Friday, October 26, 2012

Attaining Social Success

I am an avid reader and something of a self proclaimed book nerd.  As a high schooler I spent my Saturday mornings at the library.  Perhaps that is not what the world would call socially powerful, but let me give you some insight into what I have found about succeeding in the social game that I learned whilst in the stacks.  Firstly, any wise book will improve your social life.  It does this on two fronts - following its counsel will enrich your social behavior and the wisdom it renders will safeguard you from irritating naysayers.  Among the books I've read on psychology and the like there are three that top the social climbing list. 

The Analects of Confucius is not a difficult book to read.  It is very dense sometimes but I know of very few books that can match the counsel it gives in how to deal with people, family, and social intercourse.  It's a great handbook to read and then keep on the shelf.   Number two of my absolute favorite social reads is The Art of War.  It is extremely short and an intriguing read and if you apply the military strategy to your interpersonal relationships it is absolutely invaluable.  It takes you through the whole "If the other person does this, then you do that" and it holds up under fire every time.  But the best work ever written in my opinion on how to succeed in the social arena is found in the New Testament, in the book of St. Matthew chapters 5-7 inclusive.  It is the sermon on the mount. 


When I was in high school I spent hours poring over first 11 verses of Matthew 5.  I would choose one scripture and like Ben Franklin, attempt to master it in my daily life.  Then I would do another and another, then go back and work on the ones I'd done before.  This was my constant focus for many years.   Abiding by these ideas takes you from being the persecuted, misunderstood gawky kid that I was and reminds you that you are in control of your life.  It brings you to the point of being the agent to act and not the object to be acted upon and it gives you a balance to take with you in terms of how to treat others.  When someone reviles us and we turn the other cheek, not out of fear but in strength, they cannot help but respect us and place us on a pedestal.  When we let our lights so shine without arrogance or conceit people take tremendous notice and will treat us like something greater than the average person off the street.  When we refuse to fiercely judge our enemies people know they can trust our friendship and our discretion.  If you want to stay in the merry go round of he said she said gossip ridden social world then go ahead and read Self magazine.  If you want to rise above it and hold your own life in the palm of your hand, engrave those three chapters onto your heart.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Spiritual Innocence

I have at times alluded to my all consuming belief that we lived in a more intense spiritual state before our mortal births.  I have always known this more surely than I felt the reality of my present mortal existence.  Here is how I feel much impressed we lived at that time.  And it is this spirituality and innocence we must set as our ultimate goal and destination in this life.  The surest way to happiness is not by engaging in debate, argument or sophistry but in rediscovering the gentle confidence before God we had so long ago.  I wrote an autobiography a few years ago which included the fullness of all my insight, reflections regarding life and the like.  I never intend to unveil it, but this is one of the opening sections.  The book itself is partly in prose and also includes various types of poetry which shift according to the plot, much as music in an opera changes based upon the relative events. 
Once in a state of purity and peace
We stood before the gates of open joy,
Embraced in glory, slept on golden fleece;
In innocence stood every girl and boy.
And love proved sure, our common course
Which hell itself this life could not destroy.
And in our dreams we saw the shooting orbs
Of light that now we know as lofty stars
But then as toys; we harbored no remorse
For lived we then without the fashioned bars
Of emptiness. 

Saturday, October 20, 2012

What if You Could Look into Jesus's Face?

This might be applied not only to God Himself but all who strive to find a better way, a nobler course and higher dream than we generally see in society.  Indeed, I wrote it about a specific mortal person who will remain nameless but found later it applies more or less perfectly to the Savior Himself.  It particularly discusses the concept of our sometimes not accepting people who seem strange to the world simply because they are striving for something higher.

I strain to read the faded words

That splash across his face.

A book of truth unhinderéd

By glory or disgrace

Betoken life of wisdom’s strength

That others failed to see

Because they do not understand

The truth that sets them free.

The darkened world walks blindly on

Ignoring heaven’s light

And spurning him who strives for peace

And seeking greater sight.

Perhaps instead of chiding him

Who often we deride

It might behoove to gaze into

The joy that speaks inside.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Cease Fire on Class Warfare

My family comes from extremely humble roots.  My mother lived in a small, poverty stricken town in Mexico and worked in construction alongside her brothers and father when she came to the States.  My father grew up in poor circumstances in South Carolina.  Little by little we have climbed the financial ladder and I have been very blessed to be able to experience both sides of the coin.  I understand the fear of families who have nothing to eat.  I have helped rescue those who repeatedly went to bed with empty stomachs.  But I have also lived the life of an executive and an entrepaneur.  Both sides are stressful in very different ways.  I currently work as a financial executive in a construction company which affords me a profound view of how things work in the real world.  I recognize if I get lazy on Friday and forget to pay that one check to that one plumbing or framing company, many will have nothing to put on the table that weekend.  Children may go hungry and families will experience a flood of agonized anxiety. 

As stressful as the life of a laborer is, and it is very stressful, it is no less stressful to be an executive and have to have all the answers.  When the recession hit many contractors filed bankrupcy.  Suddenly all our trades depended on our company for their daily bread.  I remember panic striken trades asking when we would build our next custom home.  The owners and I had to hold our heads high, kneel as low before God as possible and reassure everyone that Golden Star Properties would outlast this financial crises.  We knew that if our company went down the framers, painters, electricians, plumbers, tractor drivers, laborers, tile guys, et cetera would be left desolate.  We had to trust God and somehow manage to pull contracts and projects out of thin air when all the other construction companies were falling victim to the circumstances of the time.

We have survived.  Most of our trades have survived.  We have all learned to manage with less.  We have all had to compromise with each other.  We all are part of this project of life together.  We are engaged one with another to create jobs, perform duties and the like to make sure everyone can make it.  We needn't hate each other, blame each other or envy each other.  We cannot.  Let's stand united, understanding that we are all different and have different roles.  And let's put our arms around each others' shoulders like human beings and aid each other like brethren and sisters.  


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Beauty of Small Government

Thomas Jefferson envisioned an America in which the citizens would pay virtually no federal taxes and would never see the federal government except perhaps in the form of the mail carrier.  He continually preached non pretension, simplicity, and the like.  Granted, there were many issues in human society he could not have foreseen, including the abolition of slavery.  Many people may argue that a large federal government is the only way to really get things done.

Get what things done?  What is more important than spending time with a child?  What is more important than helping a neighbor in need?   What is more important than uplifting and beautifying the world around us, person by person?  We do not need the government for the most important things in life.  A more extensive government means more beaurocracy, more positions for the power hungry, more corruption, and certainly greater expense.  But, one may say, we have good systems within the government such as welfare and food stamps.  I have heard people argue that Jesus Himself was a socialist. 

My friends, the beauty of a small government is that it gives us the freedom, of our own will and volition, to give to others.  It does not demand an equal society; it invites it.  I know several fairly wealthy people who would like to give more to the poor but cannnot afford to give the time and money of their own good desires toward God and man because crippling taxes do not give them enough breathing room to maintain their small businesses.  They live in so much frustration, unsure of what will be taken from them next, that the worry inhibits their reaching out more to the hungry and homeless.  They feel under attack and constantly pressured.  Jesus did not demand, coerce, throw in prison or fine.  He instructed and invited.  God requires a tithe, generally described as 10%, given to Him.  Can a man made governement rightly demand more financial homage than God?  And I truly believe that if more of the so called "wealthy" were left alone they would engage more in giving to the needy.  I know many wealthy people who in continually give to humanitarian causes in money, time, and expertise.  The beauty of small government is the beauty of simplicity itself.  Restore the freedom to more fully look to our smaller communities, our churches, our friendships, and recall that the neighborly human touch is a priceless gem that government can never substitute.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Biden vs. Ryan: An Analysis

It was a historic debate on various counts.  Catholic versus Catholic, the first time a vice presidential challenger tied/bested an incumbent vice president, et cetera.  And since I have not found news articles that express what I think about this particular debate I will just have to supply one. 

Firstly, let's discuss style.  Biden did indeed, as Ryan predicted, come in like a cannonball.  No one doubts that he dominated the debate floor.  But while he may have thought the ends justified the means, his continued impersonation of the Cheshire Cat came across to any mature, intelligent viewer as, as Ryan put it a man "under duress."  Stylistically Ryan took the floor and maintained it with a set expression of resolution that Biden only troubled for a brief, passing moment in the heat of his 83 interruptions.  Ryan came to the floor equipped with a proverbial cookie jar filled to the brim of one liners.  My personal favorite was in response to Biden's attack of the notorious 47% comment made by Governor Romney.  Ryan leaned in closely with a glint in his eye and a confident smile on his lips and reminded the vice president that words don't always come out your mouth the way you intend.  Sparkling.  It was obviously prepared and rehearsed and the final execution was nothing short of glorious.

As to substance, I think it safe to say both held their own.  Ryan surprised everyone with his knowledge of Afghanistan and Biden's performance was stellar in a plethora of ways.  However, Biden's supposed fact checking Ryan led the White House scrambling the next day to back up these new facts Biden had apparently invented.  But that is part of the political game.

I was particularly impressed with both their answers to the question regarding  Catholicism and abortion.  Biden did a fabulous job in pointing out that as a vice president he may hold his own religious beliefs but shall not seek to force others to share them.   Touche.  I appreciate that.  Well put.  And by the way, it was also excellently and eloquently executed.  Ryan made his answer more personal, as requested, and gave an answer that was both religious and political.  He indicated his own belief that life begins with conception and then pivoted to make it clear that abortion would be allowed in cases of rape, incest and life of the mother.  Biden held to his devotion to the country.  Appropriate.  Ryan held to his loyalty to his God.  That's a higher loyalty than to country.  Catholicism has lived long enough to watch empires crumble and countries become obsolete.  Both were good answers but one was absolutely fearless. 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Cover Girls

As our political opinions become more tensed and it seems our country is split down the middle, may I remind us one very pertinent fact?  We can still all get along.  I asked my beautiful older sister Crystal to help me out this morning in demonstrating that though we can be on completely opposite ends of the spectrum, we can still be bound together in love.  Neither of us are necessarily acting a part.  We are simply being our own individual selves.

My fabulous sister rocked the stage for years as an amazing actress playing everything from Helena in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream to Buttercup from The Princess Bride.  She is socially fearless, always in vogue and can wrap anyone around her finger, man or woman, except those silly ladies who chose to be intimidated and envious by the extraordinary light she carries with her.  People are immediately attracted by her vivacious, exciting and fun loving spirit.

I'm a completely different type.  I'm the quiet, unpretending, archaic, artless one who drowns in the beauty of classical music and classic literature.  I can't be what I'm not to save my life.  I'm the studious, natural, intellectual one who quietly works toward a good end from behind the scenes.  My interactions with people are usually quiet and eternally soulful.

We worship the same God in completely different ways.  She beautifies everything within her grasp as it draws her spirit upward to an even more beautiful heaven.  I commune with the dust of the earth and the lilies of the field and recognize that this whole world is nothing in comparison to the joy that awaits us.  And yet we get along, perfectly and beautifully, because we both respect and can learn from each other.  My friends, aren't we all brothers and sisters?  Can't we all appreciate the good in each other?  And as none of us have all the answers, can't we recognize that each person, no matter how different, is a valid and cherished child of God?      

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Confessions of a Chocoholic Part II

Now that we know a little of my reformation history, I would like to share with you how I was able to overcome my terrible craving for M&Ms.  Those who are just tuning into my life in the last few years know that I generally never budge from my resolution to avoid unhealthy food.  But why did I take such a drastic turn?  Why didn't I just balance out my life?  The answer is the same one that inspires us all to do hard things and overcome obstacles.  I found myself driven by love.

I honestly never believed I could change my life into a healthier one.  It was beyond my comprehension and I had already consigned myself to being unhealthy forever.  But some years ago I began talking religion to a cousin who had been beloved from my infancy.  Although I never directly nagged him about this, I desperately wanted him to quit drinking.  He was no alcoholic, but in my religious and moral views no alcohol was good alcohol.  He didn't.  I spent a great deal of time on my knees and in deep contemplation on the subject.  I wanted to help not only him but as many people as I could better their lives in that way.  Whilst in prayer the thought came "How can you ask such a sacrifice if you don't personally know how hard it is?"  Little by little I began to realize that God would have me understand how hard it was to give up something I felt I needed but knew was bad for me.  I resolved to give up any and all junk food.  I define junk food as something more damaging to the body than it is good. 

My life changed radically.  Almost immediately my social life altered because people felt strange throwing a party consisting of sugary snacks and inviting me to it.  They knew I would munch only on pretzels and it made them uncomfortable.  I received a great many strange looks and my sister once asked me how long this new fad of mine would last.  People were not generally happy with it.  But despite the cravings and negativity I felt much impressed that this was an experiment I needed.  And if I failed, I had no right to expect anyone else to live a cleaner life.  If I reverted to my former self I was admitting it couldn't be done. 

Today it is a standing law that Michelle doesn't eat anything unhealthy.  My siblings are used to it now though sometimes family members still chide me a bit.  I have had people try to argue with me on this point and rationalize.  I have had many think me crazy.  But I have had more people try to follow my lead than I have had naysayers.  If there is something you feel you can't give up, something in your life you feel is impossible for you to overcome, I assure you it can be done.  It may not be easy, but the best things in life never are. 

Confessions of a Chocoholic

My kitchen smells like sugar and as I wait for my latest concoction to turn blissfully to perfection my mind dreamily drifts to how my social career as a corrupter of healthy diets came into existence.  It is a standing rule in the family in which I was raised that at every familial gathering and holiday I am in charge of bringing a carefully crafted dessert.  They know I have something of a gourmet touch in this arena and won't settle for anything less than the best.  And they know that I know without question what the best requires.  Yet those who know me only on a superficial level know I only eat perfectly healthful food.  How can such a paradox exist?  Well my friends, there are secrets in my past.

I used to eat nothing but exceedingly unhealthy food.  My lunch in high school usually consisted of a couple of Reeses peanut butter cups, a can of Mug root beer and perhaps a bag of chips.  When I really felt like being healthy I opted for greasy pizza slices larger than my head.  And I got away with it.  I have never been more than 135 lbs, even at nine months pregnant.  My body just doesn't respond in ways people can see.  But I could feel it. And one summer night in the hot tub with my chiseled older sister and muscle clad younger cousins I decided that the skinny fat me wasn't what I wanted.  It was like a kind of judgement day for me when what I realized that there was something better and I knew that if these people who shared my genetics, mentally and physically could live better than I had been in that respect, so could I.  It was an incredibly pivotal moment in my physical life.  So I reformed and have never looked back.

But here's my point.  We often think we are beyond hope for something we want.  Particularly I refer to people thinking "I can't go to church and be one of those people.  I have done too much wrong."  My friends, we can always reform.  And as an avid church goer, I can tell you that we need people like you.  Need you.  We need you because you can give us a deep, rich perspective that we otherwise wouldn't have.  Your attendance at church is just as needful for the priest or pastor as it is needful for you.  Those avid church goers can learn amazing things when you share your experiences with them and it will make them better followers of God.  Without my sugary sinful past my family would end up eating the hard as rock cookies we used to have as children or cheap store bought cake and the like.  So go ahead.  Reform your life in whatever way you feel needful and give those around you a splash of passionate joy they never knew they were missing.

Monday, October 1, 2012

How to Win an Amazing Woman

Ah!  It's everyone's favorite topic again - romance!  My earlier post on how to make boys crazy about you is still a favorite and going strong according to my stats.  So let's discuss the other side of the coin.  Brethren, I appreciate all of you who even clicked on this because it illustrates that you aren't interested in a one night stand with a harlot.  Bravo!  Please leave your name and number in the comments so that single women who read this can look you up!

Well then, let's get one thing straight.  For the sake of argument, we will define an amazing woman as someone who is emotionally and spiritually strong, cares about being healthy in her physique, and wants to make the world a better place in some manner or other.  The question she will naturally have in her mind is "What can a guy give me that I don't already have?"  This is a tall order to fill, particularly if she is an independent working girl.  And remember that she will have quite a few admirers so she probably won't be an easy catch.

It's simple really.  Focus on honestly being the person your ideal woman would want.  She isn't going to be interested in a guy who is romantically or sexually selfish- therefore leave pornography and anything like it alone.  Don't hit on women who act or dress immodestly.  It makes you less fit to be what an amazing woman wants.  Women like Prince Charming, not a self absorbed guy who expects her to be a harlot and slave.  Keep learning every day.  Develop your talents.  Volunteer in your community.  And most importantly, never ever be afraid to be yourself.  That is who an amazing woman wants.  You.  She doesn't want to fall in love with an image that will disappear at some point.  She wants you.  Really.  Be confident in the person that God made you and someday I trust you will win an incredible woman who will rightly chatter to all her friends that she caught herself a truly amazing man.