Sunday, January 31, 2010

Aristotle (pretty smart guy) on FRIENDSHIP

The ancients listed friendship among the highest of virtues. It was an essential element in the fully flourishing life. “For without friends,” Aristotle says, “no one would choose to live, though he had all other goods.” Words worth remembering in a world of perishable “goods.”

According to Aristotle, friendship either is, or it involves, a state of Character, a Virtue. There are three kinds of friendship. These are based on pleasure in another’s company (friendships of Pleasure), or on usefulness in association (friendships of Utility), or on mutual admiration (friendships in Virtue). All are essential to the good life, and the best sorts of friends will not only admire each other’s excellence but take pleasure in each other’s company and find their association to be of mutual advantage. Here is a portion of Aristotle’s classic discussion.

From: The Nicomachean Ethics

"As the motives to friendship differ in kind, so do the respective feelings and Friendships. The species then of Friendship are three, in number equal to the objects of it, since in the line of each there may be “mutual affection ... mutually known.”

Now they who have Friendship for one another desire one another’s
Good according to the motive of their Friendship; accordingly, they whose motive is Utility have no Friendship for one another really, but only insofar as some good arises to them from one another.

And they whose motive is
Pleasure are in like case: I mean, they have Friendship for men of easy pleasantry, not because they are of a given character but because they are pleasant to themselves. So then, they whose motive to Friendship is Utility love their friends for what is good to themselves; they whose motive is Pleasure do so for what is pleasurable to themselves; that is to say, not insofar as the friend beloved is but insofar as he is useful or pleasurable. These Friendships are a matter of result; since the object is not beloved in that he is the man he is, but in that he furnishes advantage or pleasure, as the case may be.

Such Friendships are, of course, very liable to dissolution if the parties do not continue alike: I mean, that the others cease to have any Friendship for them when they are no longer pleasurable or useful. Now it is the nature of both pleasure and utility not to be permanent, but constantly varying: so, of course, when the motive which made them friends is vanished, the Friendship likewise dissolves; since it existed only relatively to those circumstances…

That then is perfect Friendship which subsists between those who are good and whose similarity consists in their goodness: for these wish one another’s good in similar ways; insofar as they are good (and good they are in themselves); and those are specially friends who wish good to their friends for their sakes, because they feel thus toward them on their own account and not as a mere matter of result; so the Friendship between these men continues to subsist so long as they are good; and goodness, we know, has a principle of permanence….

Rare it is probable Friendships of this kind will be, because men of this kind are rare.
... [ Note: With regard to the matter of 'rarity', it is worthy to note that, given the definitions of values inherent to Temperaments and Personality Styles (as identified by the “Myers/Briggs” methodology) those individuals given to the “Utility” and “Pleasure” motivations, as their most NATURAL and easily followed inclinations, make up approximately 85% of the general population. For these (the vast majority of the population) to seek the "Good" motivation requires some determined effort of Will.] ... Besides, all requisite qualifications being presupposed, there is further required time and intimacy: for, as the proverb says, men cannot know one another “till they have eaten the requisite quantity of salt together”; nor can they, in fact, admit one another to intimacy (much less be friends) till each has appeared to the other and been proved to be a fit object of Friendship. They who speedily commence an interchange of friendly actions may be said to wish to be friends, but they are not so unless they are also proper objects of Friendship and mutually known to be such: that is to say … a desire for Friendship may arise quickly but not Friendship itself."


With the insights stated by Aristotle and restated countless times since then by innumerable others in various forms ... it should be clear to all that we do not all share the same hopes for, nor desires in, our friends. It is, then, my humble opinion that it might suite us better (and be far more fun), if we could celebrate the rare gifts in Friends that Life has given us; exercise the particular senses of 'taste' that satisfy our requirements for new friends; and avoid the easily available habit of condemning others for not living up to our unique set of expectations and/or qualifications for our "Friends."

I found ... in my personal quest to find a means for understanding (and accepting) the vagaries of those supposing to, at one moment, present themselves as Friend ... then assume themselves to be but passing Acquaintances ... that Dear Aristotle's observations were of great help. I offer them to You, Dear Reader and Friend, in the hope that your happiness and comfort will be similarly served.

Acceptance ... Respect ... Honor ... and Appreciation of each other - as we are - makes for a delightful world in which to celebrate the wonder of who we are. Just a thought ... [smile]

This item submitted with credit and thanks to the work of William J. Bennet in his "Virtues of Friendship and Loyalty." (A wonderful idea for a gift)

Thursday, January 21, 2010

"We Need To Talk !" (please)

It is in the moment created by some extraordinary circumstance that we are presented with the opportunity to make dramatic change in our lives. I have been blessed with a few such opportunities.

“Where are their fathers?” I asked of the director of the United Cerebral Palsy Center as we discussed the challenges faced by the small children being cared for in his facility. “Oh, they frequently say that they ‘just can’t deal with the situation’ and leave“ he replied. I learned, then, that not everyone commits to change when immovable or uncompromisable circumstances present themselves. Some choose to simply ‘run for the hills.’

I know well the grip of fear when life declares, through that aforementioned 'uncompromisable circumstance,' How unwelcome that "WE NEED TO TALK!" moment is. The “need to talk” imperative is never a pleasant one ... whether presented by our unavoidable inner voice (our conscience, or soul-voice) or the challenging voice of another. The message is always the same “you must consider something different and/or acknowledge present insufficiencies.” And none of us eagerly embrace either an insufficiency or a change. (It has been well said by some ancient sage,It is easier for man to accept the miseries of a poor life than for him to confront the fears inherent to change.And I can affirm that truth from my own struggling experience.)

Hence I am writing to let you know that the beginning point for my venture, into all of my Tomorrows ... was to take an isolated moment with myself and say, “WE NEED TO TALK.” (I then refused the natural survival impulse to' run for the hills.')

I found that talking with one’s inner self requires both asking and listening (with patience) for answers. “As a man thinketh … so is he.” came to my awareness. Please make note here … it is not what he thinks, not a matter of quantity of data considered … but HOW he thinks … with what motivating qualities. That is, in other terms, “where my thinking was coming from” or what my motivations were. We are not talking about “goals” or “dreams” here, but instead, the “music” driving the “lyrics” of our thoughts ... the “core” of us. I had to decide on an overarching Theme for my thinking.

If our intentions are self-serving then they must be acknowledged to be just exactly that without the prejudice of any possible outside perspectives. If the mind-set of “I am looking out for what will serve my best interests” is what you choose to drive your voice, then have the courage to say so to yourself and to the world around you. This “sit-down” is just with yourself and no outside valuation is appropriate. If your intentions are ridiculously altruistic, then that should be the set foundation for a confidence in the thinking’s value and worth. Remember … As you think, so you are. It is in this mode that you will find yourself thinking things that, heretofore, you have never thought (perhaps for fear of judgment, mockery, or rejection.) In my case, I became aware of a voice that was not familiar … a spiritual (though, most definitely, not “religious”) voice that expressed thoughts beyond those to which I was accustomed.

I found comfort in the knowledge that all of the world’s cultures have been aware, from earliest time, of an influence that shades our thinking. We have identified this influence as “higher” or “lower”, as light/dark, evil/good, positive/negative, yen/yang, etc… How often have we heard the well worn “you see the glass half-empty/half’-full” label for our thinking or predisposition? Such is the “music” to which I refer when I make mention of the foundation of all of our thinking. This is, most definitely, NOT a matter of attitude or whimsical mood. This is the “Spiritual bent” that would guide my thought processes. The sort of identity that enables people to make statements like, “He seems to see the potential for good in every situation.” That kind of Spirit versus the “You can be sure that he will find something to complain about.” mode. The “Well, you may not know what his decision will be, but you can be sure that it will be based on ____" (and you can fill in the blank with the character trait that is certain to drive that choice to be made by him.)

Herein lies the “As he thinks” mechanism. There is NOTHING else, in this life, that is in our complete control. In this and only this can we exercise complete sway … the spirit to which we trust all of the processing of our thought. We actively choose the “As” of our thinking. Our basic ability to think may be impaired or even enhanced by Life’s touch, but regardless of our capacity for mental function, we all (with some clinical exceptions) maintain moment-by-moment control of our willingness to surrender our thoughts to a greater or lesser, bitter or better, higher or lower Influence. This is the ultimate power of our will. So, my Dear, Patient Reader, it became clear to me that I had to elect the Master Control for all the choices, measures, and elections that I suspected lay ahead for me and those who would be affected by those calculations. (And I knew, with absolute certainty, that much of what I chose would not find ready favor, or reception, with many in my world.)

I recall an old story that illustrates this principal to my satisfaction. It seems that an old man was visiting with his guru for the purpose of learning, further, how to discipline his thinking. “It is like there are two dogs fighting over control of my mind” the old man offered, “the dog of anger pulls one way while the dog of peace pulls the other.” “And which dog wins the battle?” asked the guru. “The one that I say ‘sic-em’ to” answered the man. You do, of course, see my point. The “dogs” of influence and guiding perspective will ALWAYS be there, vying for dominance over the “musical soundtrack” accompanying our thought processes. The choice of music is constantly in our control… soothing/clashing, harmonious/discordant, uplifting/downgrading, … etc., etc. We, though, have the one and only deciding vote to determine which voice is told to “sic”, or take dominance over, the other.

I hope, in this reflection, to encourage not only your own confidence in, and willingness to be at peace with, your individual option for your thinking processes ... but also to heartily encourage you to be carefully discriminating about those who you surround yourself with. Life can be far more enjoyable if we will exercise considerate care in the creating of beneficial settings for comfortable and mutually respectful exchanges of insights. Settings that will serve as a stage for a harmonious intercourse as opposed to an arena or field of battle ... first within ourselves, and then with the world around us. It is critical to recognize the kind of “music” accompanying the messages offered by those with whom we hope to achieve a harmonious exchange. Which dog is in control of each of your spirits?

Can you imagine anything more pleasant than two people meeting with a spirit of generosity (for example) motivating both of them? “I want to be more generous than you.” “No, no, please allow me to be more generous than you.” The possibilities boggle the mind. But reality is, alas, most often, quite different.

The point of beginning is, however, the same for us all … LISTENING to the “music“ of our own spiritual soundtrack. And then deciding … actively and responsibly … how we want to “orchestrate “ all of our thinking ... for all of our tomorrows.

Now ... some two-score years removed from those earliest confrontations with those irksome "We need to talk!" moments ... I can tell you that through all of the darkest of moments; the most vexing of conflicts; painful misunderstandings; heart-breaking losses; and debilitating anxieties ... because I did, indeed, make those specific and precise choices as to the set of my Spirit's sail ... it is well with my Soul! And that, My Darling Friend, makes for a peaceful smile in the quiet of my Todays.

IMAGES through the gracious courtesy of Jon Sullivan,

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Romantic Lunch ... Sidewalk Cafe'

“If you could wave a magic wand toward here, in Ontario, from there, in Florida, and grant my fondest wish … I would wish for a romantic lunch at a sidewalk cafĂ© … with You.”

These were her words to me over the telephone. We knew each other in only a strict business relationship. We had met in person on the one occasion that brought her, and her husband, to my city on holiday. They had come by my office in response to my offer of hospitality when she told me (in the course of our routine business transactions over the phone) that they would be in our area for their vacation.

I was so smitten with her grace and beauty that I locked an ironclad focus on her husband during the entirety of their visit. I knew that my overwhelming attraction to her would be unavoidably obvious to him if I allowed even the briefest of glances in her direction. The thirty minutes of their stay was excruciating. Upon her return to her post as a contact person between my office and the Head Office of our employing company, no mention was ever made of her visit.

Then, after the passing of several weeks with no reason for contact, I phoned the Head Office, in Ontario, to resolve a technical problem. I did not notice, when I placed the call, that it was the noon-hour, when the majority of staff could be expected to be taking their lunch break. After she answered her phone I apologized for the inconsiderate timing of my call, and offered to call back at a more convenient time. Whereupon she insisted that I stay on the line with the statement “No … please continue with this call. I haven’t any special plans for lunch today.” My response (hoping to demonstrate my appreciation for the generosity of her personal time given) was “If it were in my power, and if I had a magic wand with which to accomplish it, what special ‘lunch-wish’ could I grant you?” Then came her aforementioned reply.

I telephoned her later that afternoon (after scooping the scattered elements of my emotions into some semblance of order) and said “Please know that I live my life with the major part of me sealed in a vacuum. This is how I survive daily life. I must ask that you not toy with the seal on that vacuum, lest you be pulled into something that is far more powerful than anything that you might want to deal with.” This was the first time in my life that I had ever attempted verbalizing something that I was acutely aware of but had no definition for. She then indicated her desire to remove the ‘seal.’

Herein lies the importance of this story for you, Dear Reader. You, I, we all have unexpressed; yet vividly real feelings and convictions lying deep within the core of ourselves. These are far too frequently pushed aside, discounted, ignored, and even rejected outright because we haven't a comfortable or serviceable forum for the healthy consideration and honoring of them. I had not been introduced to the understandings available through “temperament” or “personality styles.” I had yet to be introduced to myself by the words of David Keirsey in his Please Understand Me II;

“Idealists are looking for more than life partners in their mates … they want soul partners, persons with whom they can bond in some special spiritual sense, sharing their complex inner lives and communicating intimately about what most concerns them: their feelings and their causes, their romantic fantasies and their ethical dilemmas, their inner division and their search for wholeness.”

And here I was, for the first time in my life, verbalizing (in the wholly inadequate, yet only terms at my disposal) the most powerful Force at the most central part of me. And I knew that the person who brought this recognition to the surface of my awareness was the single person in my world with whom I could be totally honest and unabashedly candid in the exposure of this aspect of Me. What a moment!

Note: This is an abbreviated excerpt from Chapter 5 of a book in progress.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

A "Feel Good" Place

I was very pleased when a friend told me that visiting my blog made him feel good. Nothing could possibly be more to my liking nor give me more satisfaction than providing a place where both Friends and passing Strangers can have a moment of comfortable ‘feeling good.’

Reflecting on that truth, I am reminded of a most treasured poem. It was written by Sam Walter Foss (1858-1911) and is titled The House by the Side of the Road. I share it with you in the hope that it gives you, in the midst of whatever daily madness you are dealing with, a moment of feeling good. And I thank you for your visit.

The House by the Side of the Road

“He was a friend to man,
and he lived in a house by the side of the road.”


There are hermit souls that live withdrawn
In their place of self-content;
There are souls like stars, that dwell apart,
In a fellowless firmament;
There are pioneer souls that blaze their paths
Where highways never ran-
But let me live by the side of the road
And be a friend to man.

Let me live in a house by the side of the road,
Where the race of men go by-
The men who are good and the men who are bad,
As good and as bad as I.
I would not sit in the scorner’s seat,
Or hurl the cynic’s ban-
Let me live in a house by the side of the road
And be a friend to man.

I see from my house by the side of the road,
By the side of the highway of life,
The men who press with the ardor of hope,
The men who are faint with the strife.
But I turn not away from their smiles nor their tears,
Both parts of an infinite plan-
Let me live in a house by the side of the road
And be a friend to man.

I know there are brook-gladdened meadows ahead
And mountains of wearisome height;
That the road passes on through the long afternoon
And stretches away to the night.
But still I rejoice when the travelers rejoice,
And weep with the strangers that moan,
Nor live in my house by the side of the road
Like a man who dwells alone.

Let me live in my house by the side of the road-
It’s here the race of men go by.
They are good, they are bad, they are weak, they are strong,
Wise, foolish - so am I;
Then why should I sit in the scorner’s seat,
Or hurl the cynic’s ban?
Let me live in my house by the side of the road
And be a friend to man.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Over the Hedge (with purpose)

by Michael Fry and T Lewis

Now ... perhaps you're ready for the Post below ...


Friday, January 08, 2010

Move Your Money

In the midst of all of our hand-wringing frustration, and well-earned anger ...

there is THIS ...

... which I think is pretty cool!

(PS: To help clear the Fog of "What in the world is going on with the Banking Industry?!" ... I recommend this ... ... BILL Moyers JOURNAL Interview. [copy and paste the address] I found it very helpful and informative.)

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