Posts in Thought Tools

Trapped at the Sea, tra la la

April 2nd, 2018 Posted by Thought Tools 13 comments

Guests constantly visit my study and though I talk to them, sometimes quite loudly, they are strangely invisible to everyone else. One frequent visitor is my father. His presence helps me prepare speeches. When the ideas flow too slowly or I find myself struggling to memorize a difficult paragraph, I invite him in.  He knows how hard it is but he nods encouragingly and tells me that he often encountered similar challenges.

Sometimes, Orville and Wilbur Wright join me. They’re an interesting pair.  I invite them whenever I find myself falling into the trap of envying others. I eavesdrop as they mutter to one another about Samuel Langley who was given $50,000 by the United States War Department to build a flying machine.  In 1903, $50,000 was  a lot of money! When Langley’s contraption crashed into the Potomac, he gave up.  Orville and Wilbur remind me that they persevered year after year, crash after crash, while others got the press and the awards. In December 1903, the Wright brothers succeeded.

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Matzoh, Money and Marriage

March 27th, 2018 Posted by Thought Tools 20 comments

Here’s an unusual thought experiment: Imagine meeting a twenty-year-old man who is suffering from near total amnesia. He explains to you that he knows how to read and write, drive a car and live healthily, but has no idea at all of what he ought to be doing to prepare for successfully living the rest of his life.  What are you going to tell him?

Upon some reflection, I think I’d say to him, “There are two really important things that are vital for happy living and neither is intuitive, so I am delighted that you asked me.”

The two are money and marriage.  Nothing at all is taught about either one at GIC’s (Government Indoctrination Camps formerly known as public schools.)  Not surprisingly, the result is a huge number of twenty-year-old men who have never given a realistic moment’s thought to earning a living.  Public education’s indifference to marriage has also resulted in a significantly diminishing percentage of young men marrying.  If nobody teaches young males how money works and why marriage is important, how could they possibly know? 

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One Reason the World Hates the Jews

March 20th, 2018 Posted by Thought Tools 50 comments

People understand some occupations far more easily than others.  A farmer planting seeds or harvesting a crop is easily understood.  A contractor building a house is easily understood.  We easily understand a miner digging coal underground then bringing it up to the surface and a railway worker laying track, as we also understand a mechanic repairing a car.  We get a doctor, a dentist and a factory worker.  We even understand why the football hero or movie star make the big bucks.  We know what all these people do in order to get paid.  We understand the value they add.

In other words, we easily grasp Karl Marx’s labor theory of value.  He insisted that anything involving labor is valuable and the value of a good or service is proportional to the labor involved.  We might challenge Comrade Karl by pointing out that labor doesn’t seem to have much to do with it.  The dentist who labored for only half an hour to end my dreadful toothache gets paid far more than the coal miner is paid for half an hour of his labor.  But to give him credit, Marx would respond by explaining that the dentist labored long and hard in advance of my visit by acquiring the knowledge and skills to repair my tooth. Nonetheless, it isn’t hard to refute Marx’s views on value.

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Routine Rehab

March 12th, 2018 Posted by Thought Tools 16 comments

Have you fallen into any fixed habits?  I know I have.  I have uttered some phrases so many times that they are often the first expressions that come to mind. Not surprisingly, I occasionally overuse them.  It is also why I tend to buy the same brand of toothpaste year after year.  No, I do not know which brand nine-out-of-ten dentists prefer.  My brain just prefers not to think about toothpaste brands.

Do you greet customers or clients exactly as you did four years ago?  Do you respond with almost the same words no matter what question your child asks?  Do you welcome friends with the tired cliché you’ve always used?  Do you view a sunrise with habitual jaded indifference?  I began by asking if you’ve fallen into any fixed habits, but I already knew the answer.  I don’t know exactly what they are, but I do know that you’ve got them.

How do I know?  Well, because we all do it.  Over the last decade much research has been done on human habits.  For instance, a Duke University study concluded that habit rather than deliberation shapes over 40% of the decisions you and I make every day.  Both Columbia University and the University of Alberta measured the vital role that habit plays in exercising.  Massachusetts Institute of Technology identified how our brains convert repeated behaviors into habits thus reserving our real brain power for unpredictable circumstances.

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Only the Lonely

March 5th, 2018 Posted by Thought Tools 30 comments

1999:  Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were described as loners…

2007:  At Virginia Tech, Cho Seung-Hui presented a chilling portrait of a 23-year-old loner

2010:   The man accused of shooting two children at a Carlsbad elementary school was described by neighbors Saturday as a loner…

2011:  Brazilian school shooter, Menezes de Oliveira, described as a loner…

2012:  Adam Lanza was a quiet, withdrawn loner…

2012:  The alleged shooter, TJ Lane, was described by Chardon High School classmates as a loner…

2018:   Classmates, relatives and neighbors have described Cruz as a loner…

The above direct quotes from news coverage of different school shootings share only one feature—loner.  I discussed my analysis of the Parkland school shooting on my podcast here. In this Thought Tool, I present to you something quite different. 

God created a world dependent upon connection.   Words, musical notes, and even the chemical elements of the periodic table all must connect before they are useful to humans.  Most importantly, we God’s children were created to connect.  Connectedness is necessary for our own sense of identity.  Loneliness is painful partially because it alienates us from ourselves.  Admittedly, killing other people is an extreme and thankfully rare response to excruciating loneliness.  Nonetheless, while most of us do not react violently to the pain of disconnectedness, we still suffer. 

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127 Ways to Leave Your Pessimism

February 26th, 2018 Posted by Thought Tools 11 comments

In the constant struggle to build a successful life, it is all too easy to be pulled down by hardship, dark recollections, terrifying fears, and sad thoughts flitting through one’s mind.  One remains confidently focused on the task by treating each day as its own opportunity to achieve success and happiness.

This Thursday we celebrate Purim on which we read the Book of Esther. It opens:

And it was in the days of Ahasuerosh, he was Ahasuerosh who reigned from Hodu to Kush, one hundred and twenty-seven provinces.
(Esther 1:1)

The number 127 occurs only once again in all of Scripture—at the end of Sarah’s life.

And Sarah was a hundred and twenty-seven years old…
(Genesis 23:1)

Ancient Jewish wisdom links the two occurrences. In Scripture, numbers have great meaning and if a number only appears twice, we need to note the connection between the two occasions.

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Boats Float; Planes Fly; Couples & Businesses Crash

February 20th, 2018 Posted by Thought Tools 10 comments

One of the most sensually satisfying things I’ve ever done was building a seventeen-foot sailing boat out of oak and spruce, plywood and glue, bronze screws and canvas.  If I close my eyes, I can still smell the aromatic sawdust.  After eight months of part-time, loving labor, launch day was almost an anticlimax.  It floated, I climbed aboard, hoisted sail, and glided off across the lake. 

No surprise there; I had purchased plans from an accomplished New Zealand naval architect, Richard Hartley, and followed them diligently.  What is more surprising is that I later built another boat which also floated.  This one was nearly forty feet long and was constructed from steel and cement.  Yes, you read that correctly.  Its hull was a one-inch thick sandwich of steel and cement.  I was not at all surprised when, on launch day, it not only floated but floated exactly to its waterline which I had already painted in bright red on the hull. 

Why wasn’t I surprised?  Because I had purchased plans from a designer in Vancouver who was a recognized expert in ferro-cement boats and I had followed all details diligently.  What percentage of the boats and ships that are built by large shipyards or by serious amateurs float? Actually, about one hundred percent.

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Grab the Gold

February 13th, 2018 Posted by Thought Tools 26 comments

Here’s a question for politicians:  Do you really want to fight poverty?  I mean do you really, really want to end poverty, or do you just want to get re-elected?

If you really mean it, I have some good news for you along with some bad news.

The good news is that you no longer need to impose confiscatory rates of taxation upon hard-working families in order to give some people the money that other people have earned. 

The bad news is that many of your constituents would rather deal with the disease than confront the cure.  The reason I say this is because the one sure way to defeat poverty in one generation is to enact policies that would ensure that most children will be raised by married parents in wholesome and intact marriages.  The problem is that many of your constituents are more committed to liberal social policies that undermine marriage than they are to ending poverty.

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Never Marry Your Grandmother

February 5th, 2018 Posted by Thought Tools 19 comments

“My boyfriend is driving me crazy! Does he want to get married or not?”

“My husband and I were both thrilled when I became pregnant. But when I mention the baby, he sometimes gets this terrified look on his face. Is he happy about our baby nor not?”

The answer is…drum roll please…Both! The author of The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald, wrote,

The test of a first rate intelligence is the ability to hold

two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time,

and still retain the ability to function.”

People are complicated and since most of the joy in life as well as most of the problems come from dealing with others, it is helpful to gain greater understanding into human relationships, particularly between men and women.

Take a look at Scripture’s list of prohibited sexual relationships. It starts with close relatives and ends with bestiality. (Leviticus 18:6-23)

Pretty straightforward. Except, we are perplexed to discover that one and a half chapters later the entire list is repeated. This time, however, it starts with adultery and ends with close relatives. (Leviticus 20:10-21) Is it repeated to help folks with short memories?

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See My Words

January 29th, 2018 Posted by Thought Tools 11 comments

It is so easy to become impatient when a toddler, colleague, client, customer, or patient go on and on when telling us a story. In turn, when we are the ones relaying information, we get frustrated when our listeners tune us out. Too often, instead of our employees, boss, spouse, children or students paying attention, they seem uninterested or distracted.

How do we become better at both giving and receiving information?

This verse can help:

Just watch out for yourself…lest you forget the words which your eyes saw,
… and you shall make them known to your children and your grandchildren.
(Deuteronomy 4:9)

Why does Deuteronomy 4:9 refer to words that are seen? We see things, not words. I sympathize with the plight of translators who often mistakenly write, “Just watch out for yourself…lest you forget the things which your eyes saw…”

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