Saturday, December 16, 2006

Shining Light in Dark Corners

"Are There Any Questions?" An offer that comes at the end of college lectures and long meetings. Said when an audience is not only overdosed with information, but when there is no time left anyhow. At times like that you sure do have questions. Like "Can we leave now?" and "What the hell was this meeting for?" and "Where can I get a drink?"

The gesture is supposed to indicate openness on the part of the speaker, I suppose, but if in fact you do ask a question, both the speaker and audience will give you drop-dead looks. And some fool -- some earnest idiot -- always asks. And the speaker always answers. By repeating most of what he has already said.
But if there is a little time left and there is a little silence in response to the invitation, I usually ask the most important question of all: "What is the meaning of life?"

You never know, somebody may have the answer, and I'd really hate to miss it because I was too socially inhibited to ask. But when I ask, it's usually taken as a kind of absurdist move -- people laugh and nod and gather up their stuff and the meeting is dismissed on that ridiculous note.

Once, and only once, I asked that question and got a serious answer. One that is with me still.

First, I must tell you where this happened, because the place has a power of its own. In Greece again.
Near the village of Gonia on a rocky bay of the island of Crete, sits a Greek Orthodox monastery. Alongside it, on land donated by the monastery, is an institute dedicated to human understanding and peace, and especially to rapprochement between Germans and Cretans. An improbable task, given the bitter residue of wartime.

This site is important, because it overlooks the small airstrip at Maleme where Nazi paratroopers invaded Crete and were attacked by peasants wielding kitchen knives and hay scythes. The retribution was terrible. The populations of whole villages were lined up and shot for assaulting Hitler's finest troops. High above the institute is a cemetery with a single cross marking the mass grave of Cretan partisans. And across the bay on yet another hill is the regimented burial ground of the Nazi paratroopers. The memorials are so placed that all might see and never forget. Hate was the only weapon the Cretans had at the end, and it was a weapon many vowed never to give up. Never ever.

Against this heavy curtain of history, in this place where the stone of hatred is hard and thick, the existence of an institute devoted to healing the wounds of war is a fragile paradox. How has it come to be here? The answer is a man. Alexander Papaderos.

A doctor of philosophy, teacher, politician, resident of Athens but a son of this soil. At war's end he came to believe that the Germans and the Cretans had much to give one another -- much to learn from one another. That they had an example to set. For if they could forgive each other and construct a creative relationship, then any people could.

To make a lovely story short, Papaderos succeeded. The institute became a reality -- a conference ground on the site of horror -- and it was in fact a source of productive interaction between the two countries. Books have been written on the dreams that were realized by what people gave to people in this place.

By the time I came to the institute for a summer session, Alexander Papaderos had become a living legend. One look at him and you saw his strength and intensity -- energy, physical power, courage, intelligence, passion, and vivacity radiated from this person. And to speak to him, to shake his hand, to be in a room with him when he spoke, was to experience his extraordinary electric humanity. Few men live up to their reputations when you get close. Alexander Papaderos was an exception.

At the last session on the last morning of a two-week seminar on Greek culture, led by intellectuals and experts in their fields who were recruited by Papaderos from across Greece, Papaderos rose from his chair at the back of the room and walked to the front, where he stood in the bright Greek sunlight of an open window and looked out. We followed his gaze across the bay to the iron cross marking the German cemetery.
He turned. And made the ritual gesture: "Are there any questions?"

Quiet quilted the room. These two weeks had generated enough questions for a lifetime, but for now there was only silence.
"No questions?" Papaderos swept the room with his eyes.
So. I asked.
"Dr. Papaderos, what is the meaning of life?"

The usual laughter followed, and people stirred to go.

Papaderos held up his hand and stilled the room and looked at me for a long time, asking with his eyes if I was serious and seeing from my eyes that I was.

"I will answer your question."

Taking his wallet out of his hip pocket, he fished into a leather billfold and brought out a very small round mirror, about the size of a quarter. And what he said went like this:

"When I was a small child, during the war, we were very poor and we lived in a remote village. One day, on the road, I found the broken pieces of a mirror. A German motorcycle had been wrecked in that place.
"I tried to find all the pieces and put them together, but it was not possible, so I kept only the largest piece. This one. And by scratching it on a stone I made it round. I began to play with it as a toy and became fascinated by the fact that I could reflect light into dark places where the sun would never shine -- in deep holes and crevices and dark closets. It became a game for me to get light into the most inaccessible places I could find."

"I kept the little mirror, and as I went about my growing up, I would take it out in idle moments and continue the challenge of the game. As I became a man, I grew to understand that this was not just a child's game but a metaphor for what I might do with my life. I came to understand that I am not the light or the source of light. But light -- truth, understanding, knowledge -- is there, and it will only shine in many dark places if I reflect it."

"I am a fragment of a mirror whose whole design and shape I do not know. Nevertheless, with what I have I can reflect light into the dark places of this world -- into the black places in the hearts of men -- and change some things in some people. Perhaps others may see and do likewise. This is what I am about. This is the meaning of my life."

And then he took his small mirror and, holding it carefully, caught the bright rays of daylight streaming through the window and reflected them onto my face and onto my hands folded on the desk.

Much of what I experienced in the way of information about Greek culture and history that summer is gone from memory. But in the wallet of my mind I carry a small round mirror still.

Are there any questions?

(from the book, It Was on Fire When I Lay Down on It, by Robert Fulghum, author of All I Ever Really Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten)

Monday, October 02, 2006

Dangerous People

Some of the most dangerous people are not the ones
Who hit you with clubs, or rob you with guns
They won’t be the enemies who attack your character traits
Or try to belittle your abilities right in your face
No, the most dangerous people are small-minded friends
Whose negative talk crush your self-image and your desire to win
They do not threaten your life at the point of a gun
Rather they steal your dreams by saying that it just cannot be done
When pointing to others doing what you dream you can do
They say, “you can’t do it, it won’t happen for you”
It does not matter that their words are untrue
You listen anyway, thinking they know you better than you
So you are robbed of your dreams and your hopes to succeed
Robbed of the blessing that you could have received
Robbed of your faith that says that “You Can!”
Robbed by an ignorant, small-minded friend
So the most dangerous ones
Are not the ones with the clubs or the guns
But the ones who keep telling you that it cannot be done
For that which is stolen by a burglar can be gotten again
But who can replace your dream and your desire to win.

Monday, August 07, 2006

A Little Fellow Follows Me

A careful man I want to be
A little fellow follows me;
I do not dare to go astray,
For fear he'll go the self-same way.

I cannot once escape his eyes,
whate'er he sees me do, he tries;
Like me, he says he's going to be
The little chap who follows me.

He thinks that I am good and fine,
Believes in every word of mine;
The base in me he must not see,
The little chap who follows me.

I must remember as I go,
Through summer's sun and winter's snow
I'm building for the years to be,
That little chap who follows me.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Three Feet from Gold

One of the most common causes of failure is the habit of quitting when one is overtaken by temporary defeat. Every person is guilty of this mistake at one time or another. An uncle of R. U. Darby was caught by the "gold fever" in the gold-rush days, and went west to DIG AND GROW RICH. He had never heard that more gold has been mined from the brains of men than has ever been taken from the earth. He staked a claim and went to work with pick and shovel. The going was hard, but his lust for gold was definite.
After weeks of labor, he was rewarded by the discovery of the shining ore. He needed machinery to bring the ore to the surface. Quietly, he covered up the mine, retraced his footsteps to his home in Williamsburg, Maryland, told his relatives and a few neighbors of the "strike." They got together money for the needed machinery, had it shipped. The uncle and Darby went back to work the mine.
The first car of ore was mined, and shipped to a smelter. The returns proved they had one of the richest mines in Colorado! A few more cars of that ore would clear the debts. Then would come the big killing in profits.
Down went the drills! Up went the hopes of Darby and Uncle! Then something happened! The vein of gold ore disappeared! They had come to the end of the rainbow, and the pot of gold was no longer there! They drilled on, desperately trying to pick up the vein again-all to no avail.
Finally, they decided to QUIT. They sold the machinery to a junk man for a few hundred dollars, and took the train back home. Some "junk" men are dumb, but not this one! He called in a mining engineer to look at the mine and do a little calculating. The engineer advised that the project had failed, because the owners were not familiar with "fault lines." His calculations showed that the vein would be found JUST THREE FEET FROM WHERE THE DARBYS HAD STOPPED DRILLING! That is exactly where it was found!
The "Junk" man took millions of dollars in ore from the mine, because he knew enough to seek expert counsel before giving up. Most of the money which went into the machinery was procured through the efforts of R. U. Darby, who was then a very young man. The money came from his relatives and neighbors, because of their faith in him. He paid back every dollar of it, although he was years in doing so.
Long afterward, Mr. Darby recouped his loss many times over, when he made the discovery that DESIRE can be transmuted into gold. The discovery came after he went into the business of selling life insurance.
Remembering that he lost a huge fortune, because he STOPPED three feet from gold, Darby profited by the experience in his chosen work, by the simple method of saying to himself, "I stopped three feet from gold, but I will never stop because men say `no' when I ask them to buy insurance."
Darby is one of a small group of fewer than fifty men who sell more than a million dollars in life insurance annually. He owes his "stickability" to the lesson he learned from his "quitability" in the gold mining business.
Before success comes in any man's life, he is sure to meet with much temporary defeat, and, perhaps, some failure. When defeat overtakes a man, the easiest and most logical thing to do is to QUIT. That is exactly what the majority of men do.
More than five hundred of the most successful men this country has ever known, told the author their greatest success came just one step beyond the point at which defeat had overtaken them. Failure is a trickster with a keen sense of irony and cunning.
It takes great delight in tripping one when success is almost within reach.

-Napolean Hill (Think and Grow Rich)
Three feet from gold! I love this philosophy. When we are met with defeat, its upto us to decide whether it is temporary or permanent. It is a natural tendency to take the path of least resistence. It is natuaral to want to give up. Bend in the road, becomes end of road only if we fail to take the turn. Remember Horse Vs Rider concept?, thats exactly it. We can either become the horse or the rider. Calvin Coolidge said,

"Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence.
Talent will not; nothing is more common than Unsuccessful men with talent.
Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb.
Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan “Press On” has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race."

So lets not give up "Three Feet from Gold". Lets continue to "Press On" so that we can get what we really want.
so long!...

Friday, March 24, 2006

Paddle Your Own Canoe

Voyager upon life's sea,
to yourself be true;
and where're your lot may be,
Paddle your own canoe.

Never, though the winds may rave,
falter nor look back,
but upon the darkest wave
leave a shining track.
Nobly dare the wildest storm,
Stem the hardest gale,
Brave of heart and strong of arm,
you will never fail.
When the world is cold and dark,
Keep an end in view,
And toward the beacon mark
Paddle your own canoe.

Every wave that bears you on
To the silent shore,
From its sunny source has gone
To return no more:
Then let not an hour's delay
Cheat you of your due;
But while it is called to-day,
Paddle your own canoe.

If your birth denied you wealth,
Lofty state, and power,
Honest fame and hardy health
Are a better dower;
But if theirs will not suffice,
Golden gain pursue,
And to win the glittering prize,
Paddle your own canoe.

Would you wrest the wreath of fame
from the hand of Fate?
Would you write a deathless name
with the good and great?
Would you bless your fellowmen?
Heart and soul imbue
with the holy task, and then
Paddle your own canoe.

Would you crush the tyrant Wrong,
in the world's fierce fight?
With a spirit brave and strong,
Battle for the Right;
and to break the chains that bind
The many to the few --
To enfranchise slavish mind,
Paddle your own canoe.

Nothing great is lightly won,
nothing won is lost --
Every good deed nobly done,
Will repay the cost;
Leave to Heaven, in humble trust,
all you will to do;
But if you succeed, you must always
Paddle your own canoe.


If it is to be, it is upto me! I believe the only common denominator to success is the desire to succeed! If we have the desire to succeed, then we will be willing to go through any circumstance and still win. Now how is this related to "paddling your own canoe"? This is how: If we have the desire to succeed, we will not fall for any circumstance, which means we will take personal responsibilty for our success! Yes, we cannot expect someone else to paddle our canoe! We cannot blame somebody else (or something else) for our inability to paddle our canoe! We have to do the work! Voyages on life's sea cannot be fared on someone else's canoe.
If we know we have the ability to succeed, then we must! The one thing that keeps me going is the fact that I know I can succeed in anything I desire! But knowing is one thing, and reminding oneself about it often is another and then acting on it, is very uncommon. Because, just sitting in our canoe means nothing, paddling it in the right direction is what matters! Lets get it going...
so long!...

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Extra Mile Story - 2

Many years ago Charles M Schwab's private railroad car was switched onto the siding at his steel plant in Pennsylvania. It was a cold, frosty morning. As he alighted from the car he was met by a young man with a stenographer's notebook in his hands who hurriedly explained that he was a stenographer in the general office of the steel plant, and that he had come down to meet the car to see if Mr.Schwab needed any letters written, or any telegrams sent."Who asked you to meet me?" Mr.Schwab queried. "No one," the young man replied. "I saw the telegram coming through announcing your arrival, so I came down to meet you, hoping I might be of some service."
Think of that! He came down hoping he might be able to find something to do for which he was not paid. And he came on his own initiative without being told.Mr.Schwab thanked him politely for his thoughtfulness, but said he had no need for a stenographer at the moment. After carefully noting the young man's name, he sent the lad back to his work.
That night, when the private car was hitched to the night train for its return to New York City it carried the young stenographer. He had been assigned, at Mr.Schwab's request, for service in New York as one of the steel magnate's assistants. The lad's name was Williams. He remained in Mr.Schwab's services for several years, during which opportunity after opportunity for promotion came to him unsolicited.
It is peculiar how opportunities have a way of trailing the people who make it their business to go the extra mile, but they do very definitely. Finally an opportunity came to young Williams which he could not ignore. He was made president and a large stockholder in one of the largest drug concerns in the U.S - a job which yielded him a fortune greater than his needs.
-Napolean Hill (Master Key to Riches)
All of us have heard that "there is a pot of gold at the end of rainbow". It is true!. But most people do not find it because, the end of rainbow is always at the extra mile. Many people don't even bother to go look for it. There is MAGIC in going the extra mile. When we do more than what we are expected to, we stand out of the crowd! We become double valuable because, one: no one else goes the extra mile, two: we become irreplacable. Folks, like Napolean Hill puts it, going the extra mile is not a pipe dream! It is as real as daylight. Unfortunately, the only way to test its validity is by trying it. When we try it with good attitude we will see our life changing for the better!
so long!...

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Extra Mile Story - 1

Many years ago an elderly lady was strolling through a Pittsburgh Department Store, obviously killing time. She passed counter after counter without anyone paying any attention to her. All of the clerks had spotted her as an idle “looker” who had no intention of buying. They made it a point of looking in another direction when she stopped at their counters.
What costly business this neglect turned out to be!
Finally the lady came to a counter that was attended by a young clerk who bowed politely and asked if he might serve her.
“No,” she replied, ”I am just killing time, waiting for the rain to stop so I can go home.”
“Very well, Madam,” the young man smiled, “may I bring a chair for you?” and he brought it without waiting for her answer. After the rain slacked the young man took the old lady by her arm, escorted her to the street and bade her good-bye. As she left she asked him for his card.
Several months later the owner of the store received a letter, asking that this young man be sent to Scotland to take an order for the furnishings of a home. The owner of the store wrote back that he was sorry, but the young man did not work in the house furnishings department. However, he explained that he would be glad to send an “experienced man” to do the job.
Back came a reply, that no one would do except this particular young man. The letters were signed by Andrew Carnegie, and the “house” he wanted furnished was Skibo Castle in Scotland. The elderly lady was Mr. Carnegie’s mother. The young man was sent to Scotland. He received an order for several hundred thousand dollars worth of household furnishings, and with it a partnership in the store. He later became the owner of a half interest in the store.
Verily it pays to go the extra mile.

-Napolean Hill (Master Key to Riches)
Going the extra mile with the right attitude can yield results beyond our imagination. For ex, the young man in the story, did not do it expecting to furnish the Skibo Castle. There was no possible way for him to have made a calculated move. There is something called a "law of increasing returns". This states that you will always reap more than you sow. Now imagine what will happen if we go the extra mile and sow some extra seeds with a spirit of positive mental attitude! With every extra step, every extra effort we make a deposit in God's bank and the interest rate there is HUGE. Remember, the only difference between ordinary and extraordinary is that little 'extra'. So lets be 'extra'ordinary by going the extra mile!
so long!...