Tuesday, July 1, 2014


There are those who take on an overabundance of guilt. There are others who seem to accept no responsibility whatsoever. Both are extreme. Both are harmful.

There should be some kind of balance between accepting responsibility, having a conscience, regretting some aspects of the past, and yielding to current situations. There is also something to be said about having some modicum of humility - that when a correction is put in, perhaps one should listen and see whether it fits. To do otherwise is arrogant.

That is not to say that one should merely submit to any criticism - that is just as harmful, and is descriptive of the one who assumes too much responsibility, takes on too much of the guilt. That's not helpful either - not as a representation of remorse, nor as a plea for forgiveness. It serves no one to prostrate oneself on the altar of regret. But it serves one greatly to be humble, and in such humility to realize one's errors, realize that perhaps one is not perfect after all, and that one lives within a community.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Your Life is Perfect

Doubt is a virus that attacks our self-esteem, productivity and confidence. Faith that you and your life are perfectly unfolding is the strongest vaccine.

― Sean Stephenson

No matter what is happening in our lives - and to be sure, some events and circumstances are indeed awful, frightening, and unfortunate - our lives are perfect.  Our lives are unfolding exactly as they should be, given our understanding, given our experiences, given our beliefs and expectations, given our values.  Our lives merely reflect - they do not guide.  We are the guideposts, the beacons, the paths upon which unfold the issues of our existence.

Saturday, June 14, 2014


An example of a tree of virtues.
Our lives are full of obligations, families, duties, activities and conflicting messages. Few have mastered the art of focusing on what is important. Indeed, what is important means different things to different people. But there are some inalienable pursuits which are common to all of humanity, throughout the millennia; pursuits which are fundamental to living a "good" life; values and virtues which unify us at the deepest levels. Here, I will attempt to uncover those values, and discuss them in the context of today's harried lifestyle.

Here, then, is an exploration of some essential attributes that are the measure of a human being - not riches; not good looks; not a smooth tongue; not social status. Nothing defines being human as much as what has come to be understood as character; and all virtue, value and worthy pursuit are for the sake of character.

Values can be thought of as those qualities which enhance human relationships. They form the foundation of ethical behavior, and are guideposts for actions and potential outcomes. They represent a code of conduct, a moral beacon to a life well lived. And these values, when put into practice, enhance the lives of others, but also our own.

There are ideals worth pursuing. They form a code of conduct, a moral guide that is consistent with a life well lived. These ideals represent values which, when put into practice, enhance the lives of others, as well as our own. Come along on this journey with me, and let's explore the world of virtues

http://www.worthypursuits.wordpress.com is the tie-in to this blog.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

It All Began With The Seven and Seven

I gave a speech entitled "The Seven and Seven - the Seven Deadly Sins and the Seven Virtues."  It was so well received, that I decided to turn it into a blog, and continue to write about my understanding of how religious "sins," as defined so long ago, might be relevant to today's mores. Thus began this blog. Not content to discuss my views in blog format, I proceeded to write a book by the same name, leaving blog entries to the occasional random musings that might inspire me in my daily life.

There are those readers who might wonder about me: What gives me any authority to write on ethics; indeed, am I an ethical person at all?

The answer may not satisfy everyone, of course.  Morals and ethics are hardly static, as viewed throughout history. There are, to be sure, some fundamental, immutable values that seem to apply to everyone, in almost every culture; values that foster community and harmony.  But one does not need to be a person of the cloth to feel, and then to write about important elements among people.

There are those that might cynically complain that I am a hypocrite; that my own life experiences are no example of upstanding virtue.  Yet, wouldn't a flawed life be at the very basis of what is good and precious and worthy to be pursued?

Wednesday, April 30, 2014


I have been called to task from several angles about my leadership of the club, not the least of which is the direct challenge to unseat me.  Democracy at work.  That is not quite as stinging as the gratuitous comments that have filled my email from some unexpected sources, people who are either not part of the executive committee, and even from someone who has not been a member for some time, but still has found it necessary to reproach my level of professionalism.  What's surprising to me is my reaction.  Surely I'm tougher than that, no?  Evidently not.  I wonder if other people in position of leadership get their noses bent out of shape as easily as I.  I'm sensitive, perhaps overly so.  I have expressed my vision for the club, and have met with enormous resistance.  This latest round of critical communiques comes on the heels of nominations, with everyone volunteering his/her version of how things should be.  In one of my letters to the membership, it seems I may have been indirectly critical of previous leadership of the club, and such veiled references are now getting my head handed to me, with such comments as my supposedly having disrespected previous leadership, or leading the membership in a direction that requires a bit more work and dedication.  The task at hand is not to strive ever harder to be perfect, but rather to lean into the criticism and accept it; take responsibility for my role in generating criticism; and then let it sit in my lap like a brick.  Eventually the weight of the brick will feel familiar, or someone may simply choose to relieve me of the burden.  As to behavior, keep doing the best I can, and "keep your head when all about you are losing theirs. ... or being lied about, don't deal in lies, ... If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools, or watch the things you gave your life to, broken, and stoop and build-em up with worn-out tools..." The genius that was Kipling.

I cannot hide or escape, though I'd like to.  It would be easy to simply bow out, and yield the baton to my challenger.  She certainly is qualified.  But this is a learning opportunity for me.  In fact, this is my opportunity to swim in the pool of my own discomfort, and face that discomfort square on, analyze it, and try to overcome it.  The "it" in this case is asserting myself, pushing back where necessary and appropriate, yielding where necessary.  It is pain that alerts one to changes that ought to occur, and the change here is my reaction.  Do I feel stung? Certainly.  Do I feel unsupported? Yes.  Do I think I have all the answers on how to do a good job? Of course not.  But I do have certain qualities; I have my own style, and I must make sure to present my best, to lead with integrity to my own principles, knowing that I will not please everybody, and they have the right to choose. 

Resilience is my own mission. 

Thursday, April 17, 2014


On the spectrum of values, where does the spirit of openness fit? In the Five-Factor Model, openness includes five personality characteristics, including active imagination, aesthetic sensitivity, attentiveness to inner feelings, preference for variety, and intellectual curiosity. (One reference that may be of value here is McCrae R. R., John O. P. (1992). "An introduction to the Five-Factor Model and its applications". Journal of Personality 60 (2): 175–215.).

Aside from the Five-Factor Model, openness might also be regarded as willingness, lack of deceitfulness, honesty and ingenuousness in personal dealings.  Candor is included, not so much as not lying, but rather a personal naivete, an innocence of demeanor, a demeanor that is unabashed and unfettered. 

In all interpersonal dealings, being as clean and free of ulterior motives and contrivances, encourages others to be forthcoming and honest in their dealings with you in return. But what of the fear that some communications, interactions or relationships may not be appropriate? How does openness fit there? It is the proverbial elephant in the room: it cannot be ignored. It is there, taking space, blocking the TV, making all kinds of noises, and unless discussion ensues about how to deal with the animal, Pluto stays, creating more mischief.

There is something fascinating at work in what is known as reality testing. The reality we imagine is sometimes far different from the reality that is revealed. What we imagine, even if we are very sentient, sensitive, intelligent, and observant, is sometimes quite deceptive; other times it is much clearer.  The problem arises when we do not check it out, when we relegate it to the obscure corridors of our minds.  

I was petrified when it became clear that we were moving in the direction of marriage.  The difference in our cultures, the difference in our languages, the sheer distance between us only served to create monsters in my mind of what life would be married to a Japanese man.  I read books, talked to whoever would listen, went to therapy, all in a valiant effort to try to make sense of my anxieties.  It then became clear that I had to visit Japan, his land, his milieu, to get a feel for whether my impressions were correct, or merely figments of my imagination on steroids.  A trip to Japan did the trick.  It was simply new geography, and the man was just another human being! Imagine that! A human! And lo these many years later, he is more human than ever.

Does confronting the elephant in the room always "work"? That, of course, depends on one's definition, doesn't it. It works insofar as it confronts what is unspoken; and what is unspoken may be a source of clarity and joy, instead of something dreaded.  One may discover friendship and understanding, rather than rejection and enmity.  And Pluto would become a child's toy.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Where is God?

I sought my soul, but my soul I could not see. I sought my God, but my God eluded me. I sought my brother and I found all three.

― William Blake

How poetic and profound.  Probably not for the faint of heart or the zealots.  It is said that God made us in his image, and yet we so often fail to see God in each other.  How sad, and how limiting.