Living Well

May 16, 2010

Two Sides of Computer Technology

Really, I am a novice when it comes to computer technology.  I don’t fully understand all the do’s and don’ts and how it all actually works.  I spend time every day with Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other avenues of the computer age that are of help to me, but still don’t fully grasp it or all its applications.

I do, however, understand its value as well as how easily we can be swept into its Black Hole of poor use, abuse, addiction and self destructive behavior.  The convenience of computer technology, for me, has allowed me to share with friends worldwide, keep current with news happening in the furtherest reaches of the planet, and find thousands of educational articles and resources that enhance my life, teaching and being fully human.  This marvel of our age has also helped me understand the business environment and how the web is essential for today’s commerce.  Computer technology, no doubt, has helped me to live well, engage colleauges everywhere, and live a more informed life than ever before.

The other side, however, is that the convenience of our computers can become a Black Hole with power to suck us into its more unseemly side.  There are many places on the web that are of the most unsavory and morally degrading places we can go.  These places beckon us to the most inhuman and morally flawed places of human existence.  But this technology can also simply just suck away our time; time from doing good work, advancing relationships, or merely spending energy in quite meditation on the blessings of life.  Technology can make us merely spectators to life, never engaging or really living it.  Computer technology, for all its good, can suck us into passivity and ambivelance to what is happening everywhere.

The two sides of computer technology.  We are forced to make ongoing decisions about it daily.  And that, to me, is where character, mission, and personal choices step in to guide us.  Over many months of blogging, I have tried to lay out the items that help us to live well.  In the end, it all comes down to choices we make based on our character and who we really hope to be over our lifetime.  It all comes down to whether we will be only observers to life or actively engage life with all our energy and passions.

No ranting or raving is embedded in this blog about the evils of computers and technology in general.  My post is simply about choices; choices we have to make every time we click our mouse on the computer.  I encourage you to make choices that help you to live well.  Always know that both choices lay at the end of your index finger.  Blessings, grace and peace as you make that daily conscious decision on the side of living well and engaging the best computer technology has to offer.

David Neidert

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March 29, 2010

The Power of Mercy

Power is bestowed in a plethora of ways, including many symbols.  In ancient Rome, the encompassing symbol of power for the king was called the imperium.  This conferred ‘oath’ gave emperors and senators the right of power over wealth, military control, and issues regarding justice.  Under this mantel of power, kings, emperors, and counsels could grant life or death, freedom or slavery, fortune or famine to individuals and society.  Unfortunately for the Roman Empire and its later history, the imperium mantel made numerous men singularly self-serving to the detriment and destruction of those they led.

William Shakespeare wrote in “Measure for Measure” (1604), “No ceremony that to great one’s long, Not the king’s crown, not the deputed sword, The marshal’s truncheon, not the judge’s robe, Become them with one half so good as grace as mercy does.”  Great ones, glimpsed Shakespeare, long not for external mantels or symbols of power, but for a power that changes both the giver and receiver both internally and externally.  Mercy is a becoming quality that is powerful and captivating.  No outward symbol, no matter how elegantly embroidered or crafted, comes close to matching the transforming power of mercy.

Power resides in mercy.  The giver of mercy, by its own definition, must have some form of power over another.  Whether the giver has been offended by deed or word or injured physically by the one seeking mercy, the holder of mercy has a decision to make regarding healing or harming, restoring or rejecting, because they have the power over the seeker.

Mercy is our willingness—a deliberate personal choice—to forebear an injury from another and not treat the offender as severely as is rightly deserved.  It is a kindness or favor beyond what can rightly be claimed by a person who may have harmed or injured in either word or deed.

Being merciful does not always mean that consequences of the offender are ignored.  Sometimes those decisions are outside the mercy holder’s sphere of power or ability to alter.  Yet mercy is a willingness to choose not to treat a person “as severely as deserved” even if the consequences cannot be changed.  A merciful act could override consequences deserved in favor of restitution or wholeness of the receiver.  To make another person whole by merciful acts may be the greatest empowerment which a person can receive.  Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables, considered one of the greatest novels of the 19th Century, is a powerful testimony to what mercy and grace can do to alter life.

The Bard also noted “the quality of mercy is twice blessed.  It blesses him that gives and him that takes.”  We are never obligated to display mercy.  It is ultimately a free will offering of ourselves because we desire to bring prosperity, wholeness, and redemption instead of retribution and retaliation.  Mercy is a gracious matter that re-forms the human spirit, both in the giver and the receiver.  It may be one of the most blessed acts of being human. 

What about you?  Have you ever received a free gift of mercy from another, even though you deserved punishment?  How did it feel?  How did you feel restored, not only in your heart but with the other person?  Giving that same experience of restoration to another is freedom—both for those who give and those who receive.

Blessings for you today as you use your personal power in whatever situation you find yourself for mercy and restoration and redemption.  Grace and peace.

David Neidert

March 27, 2010

Kindness can change everything

Filed under: character,Personal Leadership — dlneidert @ 10:48 am
Tags: , , , ,

Connoisseurs of fine wine tell me there is a significant difference between an expensive aged wine and a lesser, bottom of the shelf grade vino.  The difference is a fine wine is smooth, fragrant, and robust, while its distant cousin is at times bitter and never very full bodied.

Kindness is like a fine aged wine.  It is mellow and helping, not sharp or bitter.  The Greeks thought of kindness like wine, in that as wine was purified, it became flavorful and mature.  And just like wine becomes robust through the aging process, so we become kind by being kind to others.  Philosopher Eric Hoeffer said it this way, “It is futile to judge a kind deed by its motives.  Kindness can become its own motive.  We are made kind by being kind.”

Kindness can be expressed in our tone of voice, facial expressions, and overall actions as we encounter and interact with others.  Being kind is a choice we make, no matter the exchange.  As I said, it can come even in the tone of our voice. 

A while back, I received a telephone call from a person conducting a survey.  I receive many of these calls in the course of my work assignment, so I have a fair understanding of how long they take and the flow of a good interview.  But during this particular survey, I knew it was not going well after just a few minutes.  I could tell the person conducting the survey was older, as she labored through every question.  She often repeated the questions, asking me to restate my answers two or three times.  Internally I was becoming annoyed, with my mind often wandering toward work stacked on my desk.  But I had agreed to the survey, so I answered the question asked of me respectfully as the survey taker painfully proceeded through twenty-five minutes of questions.

It was the end of the interview that startled me.  It was the final encounter with the survey taker, who was on the other end of a twisted pair of copper cable in a telephone conversation, that made me aware our words and tone of voice matter.  In a slowly delivered statement, this older sounding woman said, “Sir, thank you for being so nice to me.  This is my first interview on the telephone.  Your kind response has given me confidence to keep doing this job.”  Needless to say, I was humbled and somewhat ashamed that I had not been undividedly attentive to her every word.

Sir Humphrey Davy summaries the real essence of kindness when he writes, “Life is made up, not of great sacrifices or duties, but of little things in which smiles and kindness and small obligations given habitually are what win and preserve the heart and secure comfort.”  It is the smile in our voices, over a telephone line to a person we will never see or meet, that can demonstrate our kindness.

Wine was an important ancient commodity.  The presence of wine at festivals and social gatherings was a sign of bounty and blessing.  Kindness, too, is a blessing and a sign of the bountiful goodness that is resident in our character.

Blessings to you today as you give kindness to someone you encounter.  Grace and peace.

David Neidert

March 1, 2010

The Color of your Character

Filed under: character,Personal Leadership — dlneidert @ 12:10 pm
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It is called inherent affinity.  This term names what professional dyers use to distinguish between a pigment and a dye.  While pigments do not attach themselves to materials without chemical agents, dyes infiltrate fabrics and become permanently a part of the fibers.  This property of dyes gives it an ability to bond molecularly at the most invisible level with the surfaces it touches.

The Greek poet and architect Heraclitus (540-480 BC) wrote that “the soul is dyed the color of its thoughts.  Think only on those things that are in line with your principles and can bear the full light of day.  The content of your character is your choice.  Day by day, what you choose, what you think, and what you do is who you become.  Your integrity is your destiny…it is the light that guides your way.”  As Heraclitus observed, we become what we think, particularly as it relates to our character and integrity.  Our very lives are dyed the color of what we think about and act upon.  If we choose to be people of integrity in our minds, our souls will inherently bond with our thoughts.  By this infiltration, we become in time what we subject ourselves to through the repeated choices we make.

Dye has another quality that Heraclitus must have noticed.  Dyers know that the human eye can detect the smallest color differences in fabric.  It is critical to apply dyes uniformly if the product is to be of the highest quality, for even the untrained eye can detect dyes that are not uniform.

Our integrity is much like this uniformity.  If we practice integrity in some areas of our lives, but not in others, even the casual observer will detect the non-uniformity of our principles.  For example, if we are to be people of integrity, we must uniformly apply the stealing of cash from our employer to the stealing of our employer’s time.  It is in reality the same, just in different forms.  By uniformly applying integrity to all areas of our lives, we will reflect the color of principles that can bear the light of personal continuing scrutiny by others.

One attribute of dye, however, demands our attention.  The attribute is that no matter how absorbent and initially strong the dye, it can fade over time.  Washing, intense light or excessive heat can over time begin fading a dyed fabric.

The lesson here is that we are not to fade over time; we must make choices day to day to focus on integrity and principles.  Thinking about integrity now and then will not keep us colorfast, but will eventually permit us to fade when the heat is on.

What dyes are you applying to your life?  What thoughts are dying your character qualities?  Are you pursuing integrity and excellence or pursuing gain by less than honorable means?  Are you applying integrity in all areas of your life, not just some?  Are you willing to be courageous and live with integrity and character all the time, even when it is unpopular or the heat is on?

We become the quality of our thoughts.  Modern neurological and brain studies tell us this.  Yet Heraclitus, just observing the world over two millennia ago knew the same thing.

Blessings to you for this day; grace and peace.

David Neidert

February 17, 2010

Behaviors Good Anywhere in the World

Filed under: Personal Leadership,personal mission — dlneidert @ 11:43 am
Tags: , , , ,

There are a gargantuan number of behaviors that are illegal.  It is easy to create a list of illegal behaviors, such as murder, rape, kidnapping, or theft.  If you were pressed, you could add to this list a host of additional violations, like espionage, fraud, abuse, or trafficking.  We might have a list of hundreds we could pen if we were given enough time.  But were you aware that the legal canon of the United States has over 260 volumes?  Additionally, there are over 16 volumes of IRS codes and 168 volumes of Supreme Court decisions.  Can it be any wonder there are so many lawyers (625,000 at my last check) for defending or litigating regulations?  Now, add to this international law and the laws of other lands.  And if you think those international laws don’t matter, read the fine print of your Passport which in essence says you are bound by the laws of the country you are traveling in.

There are behaviors, though, against which there are no laws, as the Apostle Paul writes in his letter to the Galatians.  Personally adhering to these attitudes of the heart could actually make life more fulfilling and transforming.  Living with integrity, honesty, sound speech, gentleness, self control and others keeps us within boundaries that seek the best for all involved.  These attitudes, when lived out, do not intend to harm but rejoice in the good we can experience as human beings.  These behaviors not only enrich us, but they also invite others to measure themselves against universal principles of excellence.

I know we live in a social structure that tells us we have personal rights and no one can tell us how to live or act.  We make life relative to our own situation….our behaviors are determined by our decisions and what feels right to us.  But as a student of ancient wisdom, I know that some of the greatest literature in the world for 3,000 years tells us that personal character is not a license to freely live, but to live free.  These ancient voices beckon us to live nobly, civilly, and with self-control.  Living well means incorporating these universal principles of attitude and character against which there are no laws.  Living with a high sense of character not only has benefit now in how we live, but is replicated in the lives of our children, grandchildren, great grandchildren and the communities in which we live.

I am not naïve to believe there should not be laws.  They are essential for bringing some balance of justice in the world, as well as protection when necessary.  However, I do believe that the plea of ancient writers to live with universal principles of excellence could change most, if not all, of our personal, corporate, community, and societal relationships.  I have personally been told while traveling internationally by my hosts that I have a “heart for their land and people.”  While I do read extensively about cultures, customs, and history of the lands I visit before I travel, I also just try to live universal principles that command the highest good from me.  The combination of these two behaviors allow me to have a heart for all those I will encounter during my travel.  Wouldn’t it be interesting to see what would unfold if we personally—and collectively—began living to the cadence of these ancient voices of civility and nobility?

In the blogs ahead, I will explore a number of character attitudes and behaviors that I believe can change us and infuse our relationships with hope, peace, grace, and living well.  Blessings for this day.  Grace and peace.

David Neidert

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