking time to practice whatever recharges us, we regain our sense of balance and focus. We find a new appreciation for who we actually are.

How can we know how strong we are unless we look within to recapture our hidden strengths? In times of need, we humans have the capacity to survive and thrive. It is through giving ourselves time to refresh and renew that we find the way to break through existential difficulty. The liberation and renewal have been within us all along. Sometimes all we need to do is to take some deep breaths and appreciate life.

Namaste


The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes the Canadian writer of the book The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari, Robin S. Sharma. “Top athletes understand that to play at their best, they must alternate periods of intense performance with periods of strategic renewal.”

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Dystychiphobia Awareness

I felt compelled to look up the meaning of the word dystychiphobia because my calendar noted that today is “Dystychiphobia Awareness Day”. It turns out that some of my friends and myself may have some undiagnosed form of this condition. Dystychiphobia is the fear of accidents. Even though dystychiphobia can be the fear of airplane, highway, and railway wrecks, the promoters of today’s awareness day specify the fear of motor vehicle accidents.

People who suffer this type of fear may turn down invitations to travel or even feel anxious when the subject of travel is mentioned. This might be due to having been involved in an accident, someone they know having been in an accident, or even just thinking about the possibility of accidents. In severe cases, this can limit one’s ability to enjoy going places, travel for work, and taking vacations.

After reading about dystychiphobia, I wondered if I might have some form of it. There are two memorable incidents that give me serious pause whenever they come to mind. Although nothing tragic came about from them, both could have led to serious injury or death.

The first one took place on a trip from Northeast Nebraska to Omaha. One drizzly night in the fall of 1972, I was driving my 1967 Camaro along with my brother as passenger. One stretch of highway was closed for resurfacing and upgrades. In my foolishness, I drove around the highway department’s barricades and continued along the smooth, unmarked black asphalt tarmac. A few miles later, the left front tire hit a pile of unleveled asphalt and caused the car to go into a spin. I was barely able to regain control of the vehicle. The car narrowly missed driving off the road and landed atop of a concrete culvert.

Thankfully, both of us were wearing our seatbelts. The belts kept me behind the wheel and also saved my brother from possibly flying through the windshield. I backed away from the edge of the road and decided to return home because I didn’t know if the undercarriage of the car had been damaged or not. The next day, I had a mechanic check for problems. He found a bent driveshaft. That was replaced within the next week and the car was good as new.

Inwardly, I worried about the implications of my youthful decision to drive on a closed road and how this could have seriously injured or killed one or both of us. The memory of that night still haunts me to this day.

The other serious incident took place 21 years later while driving my Volkswagen Quantum Syncro home from a visit to Toronto. The car needed refueling, so I decided to exit the freeway at Minneapolis, Minnesota. While in the exit lane, I switched off the cruise control, but it did not respond. The engine tried to maintain cruising speed even while I applied the brakes. A split second later on the approach to a tight curve, I punched the clutch pedal to downshift. This disengaged the cruise control, enabling me to maintain control of the car.

After filling the car’s tank with gasoline I parked the car at a restaurant to ease my anxiety with some mental calming exercises. After a light lunch, I resumed the trip back to Nebraska but did not engage the cruise control because it had failed two of it’s three cancelation modes. Thankfully, the car was equipped with a manual transmission and the clutch switch had halted the cruise feature. I still shiver when that incident comes to mind.

I have friends and acquaintances who have experienced close calls and a few who have actually been in highway wrecks. Most of them still experience at least minor reticence about driving. Remembering the dangers helps us be more mindful drivers. Obsessing over the hazards can lead to dystychiphobia.

Dystychiphobia Awareness Day is a good time to consider if we may have some form of this fear. If dystychiphobia is problematic, the sufferer may wish to consult a licensed mental health professional.

Ciao


The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes entrepreneur, educator, and computer scientist, Sebastian Thrun. “If we could do away with traffic accidents, that’d be wonderful. There’d be more than a million people saved every year on this planet.”

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Base Blue …Floral Friday

This might be an unpopular opinion: I get tired of the amount of red and green decorations at this time of year. Although I enjoy that combination year around in judicious doses, the red and green motif is way overdone in December. So as a public service to my readers, I’m kicking off the December Floral Friday posts with the color blue. Each of today’s arrangements uses a ceramic vase coated with blue glazes.

The first vase is the star of the post. It’s a dark blue Rebekah vase. It was inspired by the Rebekah, the kind lady at the well who went on to marry Isaac according to the Bible tale in Genesis 24:11-22. This vase was crafted by artisan John Garrou in Black Mountain, North Carolina on February 10, 1993 according to the signature on the bottom of the vessel. I feature pinks and purple as the flower colors.

A tall “Threshold” cobalt blue vase is home to a solitary gladiolus stem. There is a nod to red and green because the shop was out of the other varieties. At least this stem is more of a red-orange, not a primary red.

The light blue, USA Pottery urn planter is home to a funky blue magnolia. Most of the other accents take blue to the next level.

Ciao


The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes Major League Baseball All-Star great, Yogi Berra. “The only color I don’t have is navy brown.”

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Time And Innovation

Shortly after awakening this morning, I shut off the “Goodnight” sleep monitoring function of my Galaxy Watch. Then scrolled through the apps to decipher the quality or lack of quality of my sleep. I was pleased to find that over an hour and a half of REM sleep and nearly an hour of deep sleep were displayed. Then I turned off the watch and began the day.

Part of my post-awakening routine is to wind some of the vintage watches in my humble collection. They include two Swiss built watches from the late 1960s. On some days I wind the movement of my grandfather’s old pocket watch that my uncle gave me a couple of months ago. I’m especially careful with it because I don’t know the state of its mainspring. I want to have it serviced someday.

I found most of my watches at thrift stores and estate sales. They’re what collectors classify as “affordable watches”. The various movements include wind-up mechanical, automatic mechanical, quartz, solar-powered quartz, a quartz watch that monitors the government’s time standard radio frequency, and the electronic smart watch mentioned above. All of these were the result of technological breakthroughs at some moments in time.

“When people consume, they want more. Then they choose the best, and you suddenly get innovation coming in. Now combine that with desperation and people wanting to get a better life; you have a potent combination for innovation.”–CEO of the Mumbai, India based conglomerate, Mahindra Group, Anand Mahindra

Of course, consumerism is one of the major drivers of innovation. People are drawn to products that are new and improved. Other major innovations were the products and off-shoots of military need. Watches are a small but important example of this.

In the 19th century, officers carried pocket watches so as to coordinate attacks and other troop movements. Then in the 20th century, during the Great War (World War One), men’s watchmakers took a page from women’s watches. Lugs were applied to watch cases so that soldiers and pilots could wear time on their wrists. After the Armistice, the former military personnel continued to wear wristwatches because the watches were so convenient. The entire watch industry shifted to manufacturing this highly useful innovation.

After the middle of the century, the Swiss and simultaneously a Japanese company invented quartz timekeeping. These electronic devices completely circumvented standard mechanical watch and clock movements. Eventually, quartz dominated the market and nearly decimated the traditional time-keeping industry. Quartz watches can now be bought for a few dollars. Meanwhile automatic and mechanical watches sell for higher prices and are targeted at the collector market.

Ironically, many people only wear watches as fashion jewelry or do not wear one at all. They use their phones to keep track of time. My friend Jonathan sometimes wears a fashion watch but rarely consults it for the time. I’ve often reminded him to set it after changes to and from daylight savings time. One time its battery was dead and in need of replacement for over a month. He only uses his phone to obtain the time.

I wonder when watches and phones will eventually be phased out altogether. The only watches will be on the wrists of collectors. What will be the replacements?

Ciao


The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes policy analyst and scientist, Vaclav Smil. “Most innovation is not done by research institutes and national laboratories. It comes from manufacturing–from companies that want to extend their product reach, improve their costs, increase their returns. What’s very important is in-house research.”

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