Do you like getting your picture taken? Have you ever looked at a picture of yourself and said, “UGH!|” or even “YUCK!?” A few years ago, during a research study, participants were shown pictures of different people. I can’t remember exactly what the researchers were studying, but the pictures weren’t part of the study, except as part of the “control.” As is often the case when one starts looking into human behaviour, the study was derailed a bit when the researchers noticed the reactions to the pictures. If a participant saw a picture of someone else they rated it as pleasant or a good shot. Yet, if the participant happened to be shown a picture of themselves, they rated the picture as terrible or a poor shot, even if the picture was a very flattering one. At first the researchers thought the responses - which, again, had nothing to do with what they were actually researching - were just a result of our very human tendency to be harder and more critical of ourselves than we are of others. And, while that was definitely a factor, they realized that there was something more involved. After switching gears on their research and running more studies, what they finally discovered was that the reason most of us are not happy with photos of ourselves - and this also includes people such as models who are photographed for a living - is because that is not how we believe we look! We literally can’t see how we look to others, except by looking at photographs, but our perception of what we really look like is based on our reflections in a mirror, which is a REVERSED image. Thus, we aren't happy with photos of ourselves because they don’t match the visual patterns we are used to seeing every day in our mirrors. When we see everything that is going on around us in the world today, and bounce between the extremes of despair and happiness, we should ask ourselves if what we are seeing is a true image of what is there, or are we seeing a reflection that just needs a little help to be turned around to create a better view? Sometimes just looking at situation from the other side can make all the difference.
Beth's Ponderings The problem with trial and error - especially in terms of my current health journey - is that it is a frustrating trial filled with seemingly endless error. Just when I think I might be making some headway and moving forward, something happens, and I feel like I’m back at square one. It doesn’t help that my biggest challenge is food, which has so many variables and variety, and isn’t straightforward at all, especially since I can’t just quit eating! I recently read that there are no failures in science, only assumptions that may or may not give you the results you expect, and if the results aren't what was expected, then the assumptions merely need adjusted. That is a nicer perspective to view my journey specifically, and our lives generally. Saying “I failed again” or “I was wrong again” isn’t as helpful to the situation as saying “hmmmm, okay, that wasn’t the result I expected.” The first two comments tend to create a dead end, whereas the third comment provides an opportunity to try another option, and another option, and so on. And we all make assumptions about everything, not just scientists. Because we humans want to know how our future will turn out, we assume that we know exactly what will happen, before it happens, because the previous nine times we did a particular task, the result was the same, so we assume that this tenth time will also be the same. But, it might not be, and in all probability won’t be. We don’t know ahead of time, because we can’t know all the variables that are in play at that particular moment - variables both in and out of our control. One tiny tweak from the time before can give us a vastly different result. In fact, all ten times we do something might give us ten totally different results as we don’t live in sterile vacuums where nothing changes and everything is always constant. So, instead of “trial and error” maybe we should start calling it “assumptions and options?” After all, at it's heart, life is just one giant experiment as we learn and grow each day.
Last week was Remembrance Day, and at some point, those gathered uttered the words, “We will remember…” It is important, very important, to remember the individuals who participated in past conflicts, and those who are currently participating. Some came home, some did not. Most who did return were irrevocably changed by the experience. We should also remember those on the home-front as their participation was just as important - if not more so - for keeping the morale of the soldiers up, reminding them of why they were doing what they were doing, and giving them a reason to keep going and not give up. And it was those left behind who ended up picking up the various broken pieces of life. It is important to remember, but what exactly are we remembering? World War I was “the war to end all wars,” and everyone said, “never again.” Then what happened? A mere 21 years later World War II broke out, and was worse than the “Great War.” That was followed by the Korean War, and later, the Vietnam War, and more currently, Afghanistan and Iraq Wars. And those are by no means the only wars that have ever been fought. Lest we forget...but we HAVE forgotten. Every war, or conflict, in the entire history of humankind, while it may have been justified as being fought for outstanding reasons, and led to a resolution of sorts, merely highlighted the unbearable losses (which ALWAYS outnumber any gains), and ultimately, the sheer futility of the conflict. Our war “to end all wars” failed to prevent another one. Because of our “remembering,” we think peace comes by bullying someone to agree with us, or do it our way. It doesn’t. We think that peace results when we are all the same; thinking, believing, and doing the same things. It doesn’t. We think peace will appear when we steal the land, resources, or dignity of others. It won’t. We think peace will come if people suffer long enough. It won’t. We think the way to peace is armed conflict against another. It isn’t.
In the Monday, October 24, 2016 edition of the Red Deer Advocate, I read an article entitled “When Honourees Don’t Want Their Prize” referencing various celebrities who have refused to accept awards, most recently Bob Dylan winning the Nobel Prize for Literature. Basically, the article looks down on the award recipients for not accepting the awards/honours.
Personally, I think the author, and personalities quoted, are missing the point.
First, an award or honour is given to someone based on something exceptional - in the eyes of the award committee or fans - that the recipient has done in their career or lives. An award is not conferred only on condition of acceptance.
Second, the award or honour is not actively sought by the recipient. “Someone else” has decided that the recipient is worthy and deserving. Thus, again, there is no condition of acceptance.
We all could probably name a handful of people we know, or seen, who are only doing whatever they are doing for the accolades. It is obvious when that is someone’s major motivation for doing something, and as such, their efforts lack heart and connection, coming across as empty and false.
I recently read of someone who desperately wanted to win a Grammy - that was their main career goal - but they didn’t even like singing! Now, why set a goal in an area where you have no interest, or sometimes aptitude? That person was making themselves miserable chasing a goal in an area that they couldn’t stand.
All of us, have a part of us that longs for fame, but it isn’t “fame” so much as validation that what we do, and who we are, matters. If you are doing something that is important to you, and that makes your heart sing, then the act of doing the activity will be validation enough.
Beth's Ponderings I am a wee bit behind - okay, a year behind - on reading some of my magazines so I’ve been doing a marathon reading session to catch up. One thing that I read recently pertained to how we compare attendance and participation nowadays in churches, clubs/organizations, schools, sports/recreation and more to the numbers we had in the 1950s and 1960s. The trouble is that the Baby Boom heyday of the 1950s and 1960s wasn’t a “normal” period of time. It was, as one author referred to it, a “blip” in the historical record. Population numbers (by age groupings) weren’t that high before, and won’t be that high again, unless we have a world event leading to another massive baby boom. Thus, we can’t even expect to see the same level of participation, as there just isn’t the numbers - in particular age groupings - to make it possible. And while it is true that the Boomers have, and will continue to have, an effect on our institutions and will be impacting wide-scale decisions for years to come, they aren’t the only ones we need to cater to in society. Basing everything strictly on their numbers - past or present - won’t benefit us at all as they are the “blip” in statistics. The same is true of our economy. Sorry, but $100+/barrel of oil is not normal, nor is it realistic or sustainable. It too is just a blip. Governments, businesses, and families need to stop making their decisions based on the day oil goes back to this level. Now, if they based their decisions on the real normal - which is closer to $20/barrel - then maybe we’d all have a better chance. By basing our decisions on historical “blips” we create unrealistic expectations for our lives, and stress when the expectations fall apart. Humans have short memories, and we can get acclimatized to any situation in very short time. Thus, it is all to easy to forget that the really good situations aren’t any more normal, than the really bad situations. Normal consists in a blend of what we call good experiences and not-so-good experiences. Not too much of one, or the other.
Beth's Ponderings Hold out your hand in front of you and take a really good look at it. The back, as well as the palm, all your fingers and your wrist. Now, if you are like most people, your first thoughts, or impressions, as you did that were not about the “appearance” of your hand, but rather how it feels “internally.” Maybe your hand is sore from typing too much, or maybe you have arthritis and the changing season has been doing a real number on your joints, or maybe you notice your finger is sore from a too-tight ring. Maybe your hand is cold, or conversely hot. Only after we get through our thoughts on how our hand feels, do we start to see it. Which leads to another whole set of judgements. Maybe your fingers are nicked and cut, maybe you are missing a finger, maybe you notice some blisters on your palm, or a blemish. Were any of your thoughts about thanking your hands? Really, hands are fascinating in what they are capable of doing. In fact, very rarely are they entirely still during the course of the day as they pick up, put down, touch, push, pull, squeeze, hold, let go, and so much more. Hands are capable not only of holding heavy objects, but light ones too. They can be incredibly gentle or harsh. We’re told not to judge a book by its cover, yet we all do, and we can’t help it as we judge absolutely everything around us. That is because we live, and view, our lives from the inside. Even when we look in a mirror, or at our hand, we don’t see ourselves as others do, but as we “feel” inside. However, when we look out, all we see is the “cover” of whatever, or whomever, is around us. We experience our “content” and thus assume that the covers we see are in fact others’ content, but they aren’t. Recently I took a short video of my niece jumping in our compost bin to compact the contents, and I was also in the video as I was holding her hands. It was interesting to watch the video and “see” myself in a manner that I never get to see. For a brief moment I was able to blend my “cover” and my “content” to get a new sense of who I am. Just as a book is more than its cover, so is everything around us.
Beth's Ponderings “With books, I am promiscuous.” – Heather Sellers That quotation is a pretty accurate description of myself, and my reading habits. I have always been a reader. There are even pictures of me as a toddler, sitting on the couch, with a large book on my lap. And, for anyone who knows me well, my reading choices can be, and usually are, quite eclectic! While I tend to read romances or historical novels on the fiction side, I also enjoy a good western or Christian novel too. On the non-fiction side, that is where the promiscuity really comes into play. At any given time, I will have four or five books on the go as I alternate between them. Some days I may read a chapter in each, other days, I may only pick up one or two to read. The subject matter is diverse enough - cooking, history, technology, self-help, inspiration, etc. - that I don’t tend to get them mixed up. The reason for the diversity is because some days I like something light, some days I feel like learning a new skill, and some days I can handle delving into a heavier subject. I was thinking about my reading habits as I recently watched a university lecture on Greek and Roman history. The professor made the usual disclaimer that we can’t necessarily take the ancient literary sources as revealing historical fact, even as we use those sources to learn about the history of the era. Homer’s “Iliad” may refer to historical events that happened, but it isn’t a historical documentation of those events. That got me thinking. While we can easily distinguish whether a contemporary book is fiction or non-fiction, and if the non-fiction book is factual or allegorical, would someone thousands of years in the future be able to make that same distinction? Especially if they only had a selection or a fragment of the whole book? Would they be able to tell that John Grisham and Danielle Steele were writing stories that weren't true, though they reflected the world as we know it? Would they be able to tell that many of our religious writings are allegorical, not historically factual? How would you want our lives to be revealed in the future?
Our Olympic athletes have returned from Rio. As usual, there were surprises, life-changing events, heart-warming stories, and more.
On one hand, I am amazed at what the athletes can accomplish, as just qualifying for the Olympics requires a high level of proficiency and skill in their sport of choice, yet on the other hand, I can’t see the point.
I am NOT athletic and, no matter how many times I’ve tried, I can’t seem to get into exercise either. I took dance lessons for years, and have done yoga off and on for a couple decades, but I’ve never established a dedicated practice or disciplined approach to it. I can be so disciplined in other areas, so it is weird that I can’t transfer that to exercise.
Then I read that recent research shows the only benefit to what we traditionally think of as “exercise” - cardio workouts, running, weight-training, etc. - is that it increases the oxygen levels in our blood, otherwise there is no real benefit to going to the gym or working out for an hour. It doesn’t burn enough calories to cause weight loss or improve health. It is the increased oxygen in the blood that causes any improvements and those are negated as so many of us aren’t breathing deeply enough except during that half to full hour of exercise. If we just starting breathing more fully, we wouldn’t have to “exercise” at all.
Now that doesn’t mean that we can be couch potatoes and not move at all since our bodies do require movement to stay healthy and our joints lubricated, but we require simple movements such as rambling walks. The trouble, besides our tendency to shallow breathing, is that we move intensely for a short period of time and then call it good, when we should be moving almost constantly throughout the entire day. Pacing around while talking on the phone, standing while typing on our computers (making sure the computer is on a higher surface), walking up and down stairs, bending and reaching, and spontaneous dancing, hopping, skipping and jumping such as you see young children doing.
I do admire elite athletes as they show us what the human body is capable of, but for the rest of us, deep breaths, and more general movement throughout the course of each day, is a better goal to strive for.
Beth's Ponderings As I type this, my right knee is currently covered in a massive colourful bruise, and it’s even missing some skin. The reason my knee is in such a sorry state is because almost every time I walked by my bed today - which was a large number of times - I managed to smash my knee very hard onto the sharp wooden corner of the bed’s foot board. Now, it isn’t like I don’t know it’s there. The bed has been in that particular spot since December 2005! Also there is ample space to get by it so there is no need to even get close to it. I literally go by it from the moment I get out of bed in the morning to the moment I crawl into bed at night, plus all the other moments I walk by it in a day. On rare occasions I do run it, yet, for the most part I can even navigate past it in the dark, or with my eyes closed because I’m half awake. That makes today’s repeated, and incredibly painful, connections to the foot board such a mystery. Why today, as I’ve never done this - hit it so many times in one day - before? Why, despite being extra careful and vigilant, does it seem like my poor abused knee was magnetically sucked over to the foot board even when I didn’t have to be anywhere near it? Alas, I don’t know the answers. It must just be “one of those days.” Yet, isn’t that the way it is with our lives. Something that is so obvious, and has been a particular way forever, suddenly becomes a stumbling block that trips us and sends us flat on our face.
It isn’t the big things (boulders) that trip us, but the little things (pebbles). It is doing the routine, automatic, things that can result in accidents, not the novel once-in-awhile things. It isn’t something new in our lives, or what we’re learning to do, it’s what we’ve mastered and can do in our sleep that can lead to sloppiness and carelessness.
We assume that because it has always been that way - and we haven’t changed anything - we don’t need to pay attention any more. And when we stop paying attention to our lives, that’s when things really start falling apart.
Where do you need to start paying more attention? Beth
Beth's Ponderings There is no doubt that there are a lot of wrongs in our world. Bad things happen each and every day - some minor, some devastating. It is not only heart wrenching, but it can even destroy a person’s sanity and will to live. Yet, despite being bombarded throughout the day with the latest disaster or bad news story, there is an overwhelming amount of good in our world. In fact, there is much more good than the bad. I know it can be hard to believe, but that’s because we are being constantly fed the bad, making it easy to overlook the good. And if you really don’t believe me, consider that there wouldn’t even be a human left alive on this planet if there wasn’t a wealth of good things happening around the world all the time. Every day, innocent babies, full of unconditional love and joy, draw their first breaths. Every day, countless people are thrilled to open their eyes to a brand new morning. Every day, someone somewhere overcomes the odds to walk again, or talk again, or heal from an illness. Every day, people are helping others and sharing what they have. Every day, unlimited smiles and hugs are being shared around the world. Every day, the sun shines and there is air to breathe.
Every single day of our lives 99% of what we do, and what happens around us, is good and works out. So much so, that we take for granted that it will. So why let the 1 or 2 things that didn’t go as you think they should control your life? Why live in constant fear of something happening? Oh, did you know that people tend to fear and feel threatened by good things happening more than disasters...why? Instead of seeing the glass half empty, see it as full and overflowing. Anyone who has ever washed a dirty glass knows that to remove the dirt you have to add more clean water. Even if you don’t empty out the dirt first, just by adding more clean water and letting it overflow the glass will eventually be clean and filled with clear water. Yes, there is bad in our world, but there is an awful lot of good too. Help those in need, but don’t dwell on what is going wrong in the world. Instead add more good till it overflows around you. Beth Read the complete issue of The Chautauqua here: https://sites.google.com/site/thechautauqua20/home/August%205%2C%202016%20Chautauqua.pdf?attredirects=0&d=1 Contact The Chautauqua via email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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