Sunday, 18 February 2018

The Chains of Life.

The other day there I was talking about my father in law learning to drive. He had come to it rather later in life but was anxious to learn. 

It was agreed that I would go out with him not to teach him but to help him reinforce the lessons he had had. The thing was that I noticed almost immediately that he had picked up a very bad habit. On approaching a corner he should have changed down a gear in preparation for taking the corner. He did not do this he waited until he was at the bend and changed gear while making the turn. No matter how often I told him about this he continued to do it.
Having passed his test, with this habit that must have slipped the examiners notice, he continued to follow this habit and frequently stalled the car on bends.

Bad habits are so easy to acquire and hard to get rid of. 

It is a well-known fact how easily a child of three or four picks up a foreign language if exposed to it without any formal teaching. Yet we are unwilling to admit that a child of the same age picks up our unconscious attitudes and prejudices without being taught and often retains these longer than any of the formal education.
Two tadpoles, Ted and Todd, hatched from the same batch of eggs.
They swam around excitedly, wiggling their little tails with great enthusiasm.
They swam up to their mum and exclaimed, “Look what we can do, look why we can do.”
The mother frog looked at the two tadpoles with great pride and called them closer. She then explained the process of metamorphosis and how they will eventually lose their tail and grow legs.
This news impacted the tadpoles differently.
Ted was excited about the future and continued to swim with energy and enthusiasm, occasionally looking back to see when his legs would start forming.
Todd, however, thought to himself, “What’s the point of exercising my tail? It’s only going to drop off eventually anyway.”
As a result, Ted kept strengthening his tail and increasing his stamina, but Todd’s tail got weaker and his energy levels dropped.
The mother frog took Todd to one side and suggested that he start using his tail more.
“But what’s the point? It’s only going to drop off anyway,” Todd replied.
After a little while, the two tadpoles’ tails dropped off and their legs grew.
Ted was excited and hopped around with energy and enthusiasm.  The consistent and energetic use of his tail had equipped him for this development.
Todd was less enthused. He was sort of glad that he now had legs, but he just didn’t have the energy to use them.
He didn’t know why, he just couldn’t be bothered.
There are times in life when we are being prepared for the future, but it’s not always in the ways we expect.
When we are learning calculus or ancient history in high school, we aren’t learning it because we are going to use it, but because the skills of learning will be valuable in the future.
When we start work, we do menial and low-level tasks, not because it’s the best use of our skills or because it’s what we learned to do in our previous studies, but because we will develop the necessary work ethic and level of initiative for later in our careers.
So the next time you think to yourself, “What’s the point? I’m never going to use this in the future,” remember the lesson of the two tadpoles.
Remember that the habits you form today will make a significant difference to your levels of success in the future.

Sadly I have in my life watched many a good person reduced to so much less than their potential because of the habits that became addictions. 

So one or two little thoughts about habits.

Habit is a cable; we weave a thread of it every day, and at last, we cannot break it.

The chains of habit are generally too small to be felt until they are too strong to be broken. 

Bad habits are like comfortable beds--easy to get into but hard to get out of. I suppose that is why I get out of bed at 6am every day.

Have a marvellous day.

Saturday, 17 February 2018

Never too late to learn.

Those birds again have persuaded me to paint them.

As I have said often before I found learning very difficult in my early days of education, fortunately, it was not the same when I really did want to learn and in that lies the difference.

When I became a teacher I was very conscious of the fact that just because I wanted to teach not everybody before me was going to learn until I discovered how to motivate and inspire students to want to learn.  I also knew that in life there are some who just think they already know and there is nothing they can be taught.

Two very good friends were sitting enjoying an ale together. The news came on the television just above their heads. The broadcast was showing a man standing on a ledge of a very high roof. The police and fire brigade were up there trying to persuade him not to jump.

One of the friends turned to the other, "I wager you ten pounds he jumps." The friend says,,"I will take the wager that he does not jump.'

As they watch the man jumps. The loser of the wager hands over the ten-pound note. The winner says,"I cannot take your money, I saw this on the six o'clock news and saw him jump."  His friend says, "I saw that also but I did not think he would be silly enough to do it twice."

I learned that as a teacher there were stages of learning. In the beginning, you learn the right answers. In the second state you learn the right questions. In the third and final stage, you learn which questions are worth asking. 

To help the process along I always remembered that, tell the student and most will forget. Show me the student and some may remember. But involve the student and most will understand and learn.

Visual lessons are often simpler than just a great many words. My son and I were raking up leaves in the church grounds one day when a flock of geese flew overhead. I pointed and said, "Do you see how they fly in the letter V?"  he looked and thought for a moment, "Clever do they know any other letters?"

So some of the wonderful lessons I have learned through lives experience.

That you cannot make someone love you.
All you can do is be someone who can be loved.
The rest is up to them.

That it takes years to build up trust, and only seconds to destroy it.

That you shouldn't compare yourself to the best others can do but to the best you can do.

That it's taking me a long time to become the person I want to be.

That you should always leave the ones you love with loving words. It may be the last time you see them.

That learning to forgive takes practice. 

And lastly and maybe most importantly. That it's not what you have in your life but who you have in your life that counts.

Have a wonderful and remember what my friend Jim has said more than once, Every day is a school day. 

Friday, 16 February 2018

To be confident is a good thing.

I am aware that this is a painting I have used before but I have been working on a portrait of my wee birds and I ran out of time to do any other. But I have noticed that they have managed to fly from another painting into this one while I was not watching. They seem to be growing in confidence those little birds. I might have to find names for them because my little collection of children's stories about them is growing. 

I will have to take them aside though and warn them about this growing confidence to appear in every painting. If they get overconfident there might be no stopping them.

It was Arnold Palmer who told the story about getting too sure of yourself. This is his account of the event.

"It was the final hole of the 1961 Masters tournament, and I had a one-stroke lead and had just hit a very satisfying tee shot. I felt I was in pretty good shape. 

As I approached my ball, I saw an old friend standing at the edge of the gallery. He motioned me over, stuck out his hand and said, "Congratulations." I took his hand and shook it, but as soon as I did, I knew I had lost my focus.

On my next two shots, I hit the ball into a sand trap, then put it over the edge of the green. I missed a putt and lost the Masters. 

You do not forget a mistake like that, you just learn from it and become determined that you will never do that again. I haven't in the years since." he said.

A minister was sitting in his study aware that he was to get a delivery of a parcel that day. He had made very sure that the parcel that was to be delivered would have no identifying marks from the sender. He had gone to great lengths to give packing instructions and to make sure the package was clearly marked, "Bibles." He was very confident that his instructions would have been followed.

There was a knock at the door of the manse so he hurried down to collect his parcel. As he opened the door the delivery man stood with a large heavy box in his arms. "Ah, that will be the bibles I am expecting. Thank you so much."

"Bibles?" said the man, "Well I am very sorry to tell you minister but your bibles are leaking."

It was the last day of school before the summer vacation. The pupils were all excited and most of them had a little present for the teacher. 

The first boy, the son of the local florist, handed her a gift. She held it abover her head and with great confidence said, "This is flowers, how nice." " How did you know that said the lad?" "Just a good guess," said the teacher.

The second pupil came forward with a gift. Helen was the daughter of the local confectioner. Again she held the gift above her head. Again with great confidence pronounced it was a box of sweeties. Once more she told them she was good at guessing. 

Tom brought his gift forward. Once more the teacher held it above her head. She noticed it was a bit wet. The father of Tom owned the local bar. The teacher put her finger to the damp spot and licked it. "it is wine she said with confidence." "No," said the excited Tom.

She put her finger back on the damp spot and took a bigger taste. "It is champagne!" 

"No," said Tom. "What is it?"  asked the teacher. "A puppy." said Tom.

There is nothing wrong with being sure of your facts and nothing at all wrong with having the confidence of your convictions but it never pays to be over confident, you might end up eating yellow snow.

Have a marvellous day.

Thursday, 15 February 2018

To take a little risk.

I was asked why the wee birds were always apart? So here they are getting up close and personal. Now how can I develop a childlike story from that I wonder?

I made one of the most terrible of mistakes yesterday and I feel terrible today because I did. I assumed something of the motives of a person and I learned how wrong I was. I prejudged somebody, something I am not usually guilty of. Let me explain in a little tale. 

It had been a very hard day for PC Robert as he headed home to his family. He was concerned about where policing was heading, he seemed to spend more and more time filling in forms and writing reports. What had happened to the days when he began on the beat. Those days where he knew everybody and a word from him solved many problems before they even became big problems that needed reports written for. 

How he longed for those days again. He began to wonder what Georgie had ready for him he was looking forward to a nice meal and some quiet time at home. Just then a car came round the corner and shouted at him, "Pig." This was just what he needed as he thought the day was over. Should he about-turn and make chase? He should not have to have such abuse. 

Just as he was about to speed up and go after the car a large pig rounded the bend. How easily he could have ended up in an accident with a pig. he had not been insulted he had been in fact warned of danger. 

How easily we can jump to the wrong conclusions about another person and in so doing act in the wrong manner. How often we do in fact jump to the wrong conclusions about others. 

Why do we do this? often because of our own insecurity our own fears. We automatically jump to our defence having heard not what was said but what we expected to hear. Another reason is we jump to judgement of others. We see people and we expect them to act in a certain way and we, therefore, act in response to this false judgement.

Prejudge is a terrible thing and yet we can see it daily. Honest communication requires trust and taking a risk. And we’ve been burned too many times. So we settle for safety, make the natural assumption, and run head-on into our own version of that pig as we journey down life’s highway

There is a better way the way of taking risks. The risk of giving others a chance before we jump to the wrong conclusions.

But in this lies further risks.

To laugh is to risk appearing the fool. 

To weep is to risk appearing sentimental. 

To reach out for another is to risk involvement. 

To expose feelings is to risk exposing your true self. 

To place your ideas, your dreams before a crowd is to risk their loss. 

To love is to risk not being loved in return. 

To live is to risk dying. 

To hope is to risk despair. 

To try is to risk failure. 

But risks must be taken because the greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing. 

The person who risks nothing does nothing, has nothing and is nothing. 

They may avoid suffering and sorrow but they cannot learn, feel, change, grow, love, live. Only a person who risks is free.

That doesn’t mean we should be naive. It does mean we should be careful what we assume. Check it out. Give others the benefit of the doubt. And if someone shouts something unexpected at us, at least entertain the possibility that perhaps it may be more than a personal insult. 

Who knows, that approach could change our lives.  The stranger dressed so differently from you. The stranger that looks a bit of an oddball. 

That stranger is just the friend you have not yet met. 

Have a marvellous day my friends. 

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

It is more than a game>

I suppose the most important thing in life is exactly that, it is what each of us considers to be the most important thing. We are all very different as individuals not merely realists and dreamers but in the things that we value.

There is an old saying about where the heart lies their lies what it is that is important to us. For some people, the most important thing might be their family for others it may be their religion or faith. On this special day for many it will be the thought of a very dear loved one, this, of course, being Valentine's Day.  Now another of the big commercial trading days of the year, even to the extent that it is no longer remembered as St.Valentines Day now the Saint has been dropped and forgotten.

I heard the other day two people discussing this event. One of the two brushed it aside reminding his friend that more important than that was the fact that there were two Championship football matches being played and both to be broadcast live.

Now we move into a new realm altogether. Football for so many is much more than a mere sport, it is a way of life. It is almost in the realm of a religion.

There are some interesting discussions about the value of a sport and the playing of one. There is no doubt that for so many fighting with the problem of weight a sport would be a great improvement from sitting at a computer eating sweet things would be a good thing. Not of course if the closest a person came to a sport was watching others playing it from the safety of a warm house.

Now I am very aware that for many that cannot any longer play a sport or even visit a ground to watch having it live in the living room gives much pleasure.

For others, there is nothing to be achieved.  A woman was heard to say to her friend, "The most exciting thing about the whole day was when Ronnie returned from the toilet and sat on his sandwich."

Another was heard to proclaim, " If a husband watches more than 3 football games a week the wife should have him declared legally dead and the will read."

There is another side that must also be considered. Children will root for their heroes, and adults will cheer, fight and argue over each play as if they are in the game themselves. 

Bookies and gamblers will delight in the odds of winning or losing. 

Sadly so many heroes will not live up to expectations and set very bad examples of the fairness of sport been seen to openly cheat during the game and thinking such behaviour is acceptable.

I had a passing thought the other day wondering what another culture from another planet might think looking down on a football match.

Some 60,000 people paying enormous sums to sit in a stadium that cost millions to watch 22 men being paid a million a year to dispute the possession of a ball that costs about £20.

Yes, there is much to be learned if the game is played well, honestly and fairly. if played in such a spirit it will indeed bring rewards not just of the monetary nature but sadly I do not see it played in this spirit often enough. 

We forget that it is just a game to be played and or enjoyed. it is not and never should be a life and death situation.

It is like everything else in life, and I mean everything else, there are very few things worth dying or killing over.  If the things we give our life to do not bring a real sense of peace and joy and a sense of meaning and purpose it is worth asking if they are worthy of our time?

Have a marvellous St Valentines Day, I will not hold my breath on being swamped but like many, I do rejoice in the fact that I am loved.

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Oh to be the same!

The Things of Dreams.

Another little dream painting made from one or two scribbles on the page and a little imagination and a sparkle of artistic license.

I am still to some extent stuck in my little thoughts of dreams and how much an import they play in our lives. I have discovered in the past few dreams that there are people who have no time at all for dreams or dreamers. Then there are others who like me feel that if there are dreams that inspire some reality and fruitful action there is plenty of room for such.

I, as a young lad, had a very real dream and desire to be just like everybody else. I dreamt of waking up one morning and discovering I was the same height as everybody else in my class at school. I had a dream that one day I would go to school and not have to face the snide comments, I just wanted to be like everybody else.

Most people like to be the same as everyone else. There is a sense of fear in being too different from others, what will people think of us, so we take pains not to be different.

There is truth in the fact that there are people who are singled out for being different, for not blending in like everybody else. They are picked out and looked down on because they are different. We even have names for people such as these, oddballs, geeks and many other such names. I could go on to list a good few more because at one time or another I have been called them.

I have gone as far as to stand in a room of almost a thousand people and made a speech for a particular course of action when the vote for and against was taken I was part of a group of five. So overwhelmingly out there on my own and wishing the ground would open out from underneath me. 

It did not help that in a few months the plea I had made turned out to have been a good one and the people I had appealed to made an about turn. I had once again like so often in my life been a minority of one. 

So it was with some sense of joy when one day somebody I held in the highest of regards invited me into his office and invited me to sit down and share a glass of wine with him. An even deeper sense of joy when he said to me, "Please never ever try to become like everybody else. Society and life need the individuals who prick our conscience and make us see things differently."

he pointed me towards some writing from people who inspired others to dare to be different and to stand firm.

goethe it was who said, " Nothing is more disagreeable than a majority For the majority consists of a few powerful people in the lead, rogues who are ever adaptable, weak people who are ever followers and then the rest who do not really know what they stand for. The crowd trundles after without the slightest notion of why or where they are going."  There have been many times in the past few months and year that I have thought that these are very true words.

So did my dream ever come true that I could wake up and be like everybody else? Of course not I have never learned that lesson and old age has not in anyway helped.

So I will rejoice in the words of Ibsen, " The majority is always wrong, the minority is rarely right." So do not be like everyone else. Think for yourself and rejoice in your individuality.

So I guess I will dream on and hope that some dreams might lead me to wonderful places, thanks to all my friends who will join me there. Yes, we will most surely be few in number and from time to time it may be uncomfortable.

But it will feel like life is worth it and there is so much more yet to learn. have a wonderful joy filled day. 

Monday, 12 February 2018

Dreams of Peace.

Dreams of Peace

A friend of mine, to some extent, disagreed with my thoughts about being a dreamer and hoping for a gentle life. My friend is as ever practical, get on with it and get things done. We need people like this also in life. So I do not think we disagree maybe we see the means of arriving at the fulfilment of our hopes will be achieved in different ways.

To be really honest more than one of my friends thought the same way. I will go on dreaming and hoping.   I cannot remember feeling in such a good place as I am feeling right now, not for many years. Not since the days, I walked around wearing a kaftan and bells and giving people flowers as symbols of hope and peace.

Those were good times when people actually believed that things could be changed for the better. We have come a long way since then. Now so many people just do not care. We have environmental studies at university and in every school and yet the planet is in a worse state now than it ever was.

So I say, bring on the dreamers, and continue to hope that one day soon, before it is too late, we will begin to make changes and the doers and the dreamers embrace and work together.  I think then we will stand with all the sages and messiahs who preached the same kind of message.

Here is a tale about a man of dreams who never gave up.

"American history shall march along that skyline," announced Gutzon Borglum in 1924, gazing at the Black Hills of South Dakota. 

In 1927 Borglum began sculpting the images of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, and Theodore Roosevelt on the granite face of 6,000-foot Mount Rushmore. Most of the sculpting was done by experienced miners under Borglum's direction. 

Working with jackhammers and dynamite, they removed some 400,000 tons of outer rock, cutting within three inches of the final surface. When Borglum died in March 1941, his dream of the world's biggest sculpture was near completion. 

His son Lincoln finished the work that October, some 14 years after it was begun. The dream became the reality. 

And another.

It started like so many evenings. Mother and Father at home and Jimmy playing after dinner. Mother and Father were absorbed with jobs and did not notice the time. It was a full moon and some of the light seeped through the windows. 

Then Mother glanced at the clock. "Jimmy, it's time to go to bed. Go up now and I'll come and settle you later."
Unlike usual, Jimmy went straight upstairs to his room. An hour or so later his mother came up to check if all was well, and to her astonishment found that her son was staring quietly out of his window at the moonlit scenery. 

"What are you doing, Jimmy?" "I'm looking at the moon, Mum." 

"Well, it's time to go to bed now." As one reluctant boy settled down, he said, "Mum, you know one day I'm going to walk on the moon."
Who could have known that the boy in whom the dream was planted that night would survive a near-fatal motorbike crash which broke almost every bone in his body, and would bring to fruition this dream 32 years later when James Irwin stepped on the moon's surface, just one of the 12 representatives of the human race to have done so? 

It was Edgar Allen Poe who said, "Those who dream by day are cognizant of many things that escape those who dream only by night. "

So it seems that there is room for the realists and room for the dreamers but the more of us who are brave enough to dream dreams we hope can inspire those who just take life as it is and encourage them to greater and greater things. 

The best way to make our dreams become reality is to wake up. 

Have a wonderful day and again I say dream great dreams.