This cartoon by Stilton Jarlsburg from the Travon Martin verdict last year is at once both sad and amusing. The amusing part is the exposure of the meaninglessness of President Obama’s “circle of compassion” speech (and Jarlsburg goes after the “trapezoid of meaningless rhetoric” and “the dodecahedron of decency.” But the sad part, of course, is the fact that this cartoon points to a deep underlying truth: President Obama got involved for all the wrong reasons. Rather than heal, he chose to inflame and divide.
Philippians 4 has an exhortation that is appropriate for Thanksgiving — and it is a reminder to be optimistic, and to manage your thoughts. In the Young’s Literal Translation:
8 As to the rest, brethren, as many things as are true, as many as [are] grave, as many as [are] righteous, as many as [are] pure, as many as [are] lovely, as many as [are] of good report, if any worthiness, and if any praise, these things think upon;
It is good advice, whether you are a believer or not. And it is exceedingly difficult in some respects.
I am traveling, but have a short note in the spirit of the Food for Thought series on Biblical verses.
In 2 Timothy 1, when Paul is encouraging young Timothy to get out and get busy, he includes this line:
7 for God did not give us a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind
No matter what one believes as to origins, there is no doubt that this combination — a “spirit of power” combined with love and a sound mind — is a very potent combination. These are the attributes shown by America’s inspired founding fathers, and they have been shown in other groups from time to time throughout history, though not with perhaps so lasting or consequential a result.
But while it is rare for groups to employ this combination together for a joint purpose, we can each strive as individual to develop and maintain these qualities independently. We each face challenges, large and small — and that sense of the size of the challenge is very personal. What might appear small to an observer can be large enough to you when it is right in your way, and in your mind.
Our mustering of the spirit of power, love, and a sound mind is also a very personal thing. I do consciously strive in this direction, with imperfect success. But unless one decides that this is desirable, and conceivable, and worth the effort, no efforts will bring you toward this goal … or any other, for that matter except by inefficient chance. Your life is worth more than that … as are the lives of loved ones in your care and protection.
Love, it seems to me, comes from a peace within yourself that allows you to reach out to hold another in an exalted sort of state. Perhaps it is not completely logical — but the lack of inner peace creates a roiled sort of love that can be harmful to all parties involved. And the lack of reaching out so that you can elevate and make someone your significant other whose well-being becomes your high priority goal … well, a self-centered love is often dismal, and sometimes pathetic.
A sound mind does not mean brilliance at math, or an excellent ability to spell, or a great memory for facts and figures. And people who exhibit these talents/skills (they’re a combination of both) don’t always have a sound thinking process.
The humblest person of modest IQ can still be of sound mind, if he or she approaches life with curiosity, holds opinions tentatively, and actively seeks to improve understanding so that the opinions can either change or be on firmer ground. Then, to actually use that information to live a better life … such a person is of the soundest sort of mind, and too often the “brilliant” are incapable of it. One of Robert Heinlein’s characters, “Kettle Belly” Baldwin, despaired of man’s ability to think:
“We defined thinking as integrating data and arriving at correct answers. Look around you. Most people do that stunt just well enough to get to the corner store and back without breaking a leg.
If the average man thinks at all, he does silly things like generalizing from a single datum. He uses one-valued logics. If he is exceptionally bright, he uses two-valued, “either or” logic to arrive at his wrong answer. If he is hungry, hurt, or personally interested in the answer, he can’t use any sort of logic and will discard an observed fact as blithely as he will stake his life on a piece of wishful thinking. He uses the technical miracles created by superior men without wonder nor surprise, as a kitten accepts a bowl of milk. Far from aspiring to higher reasoning, he is not even aware that higher reasoning exists. He classes his own mental processes as being of the same sort as the genius of an Einstein.
Man is not a rational animal; he is a rationalizing animal. For explanations of a universe that confuses him, he seizes onto numerology, astrology, hysterical religions, and other fancy ways to go crazy. Having accepted such glorified nonsense, facts make no impression on him, even if at the cost of his own life.”
– “Kettle Belly” Baldwin, in Robert A. Heinlein’s novel “Gulf”, from the book “Assignment in Eternity”.
These comments may be true, and Mankind in general guilty as charged – but it is the responsibility of each one of us to learn the skills and disciplines of thinking, to think more skillfully, and more of the time. And we can learn.
A notable omission in Baldwin’s rant is attitude: Thinking skills include the ability to control the attitude that you have in your mind, so that you find the world much less troubling. Stress is, after all, not what happens to you but how you decide to react to it. Too few of us even try to develop this skill.
A sound mind, in my sort of definition at least, leads naturally to a spirit of power — a sort of deep seated confidence and acceptance that then makes you more capable of love, and more capable at life.
May you find the pursuit worthwhile, and the goal achievable. Best wishes to you all.
===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle
Most of the commenting action — nearly 60,000 comments so far — take place on my LiveJournal site, as that’s where most of the readers are. You’re always welcome to comment there or here, but a larger number of readers will see (and respond to) comments there. I have always allowed anonymous comments there; the only reason I don’t do that on DeHavelle.com is the infestation of blog-focused spambots.
So far, in more than a decade at LiveJournal, I’ve never had to ban anyone nor delete any posts or comments, other than the rare cleanup of a spambot (especially in the earlier days of LJ).
So, feel free to join in, on the posts here on on their identical appearances in the LiveJournal blog where I have been writing for years as “Level Head” (an anagram of DeHavelle).
To get there, click the link to “Level_Head’s LiveJournal” on the right of this page. And, if you’re seeing this on the LiveJournal site, you can click on the right side of the page to get to www.DeHavelle.com. Thank you for reading — I value your time and your participation.
===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle
In this instance, it isn’t my own verse involved. My humble online digs were just nominated for a “Food for Thought Award” by Citizen Tom. I recognize that this is a small thing, this award, but I am nonetheless flattered and accept in the spirit that it was given. And I am more than a little surprised, as I am apparently the only non-religious recipient of the award.
As Citizen Tom puts it, “I suppose many people will find this nomination inexplicable, but here is the basis for it...” He’s just added an additional comment expanding on his rationale a bit.
In any event, thanks! Here’s a long and rambling beginning…
May the Christmas cheer at this time of year
Lift you high and ease your loads
Of all faiths and creeds, each of us still needs
To find joy along our roads
For the folks alone, and of somber tone
May a mate you find, and be
As I’m here to say on this Christmas Day
This has meant so much to me
For the family groups and the far-off troops
May the season keep you sound
And may each return bring the love you earn
Love to cushion and surround
Perhaps our book writing is less exciting
Than other sorts of distraction
But may the coming year make your vision clear
And provide you creative traction
From right here the view of the lot of you
Is a view of worthy friends
May the holiday find its happy way
Bearing love our family sends
===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle
As of 9/11/2001, my company had recently celebrated its 25th anniversary (I’d founded it in 1976), and I had come in around 3AM to put the finishing touches on a new business plan. That plan was a multi-hundred-million-dollar casino to be located in Las Vegas; investors were already lined up and I had imagined a complex with sections devoted to parts of America from natural wonders to snapshots of the country’s cultural history.
A little before seven, my staff called upstairs:
It was late in life when I made her my wife
But the wonderful Lady Anne
Has been all I could need, and I’m happy indeed
And a blessed and lucky man
There’s a tale to tell that we know quite well
Twenty-seven years ago
When a customer that I stole from her
Fixed us up to start the show
They were not discrete, and said we should meet
And were suited very well
Now I must concur with how right they were
And that’s what I’m here to tell