Ahh how sweet it is!!

Ahh how sweet it is!! That is how I tend to sum up my life in a few words. Plain and simple, life is wonderful! This site will give you just a sneak peak at my thoughts throughout my life. Love, Mel

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Location: Bountiful, Utah, United States

Monday, February 20, 2006

Keirsey - Parenting & Temperament

November 17, 2005
Hi Gang, I shouldn’t be doing this. I have way too much genealogy staring at me to be found thinking about life, relationships, family and all that “ordinary” stuff. Yet I could not resist when Mark played the “I’m becoming like you” card. (It’s still not clear if he is bragging or complaining—probably a little of both). I’ll just say that most of his good traits and habits he picked up from his mother. My job is just trying to not get in the way. If he’s becoming a bit miserly (and there are many ways that that can manifest itself in one—I know; I’ve taken it to an art form) I’ll take full credit for that. Remember—it’s a disease, kind of like compulsive gambling. Congress should pass a bill providing some financial assistance for those of us so afflicted!
Anyway, I began to think what the experts—you know I like experts—say about parents shaping their children. Lo and behold, I ran into the article below from David Keirsey. I thought you might enjoy this since some of you have children who have personalities. Read this if you want to know the theory on how to raise GREAT kids, but look to mom if you want to put it into practice. (By the way (btw) even though she is stressing over a SS lesson, she has been with one of our children since early morning and expects to be home around 10 PM or so. Now that’s a true SJ for you!).
As a refresher, this might help before you read the article.
Artisans (SP’s): Mike
Guardians (SJ’s): Marlene, Markelle, Melinda, Markham, Marianne, Steve, Danny, Abby, Lance
Idealists (NF’s): Melvyn, Melanie, Molly, Brittney, Brandon
Rationals (NT’s) or whatever she wants to be: Myla
Holdouts (HO’s) Jeff (but we think he is a closet “SJ.”)
As for your children’s temperaments—you figure it out. Life is a hoot isn’t it? I thank the Lord every day that I get to spend it with you guys and under these conditions.
Love, Dad.
Parenting and Temperament
Excepted from Please Understand Me II, by David Keirsey
Copyrighted 1998, all rights reserved

Let us beware and beware and beware...
of having an ideal for our children.
So doing, we damn them.
D.H. Lawrence

The Pygmalion Project, almost unavoidable in mating, is perhaps even more of a temptation in parenting. Most parents believe quite sincerely that their responsibility is to raise their children, to take an active part in guiding them, or perhaps in steering them, on their way to becoming mature adults. Even more than the husband-wife relationship, the parent-child relationship has this serious factor of interpersonal manipulation seemingly built into it, as though part of the job description of Mother or Father. Unfortunately, this hands-on model of parental responsibility -- well-intentioned though it may be -- all too often ends in struggle and rebellion. The truth is that kids of different temperament will develop in entirely different directions, no matter what the parents do to discourage one direction in favor of another. To manipulate growth is a risky business. In our natural zeal to discourage moral weeds from springing up we risk discouraging mental flowers from growing, our parental herbicides killing the good and the bad indiscriminately.
The root of the problem is that parents tend to assume that their children are pretty much the same as they are -- extensions of their own personality who will naturally follow in their footsteps. But the temperament hypothesis suggests that, in many cases, children are fundamentally different from their parents and need to develop in entirely different directions, so that their mature personalities can take their rightful form. Indeed, parents of other temperament who assume that they share their child's experience of life -- that they know what their child wants or needs, thinks or feels -- are usually quite wrong. Or worse. Acting on this assumption, well-meaning parents are very likely to disconfirm the different messages their children are sending, just as they are likely to attribute their own attitudes to their children, and perhaps even to intrude on the private space of their children with their own agendas. Such parents fail to realize that, from the beginning, their children are very much their own persons -- Artisans, Guardians, Idealists, Rationals -- and that no amount of disconfirmation, attribution, or intrusion can change their inborn structure.
How then are we to take up the task of parenting? We dare not make it a Pygmalion Project, giving in to our all-too-human desire to shape our loved ones in our own image. If our children were born to be like us -- chips off the old block -- then they need no shaping; if not, then shaping can only have disappointing results. No, our project ought not be that of Pygmalion, but of Mother Nature, which means we must allow our children to become actually what they are potentially; in other words, we must let nature take its course by giving our children ample room to grow into their true, mature character.
So: the first task of parents is to recognize the different characters of their children. But parents must also recognize the role their own character plays in their way of bringing up their children. All types of parents -- Artisans, Guardians, Idealists, Rational -- have a different view of the correct way to raise children, one that reflects their own personality, and one that is often unexamined and unquestioned.

Example Parent-Child Dyads
Artisan Parent -- Idealist Child: Although they can have some trouble understanding each other, Artisan parents can be valuable models for their Idealist children. NF kids tend to get lost in abstraction and a self-absorbed search for meanings and portents, and the SP's warm embrace of immediacy can be an important lesson for them. Artisans are in touch with reality, free in physical action, comfortable with their bodies, easy-going about moral absolutes, not worried about who they are -- they don't sweat the small stuff -- and all of these attitudes and actions can help give balance to the soulful, emotional, self-examining Idealist child. On the other hand, such differences can be a problem. Artisan parents tend not to value in their Idealist children such important traits as authenticity, empathy, and altruism, and in the worst case the parent might show impatience with the child for being so soul-searching, so head-in-the-clouds, or so lost in fantasy, and might want the child to toughen up and take hold of reality. In the main, though, Artisan parents are easygoing with people they don't understand, and so most often they model for their Idealist children lenience, tolerance, and a spirit of fun.
Guardian Parent -- Rational Child: Guardian parents admire their Rational children's seriousness and will-to-achieve, and this relationship works out quite well when SJ parents show regard for their little NTs' fierce sense of autonomy. However, discipline can be a knotty problem. If the SJ parent tries to admonish or punish the NT child into obedience, the child will feel personally violated and will likely respond with growing contempt. Remember that NTs, at any age, must have a reason for doing anything, and when a parent is not forthcoming with a rationale for action other than convention or authority, the little NTs will do what they are told only reluctantly and with little respect. More specifically, it is the tough-minded Administrator Guardian that the Rational child is most likely to run afoul of, the child wanting to be free to choose, and the parent conscientiously trying to arbitrate choice. The probing Engineer Rationals usually manage, like their Artisan cousins, to steer clear of an arbitrary parent most of the time, but the schedule-minded Coordinator Rationals tend to meet such a parent head on. In extreme cases, the effect of such a clash can be lasting estrangement. Fortunately, Guardians marry Artisans most frequently, and having this live-and-let-live parent in the mix often saves the Rational child from the worst consequences of the Guardian parent's authoritarian style.
Idealist Parent-Artisan Child: Idealist parents tend to be puzzled by the Artisan child's disinterest in fantasy and heart-to-heart sharing, and by the accompanying paucity of empathy for other members of the family. Wanting their relationship with their child to be deep and meaningful, they can be disappointed when the relationship does not grow in that direction, but continues to be what they regard as somewhat shallow and uninspiring. This as long as they persist in their Pygmalion Project, trying to turn the child into an Idealist like themselves. Once they see that their child is not like them at all, but is bent on racing from one concrete action to another, with hardly a trace of intuition or altruism, then they are quite able to give up their project and encourage the child's thrust toward artistry and optimism, if not the accompanying impulsivity, bravado, and tactical cleverness.
Rational Parent-Guardian Child: Rationals find their relationship to a Guardian child somewhat problematic and sometimes frustrating. They really don't know how to act, don't know what they might do to help their SJ child develop their ingenuity, become more independent, and increase their strength of will, none of which are of particular interest to the child. Rational parents are, in fact, bothered by their Guardian child's attempts to fit in socially. SJ children tend to go along with their social groups, and it can distress Rational parents to see little SJs doing things because the other kids are doing it. And Rational parents are disappointed by their Guardian child's wanting always to feel secure. Why can't their SJ child be bold or enthusiastic or curious like their SP, NF, or NT siblings? Why must their child report every pain, every disappointment, every wrong, every fear? Such children make Rational parents feel inadequate and helpless, because they cannot appeal to their children's reason, nor to their courage, nor to their hopes, nor to any desire to strike out on their own. Yet here are their SJ children trying in every way they can think of to please their baffled and uncertain NT parents, by being helpful, by serving, by doing good deeds, by conforming to all the social rules. It is well that Rational parents step aside and let their mate oversee the maturation of the Guardian child into the pillar of society he or she is meant to become.
Recommendations on understanding the role of Parenting
For much more detailed understanding the role of Parenting: Read Please Understand Me II and the new book on examining social contexts and role of Parents versus Peers: The Nuture Assumption, by Judith Rich Harris.
Other extremely valuable books on Parenting are
· Children the Challenge
· Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Self Control & Child Rearing

Self Control & Child Rearing

(Maybe Someone Can Make You Angry Without Your Permission)

At first I resisted Dr. Bergin’s notions because of my long-standing mental model (acquired) that anger and all other unhealthy feelings, with their attendant behaviors are under one’s control. I still believe this is so—albeit, with healthy adults. I must confess, however, that perhaps few of us are totally healthy. I am particularly intrigued by his thoughts on child rearing and accountability from an eternal perspective.

Note: Dr. Bergin is a professor of psychology at BYU and a therapist. He is involved in many church related programs designed to improve people’s abilities to function. The following are excerpts from his article: (Toward a Theory of Human Agency Fn by Allen E. Bergin Fn, BYU Studies, vol. 16 (1975-1976), Number 1 - Autumn 1975 165.) The full text can be found on GospeLink if you are interested.


Self-control would not be a matter for scrutiny if it were not for the pervasiveness of its opposite, namely, a lack or loss of self-control. Today, we are often taught and we too often act as though everything controls our behavior except the self or the conscious will. Within the LDS Church this is less often so, but then we are too often guilty of the reverse error, that is, assuming that people are always 100 percent responsible for their own acts.

I thus find myself the man in the middle--trying to persuade my professional colleagues that there is such a thing as self-control while at the same time attempting to convince my fellow Saints that human agency has limitations and, in some cases, is nonexistent.

All human acts are determined by multiple influences. We may identify six broad classes of influence as: (1) cultural, social or environmental controls; (2) biological factors; (3) habits of response that have been conditioned, especially by childhood experiences; (4) feelings or emotions; (5) thoughts, ideas, or beliefs; and (6) spiritual inspiration.

If we are to be wise, receive the truth, and take the Holy Spirit for our guide as suggested in D&C 45:57, we must learn to optimize the influence of higher processes in our actions. Otherwise, we lose our power of independent action and are "encircled about by the bands of death, and the chains of hell" (Alma 5:7) and then "are taken captive by the devil, and led by his will down to destruction." (Alma 12:11.)

Our degree of control varies between 0 and 100 percent. Some people have much more control than others. Within the same person, the degree of control also varies in different situations. In one area, say eating, one may have low control while in another, say anger, he may have high control.

Willful or conscious disobedience to moral laws is a misuse of agency; for each such act a measure of agency is lost, and one gradually succumbs to the power of habitual sin. The scriptural reference is "being in the bondage of Satan."

It may seem heretical to propose that for some of mankind agency is extremely limited or nonexistent, but I submit that the processes and examples I have given are based upon valid observations of a worsening human condition and that they are scripturally confirmed as well. I have already cited several scriptural references to this effect and add here the following supporting views:

Brigham Young asserted his views on willful disobedience to God's laws:

A man can dispose of his agency or of his birthright, as did Esau of old, but when disposed of he cannot again obtain it--those who despise the proffered mercies of the Lord . . . have their agency abridged immediately and bounds and limits are set upon their operations . . . evil, when listened to, begins to rule and overrule the spirit God has placed within man. (Cited in Widtsoe, 1954, pp. 63, 65).

Talmage noted that in the Judgment the various forces that can limit agency will be taken into account in evaluating one's life on earth: The inborn tendencies due to heredity, the effect of environment whether conducive to good or evil, the wholesome teaching of youth, the absence of good instruction--these and all other contributory elements must be taken into account in the rendering of a just verdict as to the soul's guilt or innocence. (Talmage, 1915, p. 29).

In reply to the question of why God has caused civilizations to be destroyed, it may be asserted that the Lord's actions were acts of mercy in that these nations or peoples had become so wicked that the children growing up among them had no possibility of developing true agency. Their only opportunity was to choose evil and perpetuate it; therefore, they were destroyed. In support of this Joseph Fielding Smith (1960, p.55) cites the following comment by John Taylor in his book, The Government of God (p.53):

Hence it was better to destroy a few individuals, than to entail misery on many. And hence the inhabitants of the old world and of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed, because it was better for them to die, and thus be deprived of their agency, which they abused, than entail so much misery on their posterity, and bring ruin upon millions of unborn persons.

Further evidence that agency can theoretically be entirely lost is that Satan's plan was a real possibility. This must mean that under the right conditions it is possible to totally control human behavior. We know that men can come under the bondage of sin if they choose evil. To the extent that they do they are under Satan's power, and his plan is implemented to that degree, albeit in the opposite direction of his original proposal. It should be noted here that when we speak of Satan's control we do not necessarily mean that he or his assistants are personally present or directly involved, for he must operate through lawful processes just as the Lord himself does. The loss of one's agency may thus mean that Satan has obtained control over a person by the management of natural processes which the person willfully permitted himself to get hooked into, or which he was conditioned into during childhood.

WOW!!!! A final evidence that agency can be severely limited and that this can occur without the person himself making wrong choices is indicated by our knowledge that child-rearing events can shape future responses so powerfully as to virtually eliminate personal responsibility. This is supported by scriptures which declare that small children are not responsible for their acts and cannot be held accountable for them and that if parents do not properly teach them, the eventual sin is put upon the heads of the parents. If the parents are responsible, they must have instituted negative control over the child's behaviour--control with long-lasting effects. It is interesting that no such parental control is implied in relation to positive behavior. This is logical in that positive child rearing induces agency, that is, self-control in the child; whereas negative child rearing induces the bondage of Satan which eliminates choice unless there is outside intervention. There are numerous scriptures supporting this view. (D&C 29:47; D&C 68:25; D&C 74:4; D&C 93:39.) One of the more interesting is Deut. 5:9: ". . . for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me." Joseph Fielding Smith interpreted this as follows: "The real meaning of this visiting of the iniquity is that when a man transgresses he teaches his children to transgress, and they follow his teachings. It is natural for children to follow in the practices of their fathers and by doing so suffer from the parents' iniquity. . . . (1957, p.83) The term natural in the foregoing sentence probably can be interpreted as natural psychological processes, such as imitative learning, conditioning, and repression.

(Toward a Theory of Human Agency Fn by Allen E. Bergin Fn, BYU Studies, vol. 16 (1975-1976), Number 1 - Autumn 1975 170.)

I have been convinced by many years of experience that every human being suffers defects of agency and control to some degree and that in a minority of cases the level of control has been so seriously reduced by biological defects or malignant childhood training that they are, in effect, not responsible for their behavior. I am not speaking here of the normal cross-section of human weaknesses, even though they limit agency to some degree; because if we had perfect agency, it is doubtful that this life would be a test for us. Certainly, no one should be encouraged by these remarks to justify his misdeeds on the grounds that he is not responsible for his behavior. Our goal should be to resist the history of evil, to reverse the sins of our fathers, and to initiate a benign cycle that will traverse the generations and help people establish new levels of self-regulation. There is nothing more pitiful than the person who wants to control his behavior but is unable to do so. Such individuals are buffeted by their own fears and impulses; their behavior is dominated by Satan. In such instances self-effort alone will not suffice.

Another way to describe the results of the self-control method is nicely exemplified by President McKay's advice: "Resist temptation and Satan will flee from you." He declared that this is exactly what happened during the Savior's three great temptations. According to President McKay, because of the Savior's resistance Satan's power had been broken by the time of the final temptation, and he was merely pleading. Then the Savior turned his back on Satan with finality and commanded him to get hence.

Such insight led the Prophet to declare eloquently: "The greatest battles of life are fought within the silent clambers of our own souls." This is the battle for self-control, and there is nothing more majestic than the quiet confidence of one who has achieved it.

Our thesis is that when a person consciously selects a behavioral goal and then finds his pathway to that goal obstructed by habits, impulses, or feelings over which he has little control, he can overcome these obstacles by the exercise of self-effort. Technically it may be stated thus: The power of a consciously perceived stimulus to evoke an undesired response is directly proportional to the frequency with which the undesired response occurs. [Mel Note: In other words, if you quit doing bad stuff you will soon lose the urge to do bad stuff].

A corollary hypothesis is that stimuli early in the chain of behavior will evoke a weaker response and that responses of that order will be more readily inhibited than those of a higher order. If inhibition occurs more frequently at that level, breaking of the main, over-arching stimulus-response connection will be more frequent and more successful. [Mel Note: In simple terms, quit doing the bad stuff ASAP!]

The first quality of self-control is that it consists of voluntary action, and voluntary behavior require a choice situation in which at least two incompatible acts are possible. The scriptures tell us that if there were no opposition, no law of opposites, there could be no agency. "And it must needs be that the devil tempt the children of men, or they could not be agents unto themselves." (D&C 29:39.)

As always your thoughts are appreciated—Dad




My memory, although I readily admit that it is open to inquiry, is this pertaining to the following event: Within months of our marriage Marlene and I were in the kitchen preparing something to eat. We had a bottle of home-canned fruit (given, I’m sure, to us by my parents - we, at that time were not the “canners” we now are) and I was searching for a butcher knife. I asked Marlene where one was and she asked me why I needed a butcher knife. I said I needed it to remove the lid from the bottle of fruit. In amazement she looked at me and said, “Why don’t you use the bottle lid opener?” She was referring, of course, to the combination beer can / soft drink lid opener. From that point the event is a bit hazy in my mind, but her instruction saved me from of world of hurt, from that time until the present. All my life growing up I had observed my Mom and Dad (mostly my Dad because it was hard, and often bloody, work) remove the lids from canned anything with a butcher knife. They screwed off the ring and then placed the edge of the knife under the lid and pulled upwards. If they were lucky, the lid would give way and come off. Periodically, they would slice into a thumb and, even more often, break off the edge of the bottle. It wasn’t uncommon for Mom and Dad to discuss, “Do you suppose the chip fell into the peaches or is it on the floor somewhere? Mel, get down on the floor and see if you can find it.”

As funny or weird as it may seem, this constant exposure to seeing how lids were removed formed in my mind a deeply ingrained image—a mental model—that influenced how I saw the world and how I was to take action. It was stronger than intellect. Even with the obvious downside of using the butcher knife, it never occurred to me that there was a safer, more efficient method for cap removal—after all, Mom and Dad were grownup experts. It wasn’t until an outsider—someone who was unfamiliar with the process, and not already “contaminated” with visual images—pointed out a different methodology that the light dawned on me and made my life forever a little happier.

Since the “butcher knife” era, I have become aware of other times when I, and others, have suffered through waste, confusion, inefficiency and people-warping due to employing bad mental models. It has been my great fortune to work with individuals, teams and organizations that are striving for improvement and who have benefited by scholars who have found this phenomenon to be typical within individual and organizational life—often with devastating effects. Consider the watch industry monopolized by the Swiss, who assumed that the only way to tell time, appropriately, was through the means of an hour and minute hand. Along came the Japanese, who were not shackled with this mental model, and the digital timepiece was born.

It is interesting to note how mental models, bad or good, affect our relationships, the nature of our interactions and the results that the sum of those interactions can produce. Reseachers, studying the affect of teacher interactions on students, found the impact to be immense. In one study, a teacher of elementary students, who were randomly selected to be in her class, was told that several of the students were gifted—in fact, they were randomly selected and there was no data to indicate they were gifted. Lo and behold, at the conclusion of the year, it was found that those so-called “gifted” students far exceeded the other students in IQ enhancement and achievement. The only variable was the teacher’s mental model. If you observed the teacher, you would probably have noticed her communicating higher expectations, being more tolerant and forgiving and giving more attention to those labeled as gifted.

Peter Senge, a professor at MIT, notes: “Mental models can be simple generalizations such as ‘people are untrustworthy,’ or they can be complex theories, such as my assumptions about why members of my family interact as they do. But what is most important to grasp is that mental models are active—they shape how we act.” The point is if I believe someone is untrustworthy, I will treat him or her differently than if I believed they were trustworthy. “If I believe that my son lacks self-confidence and my daughter is highly aggressive, I will continually intervene in their exchanges to prevent her from damaging his ego.” Moreover, my interactions with my daughter may, in fact, produce the very trait I dislike—remember Johnny Lingo (Mahana, you ugly)?

Here is how it works:

1. After observing someone, for a very short while, I will tend to form a label for that person, e.g., she’s nice, dull, clever, selfish, etc.

2. This forms in me a perceptual set because I like to be decided about the world. I start seeing her as nice and, in fact, selectively see those behaviors that confirm my label. If I see not nice behavior, I excuse that as just a mistake—it doesn’t change my perceptual set.

3. I behave toward her as though she were nice. An observer would notice this in my words, tones, gestures, facial expressions, postures, etc.

4. (Now, here’s the kicker), since I treat her as though she is nice, she actually behaves in a “nice” way. In other words, I get what I stroke.

5. Thus a virtuous cycle is created. She becomes the person I expect her to become. Remember Eliza Doolittle?

The interesting thing is that it all begins with my assumption, not hard data. There probably is no data to conclude that she is either nice or not nice. It is very possible for another person to label her very differently than I do. “Two people with different mental models can observe the same event and describe it differently, because they’ve looked at different details . . .. As psychologists say, we observe selectively.” Einstein wrote, “Our theories determine what we measure.”

Is it any wonder that the Savior cautioned us not to judge. Right or wrong, our judgments are essentially based on assumptions, and look at the possible consequences; we may help produce in an individual the very traits we dislike. Rather the Lord would prefer to have us love one another (big paradigm shift) and treat others like potential Gods. Consider C.S. Lewis’s thoughts:

From The Weight of Glory: "It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship. . . . There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilization—these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit. . . . Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbour is the holiest object presented to your senses."40

(Robert L. Millet, Selected Writings of Robert L. Millet: Gospel Scholars Series [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 2000], 480.)

So, what can we do to get out of the bad mental model business? As an over simplification, I suggest three notions:

1) Consider that many—perhaps most—of our actions are based on assumptions, not truths—be open to trying the bottle opener. There are many ways of behaving in every situation we face. Let us be sure that our choice is based on truth. Ask yourself, “Am I willing to consider that this generalization may be inaccurate or misleading?”

2) Recognize, as pointed out in the above scripture, that Satan is real and desires to destroy our souls and a chief method is to have us behave toward others—even our enemies—in an unloving way. Note James E. Talmage: (Now, I know that it is not quite in accord with the advanced thought of the day, according to certain cults, to believe that there is a devil, a personage, a reality…But there is a personage known as Satan. Before he was cast out from heaven he was called Lucifer. He is just as truly a personage as are you or am I, though he is not embodied…Satan foresaw what would come to pass, and the prophet Nephi realized fully the claims that would be set up in the last days…he foretells that the devil will "rage in the hearts of the children of men, and stir them up to anger against that which is good." (Roy W. Doxey, comp., Latter-day Prophets and the Doctrine and Covenants [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1978], 2: 116.)

3) Let the spirit guide us in all our actions and interactions. Note: (D and C 46:7. But ye are commanded in all things to ask of God, who giveth liberally; and that which the Spirit testifies unto you even so I would that ye should do in all holiness of heart, walking uprightly before me, considering the end of your salvation, doing all things with prayer and thanksgiving, that ye may not be seduced by evil spirits, or doctrines of devils, or the commandments of men; for some are of men, and others of devils.

You can have the life you want. Have a great one.

Christian Marriage

Being in love is a good thing, but it is not the best thing. There are many things below it, but there are also things above it. You cannot make it the basis of a whole life. It is a noble feeling, but it is still a feeling. Now no feeling can be relied on to last in its full intensity, or even to last at all. Knowledge can last, principles can last, habits can last; but feelings come and go. And in fact, whatever people say, the state called ‘being in love’ usually does not last.

But, of course, ceasing to be ‘in love’ need not mean ceasing to love. Love in this second sense—love as distinct from “being in love”—is not merely a feeling. It is a deep unity, maintained by the will and deliberately strengthened by habit; reinforced by (in Christian marriages) the grace which both partners ask, and receive, from God. They can have this love for each other even at those moments when they do not like each other; as you love yourself even when you do not like yourself…It is on this love that the engine of marriage is run: being “in love” was the explosion that started it.

Mere Christianity, page 108-9—C.S. Lewis

“A Perfect Day in Zion.”

February 28, 2004 --

Marlene and I awoke this morning to the happy sounds of snow ploughs scraping off the six to eight inches of very wet, heavy snow that had accumulated on 800 East during the night hours. We both lay in bed reading (I, “Das Buch Mormon” and Marlene “One Corpse Too Many” that she read about in a book she purchased at the D.I. that lists books that build character). After an hour or so, I made me a bowl of Cream of Wheat and slurped it down along with a couple of slices of my famous homemade bread. Marlene drank a glass of some ground up fruit. We then started working on our genealogy and family history project, creating file folders, filing odds and ends of information that we’ve accumulated for years. We made a couple of updates to our PAF information. I searched out the information that clarified just how we are connected to John D. Lee, of Mountain Meadow Massacre fame. (Not to worry—a distant cousin in the Bennett line married his great grand daughter—so none of us are related by blood). All the while it continued to snow.

Soon, my elderly, partially blind friend called to see (I guess “hear” might be more appropriate) if I could give her a ride to the doctor’s office. I said yes and then went out and shoveled the snow. I was joined in a few minutes by Marlene—who had to use a square blade garden shovel because our other snow shovel is wired to our lawn sprinkler in the back so no water will get on Mrs. Dickman’s Pfizer’s. Shortly thereafter I left—in the snowstorm—to pick her up. I dropped her at the doctor’s and returned home to continue with the office work. A couple of hours later my friend called to inform me she was finished at the doctor’s. I picked her up and took her home—in the snowstorm. She lives up near the temple. It was a little hairy getting down the hill, but because I was cautious and slow I made it down the hill and to our home—almost. As I was turning on 800 East by Albrechtsen’s, a funny thing happened. The Civic’s wheels didn’t turn when I turned the steering wheel, and I ended up in Albrechtsen’s gutter, unable to get out. Not to worry; I borrowed Udell’s shovel, cleaned the snow from under the tires and with the help of Udell and a citizen in a pick-up, I was back on the street in about fifteen minutes—still snowing.

I love the snow. It was a beautiful day, and I had the desire and intention to go on my regular walk—in the snow. So, having gotten the car safely back home, I pulled on my rubber boots and took off, all the while listening to “Prairie Home Companion” on my radio. It was like an out-of-body experience. Walking along in the beautiful white snow, hardly a soul on the road, white, glistening snowflakes gently falling and Marne Nixon, a guest on “Prairie” who was the voice for Audrey Hepburn in “My Fair Lady,” Natalie Wood in “West Side Story,” and Deborah Kerr in “The King and I,” singing selections from these movies. Feeling the spirit due to the down home music of “Prairie” and its buttermilk biscuits, as well as basking in the glow of having just had Christian service rendered to me by a good friend and neighbor, and feeling like this is just about the greatest place in the world to live, I seized an opportunity to render help myself. I came to a crossroads on Bountiful Blvd and about 300 South. I noticed a car fishtailing down the hill from above me. I also noticed a couple of cars on Bountiful Blvd approaching the intersection, so I dutifully ran up the hill and motioned the lady to stop her car. Of course she couldn’t and I detected as she slid by me into the intersection a look of helplessness as well as “if you’re going to help, why don’t you stop the cars on the level Boulevard instead of me fishtailing down the hill. My initial, mortal thought was, “see if I help you again,” but being full of the spirit, I quickly repented and thought to myself, “why didn’t I stop the other cars--duh?” Well, no matter. The other cars had wisely slowed down at the intersection, and everyone went their way in safety while the snow continued to fall. After about an hour and a half, “Prairie Home Companion” was in its last fifteen minutes and I was back home shoveling (for the second time) snow in the driveway. I thought, “what a great day.” Finished with the shoveling, I went inside to be greeted by Marlene who had just completed making a large crock-pot full of split pea soup. I thought, “what a great wife.” Just then I remember that exactly one year ago today I was in the Radio Therapy Clinic in Atlanta, Georgia having my catheter removed, thus completing the second step of the procedure that began just one day earlier on February 27, 2003. I thought to myself, “what a great life.”

Love, Mel

Thursday, February 16, 2006

LOL--Laughing Out Loud?

February 14, 2006

Btw, re: LOL, do you think that violates the admonition we receive to avoid loud laughter? I'm splitting hairs, but I always wonder where to draw the line. Maybe it has to do more with the context of the situation than the physical act? Guess what? I became interested in my own pondering and searched for what a few of the brethren have to say:

Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine: Selections from the Sermons and Writings of Joseph F. Smith, compiled by John A. Widtsoe, p.296
Let the parents in Zion give their children something to do that they may be taught the arts of industry, and equipped to carry responsibility when it is thrust upon them. Train them in some useful vocation that their living may be assured when they commence in life for themselves. Remember, the Lord has said that "the idler shall not eat the bread of the laborer," but all in Zion should be industrious. Neither should they be given to loud laughter, light and foolish speeches, worldly pride and lustful desires, for these are not only unbecoming, but grievous sins in the sight of the Lord. And, we read that the wages of sin is death, and death is banishment from the Spirit and presence of the Lord.

Joseph Fielding Smith, Seek Ye Earnestly, p.197
Therefore, cease from all your light speeches, from all laughter, (that is, loud laughter-boisterous laughter), from all your pride and light-mindedness, and from all your wicked doings.

Boyd K. Packer, The Holy Temple , p.59
President Harold B. Lee was a man of quiet response to things that were humorous. Yet he enjoyed a very alert sense of humor and always had a ready story with some humorous twist to it. On one occasion while I was traveling with him he said that Elder Charles A. Callis had told him many years ago that loud laughter was a symptom of a vacant mind. He said, "I took that seriously, and since then I've tried to respond more quietly when I have been amused, not with an outburst of laughter."

Robert L. Millet and Kent P. Jackson, eds., Studies in Scripture, Vol. 1: The Doctrine and Covenants, p.353
In order for mortal men and women to be able to learn essential truths, there has to be a certain mind-set and spiritual preparation. This revelation states that intellectual attainment is inseparably connected with both physical and spiritual characteristics. Thus the instructions are given that those who were to participate in the School were also to cease from lightmindedness, loud laughter, pride, lustful desires, covetousness, idleness, uncleanness, fault finding, and excessive sleep (vv. 122-24). In addition, they were to practice diligence, study, faith, prayer, love for one another, charity, and were to retire to bed early and arise early (vv. 118,123,125, 126).

Donald W. Parry, ed., Temples of the Ancient World: Ritual and Symbolism, p.553
As to laughter, Joseph Smith had a hearty laugh that shook his whole frame; but it was a meaningful laugh, a good-humored laugh. Loud laughter is the hollow laugh , the bray, the meaningless laugh of the soundtrack or the audience responding to prompting cards, or routinely laughing at every remark made, no matter how banal, in a situation comedy. Note that "idle thoughts and . . . excess of laughter" go together in D&C 88:69.

Richard J. Marshall, Home Teaching with Purpose and Power, p.94
"On the other hand, Christ's gospel is totally positive. And because his plan of salvation is so very serious, you will not find anything humorous or foolish in the scriptures. And you won't find it in the temples or the solemn assemblies or other sacred places. The Lord counsels us to avoid loud laughter and being light-minded about sacred things. The work of the Lord is holy. Holiness is serious.

Carlos E. Asay, Family Pecan Trees: Planting a Legacy of Faith at Home, p.107
We are warned against the evils of loud laughter, evil-speaking, light-mindedness, and other forms of shallow living that make a mockery of sacred things. Yet we are expected to keep our homes warm and inviting to all who cross the threshold. We must, therefore, find the proper balance between the "core of life" or pure religion and the "spice of life" in planting the "pecan tree" practice of good humor in our families.

(Here's an idea to go along with your I-messages)
Dennis L. Lythgoe, A Marriage of Equals, p.119
Sometimes we can vent anger with a touch of humor. Ginott told of a thirteen-year-old boy who had been fighting with his older sister, hurling insults at her. "Mother walked into the room and said: 'I'm tired of your relentless hostility and acrimonious attitudes."' The boy and his sister looked at each other and burst into loud laughter. Another example was Roy, age fifteen, who pushed the mattress off his brother's bed to punish him for an insult. "Father intervened. In a stern voice, he said, 'There is no place for acts of revenge and retaliation in our home. It is against my cherished values.' The boys looked at their father in disbelief. This was the end of what could have become an endless argument." (Between Parent and Teenager, pp. 100-102.)

The Contributor, Volume 2
Frequent and loud laughter is the characteristic of folly and ill-manners; it is the manner in which the mob express their silly joy at silly things; and they call it being merry. In my mind, there is nothing so illiberal and so illbred, as audible laughter. True wit or sense never yet made any body laugh; they are above it; they please the mind, and give a cheerfulness to the countenance. But it is low buffoonery, or silly accidents, that always excite laughter; and that is what people of sense and breeding should show themselves above.

Improvement Era - 1900
Brother Brigham did not believe in loud laughter; he seldom more than smiled, and rarely repeated jokes to provoke laughter. President Garfield once advised a noted politician never to make people laugh, saying that the popular appreciation of a public man was lessened when he sought to make them laugh rather than to think.

Improvement Era - 1905
Try to introduce some instructive and pleasant conversation, but avoid noise and loud laughter or talk as you would the plague. Do be careful to modulate your voice; we westerners are such outrageously loud talkers, our loud tones and great guffaws of laughter startle and annoy the stranger or European, and prejudice them at once against us. Talk quietly and without gesticulation, and keep your jokes and fun for the privacy of your own rooms. (Era - 1907) Loud laughter shows unrefined character in a marked degree, and its frequency robs one of that delicate demeanor which always characterizes a true lady or gentleman.

Loud Laughter a Sin
Prof. N. L. Nelson of the Weber Academy.
(Loud Laughter a Sin Prof. N. L. Nelson, of the Weber Academy.)
Improvement Era 1914
"Therefore, cease from all your light speeches; from all laughter; from all your lustful desires; from all your pride and light mindedness, and from all your wicked doings. * * * Cast away your idle thoughts and your excess of laughter far from you. * * * do these things with thanksgiving, with cheerful hearts and countenances; not with much laughter, for this is sin, but with a glad heart and a cheerful countenance."-Doc. and Cov., 88:121, 69; 59:15.
(An entire essay follows)

Monday, February 13, 2006

Thoughts: Rewards and Punishments

February 13, 2006

Therefore, what manner of men ought ye to be? Verily I say unto you, even as I am. (3 Nephi 27.)


Catchy isn’t it? But is it true? In a lifetime of sitting at the feet of gurus (PET, Transactional Analysis, Neuro Linguistic Programming, Covey and various other disciples) I’ve come to believe it is true. Boiled down, it really only testifies to the power of example on young minds. Never mind whether one’s example was good or bad. The literature is filled with examples of abused children who—regardless of how bad the example was, and how much they hated being abused—nevertheless grew up to be abusers themselves.

So what, you say? So, we better do periodic self-assessments, and make needful course corrections, to ensure that when our children become “like us”, we still like them! Come to think of it, I still do like all of you very much. Does this mean you have become what I am? Not fully. In fact, in my opinion, you have become more what I would like to be. Does this explode the theory? I think not, for several reasons. First, Mom and I are a team. What you’ve become reflects both of us plus your own eternal intelligence, character and disposition. As to your parents’ influence, I’d like to think it was mostly Mom plus the best that I had to offer. For instance, if you are not prone to ground your kids—a questionable Method II habit—you have your Mom to thank. Many is the time at 3:00 A.M. that I would vent my spleen about grounding one or the other of you for being out so late only to have Mom active listen me and use other non evaluative listening techniques such as the therapeutic grunt (hmmmmm), and that would be the end of it. On the other hand, if you’re eating all the food on your plate and never throwing away leftovers, you have only me to thank—or curse. Hopefully, if any of you are prone to beating your kids, you aren’t able to trace that back to my style (this excludes the pulling out of the belt and watching you all scream, laugh and jump under the covers—of our bed, usually—to avoid the wrath of Hammurabi). This is not to say there weren’t times I chose—seeing the battle now from a comfortable reflective position—to become angry and administer a few verbal and physical swats. Maybe as we plod quietly along seeking to become like Him, these “sins,” like others will someday be banished from memory due to something other than old age. I don’t mean to say that in child rearing there is not a place for a—carefully, while under control and rational—strategically placed swat or “zinger.” But the circumstances under which this should be administered should be well defined. (More on this in a minute).

During the course of Melinda’s visit with us before and during the holidays, we had the opportunity to discuss methods for producing change in behavior (a bit presumptuous, really) in our children. This was prompted in no small part by Roman’s behavior of getting out of bed (immediately after being put in bed) four to six times before he decided further attempts at being up were useless. We studied James Dobson and Alfie Kohn, among others. Interestingly, we found there were different philosophies regarding the use of punishments and rewards with children. Even though Dobson favors rewards to bring about change, I prefer Kohn’s approach that recommends avoidance of punishments and rewards. As Melinda and I talked, she asked me, “What then does Kohn suggest to parents to change behavior if we are not to use some form of punishment or reward?” In simple words, what is the alternative to punishment/reward? Unfortunately, at the time I had not completed my reading of Kohn’s alternatives, but now, having done so, I would like to share my interpretation of his views, which essentially coincide with my own.

Kohn’s Points

1. He sees the question (highlighted above) as perfectly reasonable but difficult to answer for several reasons: A) “the alternative to rewards depends on whether we are talking about raising children, teaching students, or managing employees.” Of course, here we are focused on children. B) The alternative also depends on the cause of the behavioral problem. He reminds readers “what is most alluring about pop behaviorism is its promise of one answer to all questions. It is a false promise, though, which helps explain why rewards don’t work in the long run.” He maintains, “no answer to all the complex motivational issues we find ourselves facing is both easy and effective. The temptation is therefore strong to pick one that is just easy.” C) The third reason for his discomfort in giving a quick alternative to rewards has to do with the goal of parent’s intervention. The fact is, according to Kohn, “that discussions about alternatives generally assume there is agreement on the objective”…but this may not be the case. If what you want [i.e., your goal] is to get a child…to do what you say, then the answer to the question ‘”What’s the alternative to rewards’” is that there probably is no alternative (with the possible exception of punishment). To induce short-term compliance, behavioral manipulation is the best we’ve got. If, however, your goal is…to help your child grow into a caring, responsible, decent person, then it makes no sense to ask ‘what’s the alternative to rewards?’ because rewards never moved us one millimeter toward those objectives. (Reread the last sentence at least two times). In fact, rewards actively interfere with our attempts to reach them.” By the way, when Kohn makes such assertions, he is able to back them up with verifiable research studies.

2. Kohn maintains that most books and seminars designed to teach parents on how to bring up children have three features. “First, more talk is devoted to eliminating unwanted behaviors than to promoting positive values and skills; second, step-by-step plans are provided for parents to implement; and third, copious use is made of punishments (“consequences”) and/or rewards (“positive reinforcements”). He takes a different approach on all three issues and “does not presume to offer anything like a comprehensive guide to raising children…” In fact, it seems to me, he doesn’t dwell nearly as much on what to do as what “not” to do, i.e., punish and reward, trusting the “what to do” to parents who are now more enlightened. He notes, “An approach that focuses on coping with problems does little to help children grow into good people, and may actually interfere with that goal. On the other hand, if we are effective in promoting positive values and skills, we may reduce the number of problems requiring intervention on a daily basis.” I think this is huge. Inculcating values so that children will be self-directed may take more sweat and tears than the carrot or stick, but, I believe, will pay dividends later on. “Teach a child when young…and he will not depart far from it.” Joseph Smith: “I teach correct principles and they govern themselves.”

3. “Parenting guidelines,” according to Kohn, “…share a reliance on punishments and rewards, and I want to … urge that we dispense with these tactics or at least drastically reduce their use.” Kohn suggests that we need to “reframe the way we think about our relationships with children.” In this regard, he suggests that about the time children reach the age of two, instead of employing “experts’” strategies for doing things to have the child behave as we want, that we instead “shift from doing things to an infant to doing things with a child.

4. Kohn stresses that there is “nothing objectionable about ‘structures’ or ‘limits’ that speak to such matters as when they should go to bed, what they should eat, which items are not to be played with, and where they must not go.” However, he maintains that whether a “given limit is reasonable…is another matter. To determine “reasonableness” and whether a given limit should be endorsed, requires consideration of “the purpose of the limit, how confining it is, and who came up with it.” In other words, a given “limit” needs to be tested against purpose, (“for example protecting a child from injuring himself”), restrictiveness (“for example, preventing access to certain cabinets rather than forcing a toddler to stay in one small space”), and contribution i.e., has the child “contributed to the arrangement to the fullest possible extent (for example, in helping come up with a plan for getting homework done). One non-example of the above comes to mind, that being the mother of a two year old in Utah who forced her child to drink excessive amounts of water—eventually killing the child—because the child wouldn’t eat her food. The mother was sentenced to seven years at the point of the mountain.

5. Regarding control, “a word,” say Kohn, “that generally implies the use of coercion or pressure to impose one’s will on a child,” he agrees that “even the most ardent opponent of control would hesitate to rule out all such interventions, particularly with young children. Sometimes it is necessary to insist, to put one’s foot down. Still, it seems reasonable to propose that parents…try to use the least intrusive or coercive strategy necessary to achieve a reasonable end. Don’t move a child roughly if you can move her gently; don’t move her gently if you can tell her to move; don’t tell her if you can ask her.

6. The degree of control used at home is predictive of how a “child will act in other situations. Researchers keep finding that a heavy-handed approach is not only less effective but also more likely to be associated with disruptive and aggressive behavior patters when the child is away from home. Kohn cites a study that shows “even a better way to predict those [future] behavior patterns was to keep watching to see how parents reacted if their children didn’t do what they were told. The outcomes were worse when a parent hollered, hit, threatened, punished, or otherwise turned up the heat in an effort to regain the upper hand after initial noncompliance. (Maybe this sheds some light on the cause of all the bullying problems at school that has received a lot of media attention in Utah of late).

7. Kohn suggests that many parents punish “not only because we lose our tempers, but also because it may seem to us the only alternative.” People convince themselves that punishment for misbehavior teaches the child and prevents future misbehavior. “Moreover, we see ourselves as administering an elemental sort of justice; having broken a rule, the child must now be punished.” Kohn argues, “punishment teaches about the use of power, not about how or why to behave properly.” His view is that many parents punish because they don’t want to lose. They think (probably using a faulty mental model) “that a child is inclined to do what he can get away with and will keep doing it until forcibly restrained.” (A sort of “Theory X” view of managing children—sorry, but it has been shown that many supervisors tend to see and treat their employees the same as they do their children).

8. Kohn believes it is unhealthy and unnecessary to pursue an adversarial relationship with a child (unrighteous dominion). In his view, “there are two fundamentally different ways one can respond to a child who does something wrong. One is impose a punitive consequence. Another is to see the situation as a ‘teachable moment,’ an opportunity to educate or to solve a problem together. The response here is not ‘You’ve misbehaved; now here’s what I’m going to do to you’ but ‘Something has gone wrong; what can we do about it?’ (If you’ve read this far, this would be an excellent time to bookmark for reading PET Chapter 11, “The No-lose Method for Resolving Conflicts.”). Says Kohn, “The latter represents a different way of seeing as much as a different way of reacting, and there are plenty of reasons to favor this perspective. Using power to make unpleasant things happen to someone is an intrinsically objectionable way of interacting with people, especially children. If there is any way to avoid this, it seems virtually self-evident that we should do so. Kohn suggests that, “working together to solve problems offers a vote of confidence, a statement of trust, to a child. It says, ‘I believe that when you understand the moral issues involved, and when you have the necessary skills, you will act responsibly.’ This belief sets into motion what we might call an ‘auspicious’ circle:” (I call it a virtuous cycle) “the more we trust, the more likely a child is to love up to that trust.”

I’m sure there are many who would say, “Does this work in the real world.” Often parents state this in a PET class, like we were talking about something out of science fiction. Kohn says to this question, “the more apt question is, does punishment work in the real world? Experience and research teach us that troublesome behavior increases when children are punished, that underlying problems aren’t solved, that dubious values are modeled. Almost anything would represent an improvement over this.” He maintains that respect, not coercion, commitment to work with the child and fixing things together “is not only nicer but far more likely to produce lasting results.”

9. Skeptics may respond, “what about repeated or very serious wrongdoing? Don’t we have to impose a punishment (or “consequence”) at some point? Kohn suggests the premise to this question is “that adults haven’t really taken action (or gotten serious) until they have caused something unpleasant to happen to a child. This assumption reflects a widespread tendency…to think in dualistic terms: either we punish or let it go. (The problem-solving approach recommended here would thus be construed as a fancy version of letting it go.)” Another implicit belief [paradigm] underlying this perspective “is that until a child has suffered, nothing meaningful has taken place. No pain, go gain. [Forget the “I-message,” this behavior calls for the belt!] The fact is “that everything we know about the futility of punishment doesn’t stop being true just because the child’s behavior is especially disturbing or has continued over time. [Remember, people—even children—behave in a way that makes sense to them and meets a need] Punishing a child for a truly destructive act is no more sensible than punishing her for a trifle; one could argue it makes even less sense because the stakes are higher. By contrast, trying to get to the heart of the problem and work it out is a meaningful response even if—in fact, partly because—it is not painful or humiliating.”

10. Kohn observes, “The temptation to punish grows as the act persists, not because punishment becomes inherently more sensible but because we become more desperate. (I’ve talked to Johnny until I’m blue in the face, and nothing has changed.) When one approach to solving problems together doesn’t produce results, it makes sense to modify the approach, not to abandon the idea of solving problems in favor of using threats and coercion.”

Kohn, of course, does not think that an occasional mild punitive response or a “Skinnerian incentive” (If you’ll do that, I’ll give you this) is the end of the world, especially if the environment is warm and loving. (Read section 121.) “But,” he states, “It is vital that we keep in mind the desirability of avoiding punishment and reward whenever we can. There is a difference between forgiving ourselves an occasional blunder and refusing to admit that certain approaches are blunders.

Obviously, it takes time and determination—depending on our paradigms and circumstance—to apply this philosophy. “The urge to punish and yell and even hit—or to rely on the tactic of control by seduction (that is, rewards)—can be difficult to resist…It takes time to develop confidence in a child’s capacity to function in the absence of bribes or threats. More to the point, it takes time to develop confidence in our own ability to manage without them.

That’s about all I want to say, other than, thank heavens for the gospel and the true picture it gives us of who our children and we are and what our potential is. Just picture how you think Elohim deals with His “misbehaving” children, or—more down to earth—just watch Marlene.

Of course, your comments, thoughts and criticisms are welcome—even desired.

Speak your truth quietly and clearly, and listen to others, even to the
Dull and the ignorant; they too have their story. Max Ehrmann


Wednesday, February 01, 2006

desiderata by max ehrmann

Max Ehrmann's inspirational poem - Desiderata

The common myth is that the Desiderata poem was found in a Baltimore church in 1692 and is centuries old, of unknown origin. Desiderata was in fact written around 1920 (although some say as early as 1906), and certainly copyrighted in 1927, by lawyer Max Ehrmann (1872-1945) based in Terre Haute, Indiana. The Desiderata myth began after Reverend Frederick Kates reproduced the Desiderata poem in a collection of inspirational works for his congregation in 1959 on church notepaper, headed: 'The Old St Paul's Church, Baltimore, AD 1692' (the year the church was founded). Copies of the Desiderata page were circulated among friends, and the myth grew, accelerated particularly when a copy of the erroneously attributed Desiderata was found at the bedside of deceased Democratic politician Aidlai Stevenson in 1965.
Whatever the history of Desiderata, the Ehrmann's prose is inspirational, and offers a simple positive credo for life.

desiderata - by max ehrmann
Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant, they too have their story. Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.

If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself. Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism. Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love, for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is perennial as the grass.

Take kindly to the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.
(Max Ehrmann)

desiderata myth and trivia (allegedly..)
Max Ehrmann was born in Terre Haute, Indiana, on September 16, 1872. His parents were German immigrants. Ehrmann graduated from DePauw University in Greencastle in 1894, after which he studied law and philosophy at Harvard University.

Ehrmann returned to Terre Haute to practice law, following which (early 1900's) he began writing, apparently obsessively. Max Ehrmann was known as the 'Poet Laureate' of Terre Haute.

Ehrmann wrote many poems, although none became well known until after his death. Aside from Desiderata his most famous poem is A Prayer, written in 1906. Max Ehrmann originally copyrighted Desiderata in 1927 as 'Go Placidly Amid The Noise And Haste'. The copyright number was 962402, dated 3rd January.

Ehrmann included Desiderata in a Christmas message to his friends in 1933, and significantly never added any copyright notice, a factor which featured strongly in legal considerations in the 1970's about Desiderata copyright (more below).

US Army psychiatrist Merill Moore wrote in 1942 to Ehrmann that he used the Desiderata poem in his therapy work, and also wrote to Ehrmann in 1944 suggesting that the poem should be bottled and sold as 'Dr Ehrmann's Magic Soul Medicine'. Communications between Moore and Ehrmann featured strongly in legal considerations in the 1970's about Desidarata copyright (more below).

Max married Bertha three months before his death in 1945. Bertha Scott King Ehrmann was from New York; she graduated from Smith College, wrote, taught, and published a book called The Worth of a Girl. Three months after Max Ehrmann's death, Bertha published four of his books.

Max Ehrmann's widow Bertha published the Desiderata poem with some other of his work in 1948, in a collection titled The Poems Of Max Ehrmann. She re-renewed the Desiderata copyright in 1948 and 1954.

Bertha Ehrmann died in 1962, upon which the copyright ownership passed to her nephew Richmond Wight. Wight later sold the copyright for an undisclosed amount to Crescendo Publishing Company in 1975.

Seemingly in 1959 (some say 1957) Reverend Frederick Kates produced around just 200 copies of his inspirational works collection featuring Desiderata, which sparked the confusion and myth that endures today. By the late 1970's Old St Paul's Church was receiving 40 enquiries a week as to the origins of the Desiderata poem.

A copy of the Desiderata poem (a version linked to 1692 and The Old St Paul's Church) was found on Democratic politician Adlai Stevenson's bedside table after his death in 1965 - supposedly Stevenson was intending to use what he believed to be the ancient poem in his Christmas cards, and this much publicised discovery did much to increase the fame and myth of Desidarata.

Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry kept a copy of Desiderata in his office. The Desiderata verse was a big selling Athena poster during the late 1900's. Desiderata is Latin and means 'things that are yearned for', which in the context of the poem more closely means 'essential things'.

Inspired by an Athena or similar poster, singer Les Crane used the Desiderata words in his 1971 hit pop record, for which he received a Grammy award for the 'best spoken word recording'. Supposedly Les Crane saw the Desiderata verse on a poster and believed the words to be in the public domain, but then (so the story goes) had to share his royalties with the then Desiderata copyright owners.

Amazingly there is some doubt today as to whether Ehrmann's final line of Desiderata began 'Be careful...', or 'Be cheerful..' Most modern interpretations, including the one here, use the latter.

Confusion reigns today as to the Desiderata copyright and usage and whether or not the poem is in the public domain. A key judgement was made following the Desiderata poem's publication in the August 1971 issue of Success Unlimited magazine, after which Desiderata became the source of a copyright court battle (Bell v. Combined Registry Co., 536 F.2d 164 - 7th Cir., 1976) between Robert L Bell (owner) and Combined Registry Company (publisher). The court decided on 14 May 1976 in favour of Combined Registry Company. Bell has however apparently succeeded since then with other claims, so caution is advisable if intending to publish or exploit the Desidarata work for profit. Look on the web for more precise up-to-date details about copyright and ownership.

Mary Frye's famous inspirational poem, prayer, and bereavement verse
Almost certainly Mary Frye wrote the famous poem 'Do not stand at my grave and weep' in 1932, however uncertainty continues to surround the definitive and original wording of this remarkable verse. Originally the verse had no title, so the poem's first line, 'Do not stand at my grave and weep' naturally became the title by which the poem came to be known.

Mary Elizabeth Frye (1905-2004) was a housewife from Baltimore USA, when a visiting friend's mother died, and this prompted Mary Frye to compose the verse, which she said was her first real attempt to write poetry. The friend was a young German Jewish girl called Margaret Schwarzkopf, who felt unable to visit her dying mother in Germany due to the anti-Semitic feeling at home. This led to Margaret Scwarzkopf's comment to Mary Frye, according to the apparent history of this, that she had been denied the chance to 'stand by her mother's grave and shed a tear'.

This seemingly was the inspirational prompt for Mary Fry to write the verse, which has for decades now touched and comforted many thousands of people, especially at times of loss and bereavement. Mary Frye, it is said, wrote the poem on a brown paper shopping bag. Apparently in interviews since writing the poem Frye said that the 'words just came to her', and it also seems clear that she wrote her poetry to bring comfort and pleasure to others, rather than to profit from its publication.

It's fascinating that the poem came into such widespread use, and this is perhaps because it was not conventionally copyrighted and published. At some time after Margaret Schwarzkopf's mother's death, friends of the Schwarzkopf family arranged for a postcard to be printed featuring the poem, and this, with the tendency for the verse to be passed from person to person, created a 'virtual publishing' effect far greater than traditional printed publishing would normally achieve. The poem, in its various 'original' forms has for many years been firmly in the public domain.

For many years (and presently still among many people) the poem's origin was generally unknown, being variously attributed to native American Indians, traditional folklore, and other particular claimant writers. The poem has appeared, and continues to, in slightly different versions, and there are examples also of modern authors adding and interweaving their own new lines and verses within Eyre's work, which adds to confusion about the poem's definitive versions and origins.

Whatever, the mystery seems first to have been solved when the poem was categorically attributed to Mary Frye in 1998, following research by Abigail Van Buren, aka Jeanne Phillips, a widely syndicated American newspaper columnist, whose 'Dear Abby' column seems to have directly communicated with Mary Frye concerning original authorship of the poem.
According to various sources (notably the CBC radio and TV station in Canada, whose presenter Kelly Ryan broadcast a radio feature called 'Poetic Journey' on 10 May 2000, telling the story of Mary Frye's poem) there are various 'definitive' versions.

This is the version of Frye's poem which featured on the postcard that was printed by friends of Margaret Schwarzkopf's parents. It was untitled:

(do not stand at my grave and weep)
Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there; I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glints on snow,
I am the sun on ripened grain,
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning's hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there; I did not die.
This alternative 'modern definitive version', with slight variation in lines 9 and 10, was featured in Mary Frye's obituary in the British Times newspaper in September 2004, although no source is given:

Dr Stephen Covey's Seven Habits Of Highly Effective People®
Dr Stephen Covey is a hugely influential management guru, whose book The Seven Habits Of Highly Effective People, became a blueprint for personal development when it was published in 1990. The Seven Habits are said by some to be easy to understand but not as easy to apply - don't let the challenge daunt you. The seven habits are a remarkable set of inspirational and aspirational standards for anyone who seeks to live a full, purposeful and good life. Covey's values are full of integrity and humanity, and contrast strongly with the colder logic- and process-based ideologies that characterised management thinking in earlier times.
stephen covey's seven habits of highly effective people®

habit 1 - be proactive®
This is the ability to control one's environment, rather than have it control you, as is so often the case. Self determination, choice, and the power to decide response to stimulus, conditions and circumstances

habit 2 - begin with the end in mind®
Covey calls this the habit of personal leadership - leading oneself that is, towards what you consider your aims. By developing the habit of concentrating on relevant activities you will build a platform to avoid distractions and become more productive and successful.

habit 3 - put first things first®
Covey calls this the habit of personal management. This is about organising and implementing activities in line with the aims established in habit 2. Covey says that habit 2 is the first, or mental creation; habit 3 is the second, or physical creation. (See the section on time management.)

habit 4 - think win-win®
Covey calls this the habit of interpersonal leadership, necessary because achievements are largely dependent on co-operative efforts with others. He says that win-win is based on the assumption that there is plenty for everyone, and that success follows a co-operative approach more naturally than the confrontation of win-or-lose.

habit 5 - seek first to understand and then to be understood®
One of the great maxims of the modern age. This is Covey's habit of communication, and it's extremely powerful. Covey helps to explain this in his simple analogy 'diagnose before you prescribe'. Simple and effective, and essential for developing and maintaining positive relationships in all aspects of life. (See the associated sections on Empathy, Transactional Analysis, and the Johari Window.)

habit 6 - synergize®
Covey says this is the habit of creative co-operation - the principle that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, which implicitly lays down the challenge to see the good and potential in the other person's contribution.

habit 7 - sharpen the saw®
This is the habit of self renewal, says Covey, and it necessarily surrounds all the other habits, enabling and encouraging them to happen and grow. Covey interprets the self into four parts: the spiritual, mental, physical and the social/emotional, which all need feeding and developing.

Cherie Carter-Scott's rules of life
Cherie Carter-Scott PhD is a very modern guru. Her theories explain our attitudes and behaviour with a special clarity, and provide a practical guide to behaviour and self development. Dr. Carter-Scott achieved her PhD in human and organisational development and for the nearly 30 years has been an international lecturer, consultant and author. She founded the MMS (Motivation Management Service) Institute and has been called a guardian angel to CEO's.

Carter-Scott's book 'If Life Is A Game, These Are The Rules' is essential reading if you are interested in behaviour, relationships, communications, and human personality. Cherie Carter-Scott's rules for life - also known as 'The Ten Rules For Being Human' and referenced in her book with Jack Canfield: 'Chicken Soup For The Soul' - are a map for understanding and pursuing personal development, and for helping others to understand and develop too. 'If Life Is A Game, These Are The Rules' is also commonly referenced book in the life-coaching industry.

Here is a brief summary and explanation of Cherie Carter-Scott's 'rules of life'.
cherie carter-scott's rules of life
(Carter Scott references this quotation:) "Life is a succession of lessons which must be lived to be understood." (Helen Keller)

Rule One - You will receive a body. Whether you love it or hate it, it's yours for life, so accept it. What counts is what's inside.

Rule Two - You will be presented with lessons. Life is a constant learning experience, which every day provides opportunities for you to learn more. These lessons specific to you, and learning them 'is the key to discovering and fulfilling the meaning and relevance of your own life'.

Rule Three - There are no mistakes, only lessons. Your development towards wisdom is a process of experimentation, trial and error, so it's inevitable things will not always go to plan or turn out how you'd want. Compassion is the remedy for harsh judgement - of ourselves and others. Forgiveness is not only divine - it's also 'the act of erasing an emotional debt'. Behaving ethically, with integrity, and with humour - especially the ability to laugh at yourself and your own mishaps - are central to the perspective that 'mistakes' are simply lessons we must learn.

Rule Four - The lesson is repeated until learned. Lessons repeat until learned. What manifest as problems and challenges, irritations and frustrations are more lessons - they will repeat until you see them as such and learn from them. Your own awareness and your ability to change are requisites of executing this rule. Also fundamental is the acceptance that you are not a victim of fate or circumstance - 'causality' must be acknowledged; that is to say: things happen to you because of how you are and what you do. To blame anyone or anything else for your misfortunes is an escape and a denial; you yourself are responsible for you, and what happens to you. Patience is required - change doesn't happen overnight, so give change time to happen.

Rule Five - Learning does not end. While you are alive there are always lessons to be learned. Surrender to the 'rhythm of life', don't struggle against it. Commit to the process of constant learning and change - be humble enough to always acknowledge your own weaknesses, and be flexible enough to adapt from what you may be accustomed to, because rigidity will deny you the freedom of new possibilities.

Rule Six - "There" is no better than "here". The other side of the hill may be greener than your own, but being there is not the key to endless happiness. Be grateful for and enjoy what you have, and where you are on your journey. Appreciate the abundance of what's good in your life, rather than measure and amass things that do not actually lead to happiness. Living in the present helps you attain peace.

Rule Seven - Others are only mirrors of you. You love or hate something about another person according to what love or hate about yourself. Be tolerant; accept others as they are, and strive for clarity of self-awareness; strive to truly understand and have an objective perception of your own self, your thoughts and feelings. Negative experiences are opportunities to heal the wounds that you carry. Support others, and by doing so you support yourself. Where you are unable to support others it is a sign that you are not adequately attending to your own needs.

Rule Eight - What you make of your life is up to you. You have all the tools and resources you need. What you do with them is up to you. Take responsibility for yourself. Learn to let go when you cannot change things. Don't get angry about things - bitter memories clutter your mind. Courage resides in all of us - use it when you need to do what's right for you. We all possess a strong natural power and adventurous spirit, which you should draw on to embrace what lies ahead.

Rule Nine - Your answers lie inside of you. Trust your instincts and your innermost feelings, whether you hear them as a little voice or a flash of inspiration. Listen to feelings as well as sounds. Look, listen, and trust. Draw on your natural inspiration.

Rule Ten - You will forget all this at birth. We are all born with all of these capabilities - our early experiences lead us into a physical world, away from our spiritual selves, so that we become doubtful, cynical and lacking belief and confidence.

The ten Rules are not commandments, they are universal truths that apply to us all. When you lose your way, call upon them. Have faith in the strength of your spirit. Aspire to be wise - wisdom the ultimate path of your life, and it knows no limits other than those you impose on yourself.

This summary is merely a brief outline and simply does not do the book justice, nor the wisdom within it. If you are interested in making the most of your life, and helping others do the same, buy Cherie Carter-Scott's book 'If Life Is A Game, These Are The Rules'.

Don Miguel Ruiz's - The Four Agreements
Don Miguel Ruiz's book, The Four Agreements was published in 1997. For many, The Four Agreements is a life-changing book, whose ideas come from the ancient Toltec wisdom of the native people of Southern Mexico. The Toltec were 'people of knowledge' - scientists and artists who created a society to explore and conserve the traditional spiritual knowledge and practices of their ancestors. The Toltec viewed science and spirit as part of the same entity, believing that all energy - material or ethereal - is derived from and governed by the universe.

Don Miguel Ruiz, born and raised in rural Mexico, was brought up to follow his family's Toltec ways by his mother, a Toltec faith healer, and grandfather, a Toltec 'nagual', a shaman. Despite this, Don Miguel decided to pursue a conventional education, which led him to qualify and practice for several years as a surgeon. Following a car crash, Don Miguel Ruiz reverted to his Toltec roots during the late 1970's, first studying and learning in depth the Toltec ways, and then healing, teaching, lecturing and writing during the 1980's and 90's, when he wrote The Four Agreements (published in 1997), The Mastery of Love (1999), The Four Agreements Companion Book (2000), and Prayers (2001).

Don Miguel Ruiz survived a serious heart attack 2002, since when his teachings have been largely channelled through seminars and classes run by his followers, notably his sons Don Jose Luis and Don Miguel Ruiz Junior. Like many gurus and philosophical pioneers, Ruiz has to an extent packaged, promoted and commercialised his work, nevertheless the simplicity and elegance of his thinking remains a source of great enlightenment and aspiration. The simple ideas of The Four Agreements provide an inspirational code for life; a personal development model, and a template for personal development, behaviour, communications and relationships. Here is how Don Miguel Ruiz summarises 'The Four Agreements':

the four agreements - don miguel ruiz's code for life
agreement 1
Be impeccable with your word - Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.

agreement 2
Don’t take anything personally - Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.

agreement 3
Don’t make assumptions - Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.

agreement 4
Always do your best - Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse and regret.

(Joe J. and Barbara K. Christensen, Making Your Home a Missionary Training Center [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1985], 54.)

Ten Ways to Cultivate Personal Spirituality

Rate yourself on a scale from 0 to 5 on each item with 0 meaning "no," 3 meaning "sometimes," and 5 meaning "yes, always, or completely."

1. Do I read scriptures daily?

We should "feast" upon the word and not just "nibble." (2 Nephi 32:3.)

2. Do I really pray and not just say prayers?

Am I really communicating and not just repeating trite expressions? (Alma 34:17-27; Matthew 6:7.)

3. Is my fasting meaningful?

Do I do more than just get hungry? (D&C 59:13-23.)

4. Do I go to bed early and get up early?

"Retire to thy bed early . . . ; arise early." (D&C 88:124.) President Harold B. Lee taught that more flashes of inspiration come early in the morning than at any other time of the day.

5. Am I essentially a happy person?

"Lift up your heart and rejoice." (D&C 31:3.)

"Be of good cheer." (D&C 68:6.)

6. Do I work hard?

"Thrust in your sickle with all your soul." (D&C 31:5.)

7. Am I more concerned about how rather than where I serve?

Remember that even the Savior performed the humblest acts of service. (John 13:1-17.)

8. Do I love everyone—even enemies—and keep romantic feelings in their proper perspective?

"Love one another as I have loved you." (John 13:34-35.)

9. Do I strive for unity with others as well as within myself—between my ideal and actual self?

"Be one, and if ye are not one, ye are not mine." (John 17:20-24; D&C 38:27.)

10. Do I share my testimony with others?

The Lord is pleased with us when we "open our mouths" and share with others the conviction we have. (D&C 60:2.)

There is a relationship between industry, honesty, and spirituality.

These thoughts are all from other wise people.

Love, Mel