Wiley's Wisdom

Joy: From the Ground Up

Peace on Earth December 24, 2014

It is not merely a distant goal that we seek, but a means by which we arrive at that goal. It is not the absence of war, (but rather) a virtue, a state of mind, a disposition for benevolence, confidence, justice. It begins with a smile.

Peace. From the ground up, minds filled with a lot more wisdom than mind have a few things to say about it. Like civil rights activist Martin Luther King, Jr. And Dutch philosopher Baruch Spinoza. And Catholic visionary Mother Theresa.20141224_170645

Like joy, I know peace takes many forms. It looks different to everyone depending on his or her life experiences and overall perspective on the world around them. It’s Christmas Eve around here, and though we don’t have any snow (an incredibly unusual occurrence in Wisconsin this time of year) on the ground, celebrations are in high gear.

But I can’t help but think about what happens in a couple days. After all the ribbons and bows are torn from their presents. After the holly jolly music has fled the airwaves. After the turkeys and hams and other holiday goodies are all long gone. Trees and decorations get put away, and a big empty hole can stand in its place.

It all brings to mind the words of Buddha, who suggested “peace comes from within. Do not seek it without.”

I hear it in the stillness of snowflakes falling around me in my backyard paradise. I feel it in my heart when my forever family is together and happy. I see it in smiles and laughter. I find peace all around me, and I know it is because it starts in my heart.

This may seem to many like a time of year for embracing all things worldly, but to me it’s just as important to remember where it all starts. The reason for the season. The love and joy and peace and all things holly and jolly. The life this season is capable of breathing into our souls is like no other.

Like the thinkers who are wiser than me suggested, it is how we arrive at a goal. It is a state of mind that can present itself in something as simple as a smile. And, as Mahatma Gandhi said, it “is its own reward.”

So from my little family to yours, I wish you a very Merry (and peaceful) Christmas.

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Life’s Little Messages August 1, 2014

It’s probably going to sound ridiculous. But that’s never stopped me before, so I’m certainly not going to let it stop me now. I’m a believer that things happen for a reason. This we all know to be true. But sometimes my faith is sparked in a way that can only be described as contagious.

I speak, of course, of moments in life when it’s like the message we need to hear finds us right when we need to hear it. Has this ever happened to you?

Feeling reflective

It happened to mom this morning when she ordered her first fully caffeinated vanilla latte in a year and a half. She has been so careful with everything she drank while she was pregnant with dear baby Carter and continued to proceed with caution throughout nursing. But today, in a moment of weakness, she gave in to the urge to indulge. She was a little nervous about some sort of presentation she was asked to give at that place called work, and felt the indulgence would somehow calm her nerves.

Had I been with her, I would have advised against such things, but I digress. It was not the coffee that calmed her (I could have told her that), but the message written on it:

“Know what sparks the light in you,” suggested American talk-show host turned entrepreneurial genius Oprah Winfrey, “then use that light to illuminate the world.”

I know how ridiculous it might sound. But I believe as much in those words as I do they were meant to find my mom today. And, in finding her, they found me. Light. From the ground up, I feel it is my duty to share it with you as best I know how. Because I’m a believer that things happen for a reason. That way when life’s little messages fall from heaven, I’m ready and waiting with open paws.

 

Through the Looking Glass May 5, 2013

Many great minds have commented on the relationship between theory and practice. Words like abstract, speculation and conjecture are among the definitions of theory, whereas practice is typically thought of as a conscious effort to get better at something. Today I join the conversation as I contemplate the powerful relationship between practice and theory.I'm a Half Full Doggie

It is not unusual for my optimistic doggie mind to agree with great transcendentalist philosopher and writer Ralph Waldo Emerson and today is no exception to the rule. “An ounce of action is worth a ton of theory,” Emerson once said. So which comes first, Mr. Emerson, the chicken or the egg? The action or the theory? The thought or the behavior?

To answer this puzzle I dip my toe into a casual chat about philosophy and end up in the deep end of psychology. I am a believer that we are what we think, in agreement with German philosopher Immanuel Kant. “Experience without theory is blind,” Kant suggested, “but theory without experience is mere intellectual play.”

Kant’s commentary brings to mind my mom’s journey with her sight. When she was a small girl, she was deemed legally blind with very little hope of the adult normalcy that sight has to offer. Thanks to what she refers to as her little miracle, she can now see almost perfectly with the help of prescription glasses.

Everything she sees is through those lenses. Those lenses are her looking glass to the world. This is how I see theory. Our theories are the lenses through which we view the world, providing our looking glass to all things. Our theories are the lenses filtering our perception of our surroundings. And just as mom carefully selected the lenses she wears each day, I dare say we choose the theory through which we opt to see the world on a daily basis.

It’s no secret to the world that I have carefully selected rose-colored glasses through which to view my world. My looking glasses are half full, and I’m proud to say they are. But today I gave some thought to these debates about theory and practice and I can’t say my life experiences enable me to agree with the popular opinion.

Experience lends itself to theory, but (in my doggie heart) the relationship between the two is give and take. “He who loves practice without theory is like the sailor who boards ship without a rudder and compass and never knows where he may cast,” said history’s most effective multi-tasker Leonardo da Vinci.

Indeed, it is not enough to see the world through a half-full pair of lenses. We need to practice what we preach. This is why I blog, why I share as much of my joy as I can with the world. “To get the full value of joy you must have someone to divide it with,” said great American author and humorist Mark Twain. So which comes first, Mr. Twain, the chicken or the egg? The action or the theory? The thought or the behavior?

Who knows. What I know for sure is my thoughts influence my behavior on a daily basis. I live to see and share joy, from the ground up. “To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived,” Emerson said, “This is to have succeeded.”

 

A Moment’s Paws January 23, 2013

Sometimes life hands us lemons. Truth slaps us in the face. Reality checks in to say hello. And the result isn’t always pretty.Paws for Happy Thoughts

Momma said there would be days like this. Days when pressing pause on a remote with a jammed fast-forward button seems impossible. And yet, these are days when perhaps a moment’s paws (all right, we all know I really mean pause) could be the secret ingredient we need to make lemonade out of life’s lemons.

“Before we can change anything in our life we have to recognize that this is the way it’s meant to be right now,” Breathnach writes in Simple Abundance. Accepting the present is one of the most important steps toward enjoying our future.

“Life is getting shorter, not longer, so we should live our bliss,” actress Drew Barrymore commented on today’s episode of The Chew. (Yes, I watch The Chew, and all the other food shows my mom and dad enjoy. What’s not to love about watching all kinds of human food goodness flashing before me?)

Drew’s thought got me to thinking about the role the present plays in our lives. I don’t think its a coincidence that present (as in the current time) is literally spelled the same as present (as in a gift). To me, the present is a gift, and I don’t intend to waste it.

I was reminded of this during my bi-monthly trip to Paws ‘R Us today. My groomer, Mary, (as well as her resident shop crew of canine pals) were all as happy to see me as always. After I was all cleaned up, I was enjoying some of my usual post-grooming play time with my Beagle mix pal Gus when BAM! It was like someone hit the pause button and my life flashed before my eyes.

Peter, a pit bull/lab mix, nipped at me and had a thing or two to growl to Mary when she interceded. In that instant, I relived my dark date with destiny at the dog park a few months ago. My vet’s words to my mom about “how lucky” I was to survive that pit bull attack seemed to echo off the walls.

The moment passed, and order was restored (no humans or animals were hurt during the inspiration for this blog), but I got to thinking about the role reality plays in our lives. I’ve said before that I’m a believer that life’s experiences shape who we are. Soren Kierkegaard, who is thought of as one of the founders of this existential outlook, once said “life is not a problem to be solved, but a reality to be experienced.”

Today was not a problem. Today was actually a pretty great day. I got to spend time with my pals at the groomer, I got a pretty nice looking haircut (if I do say so myself), and I enjoyed a longer than usual amount of playtime with mom, dad, and Mrs. Prickles tonight.

The Haircut (What do you think?)

What was it that pulled me from the past back into acceptance of reality? Sometimes a moment’s paws is in itself the answer to life’s little reality checks.

 

Isn’t it ironic? A Pause Amidst Life’s Symphony January 17, 2013

Irony is one of those words that can often be considered most influential in the eye of the beholder. Definitions vary, but from what I can tell perspective weighs heavily upon one’s perception of what Merriam-Webster refers to as “the use of words to express something other than and especially the opposite of the literal meaning.” Sounds pretty confusing to me. My simplified perspective includes the people in my life through the lenses of my appreciation for literature, music and artistic expression.

From the ground up, I couldn’t help but see irony in life’s little messages of today. It was the kind of day one wishes could be lived in reverse. French poet Anatole France knew a thing or two about this. “Irony is the gaiety of reflection and the joy of wisdom,” he said. Alas, hindsight is 20/20, so instead of dreaming the impossible, I will reflect on the messages.

It was a pretty normal day for me…mom and dad headed off to their respective workplaces, followed closely by my morning nap, mom’s lunchtime visit, my afternoon nap, and then mom and dad came home. Mom had another one of “those” days at work. Over dinner, I listened intently as she explained the stress of the day to dad. I don’t understand much of what she does at this work place, but whatever it is sounds fast-paced and challenging.

“Well life has a funny way of sneaking up on you when you think everything’s okay and everything’s going right,” Alanis Morissette croons in her 90s hit “Ironic.” “And life has a funny way of helping you out when you think everything’s gone wrong and everything blows up in your face.”

Thank you, Alanis, for putting my words to music all those years ago. Today’s Simple Abundance reading encourages us to pause to find harmony within our day, understanding that the integration of simplicity, order and gratitude in our lives will create a magical symphony of comfort and joy. “With harmony as your guide, trust that your every day moments will soon begin to resonate in a rhapsody of fulfillment,” Breathnach writes.

So I find a bit of irony in today’s daily prompt, which challenges me to “honestly evaluate the way you respond to crisis situations. Are you happy with the way you react?” http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/01/17/daily-prompt-in-a-crisis/

Is anyone? Speaking for myself, it certainly isn’t easy for me to pause and soak in the warm rays of the sun instead of running after that squirrel in the backyard. When faced with too many stimuli, I have a tough time concentrating on life’s simplest blessings. Chaos is not my friend, and I don’t think it’s any good for my mom either. I know I can’t relive today, but I can at least take France’s advice and find some wisdom in the irony.

Isn’t it ironic that sometimes exactly what is best for us is sometimes the most challenging task of all?

 

Hope in Gratitude January 14, 2013

Hope in GratitudeWriting can be a bit like life. Some days are like poetry, weaving experiences together in the most beautiful (albeit sometimes ironically morbid) of prose. Those days can be easier than others to write things worth reading. Other days are like the worst case of writer’s block. Nothing among the list of one’s ordinary function comes easy. Even waking up (or picking up a pen and paper) sounds absolutely impossible on “one of those days.”

Either way, I’m starting to notice how easy it is to find something to bring a ray of sunshine into even the cloudiest case of writer’s block. I say this because if its possible for a dog to have what humans refer to as “one of those days,” that was my life today. Instead of shattering a glass on the hardwood or breaking a nail (which I’ve heard can be quite painful for womenfolk), I struggled to find any inspiration in today.

Mom journeyed back to this place she calls work today. I missed her terribly. After all the time off for her leg surgery, I realize I’d gotten spoiled with people time during the day. But to make matters worse, I could tell things didn’t go well by her emotional state when she came home over her lunch break. And again when she came home from work well after the sun went down. And I will be the first to admit it: a tough day on her takes a toll on me. I can easily slip into a darker way of thinking, wishing more than anything I can somehow be that lantern of love I’ve pledged to be while at the same time not having any idea of how to light the match.

Then something hits me. A ray of sunshine makes its way through the cloudy darkness that is the blank screen or notepad mocking me with its silence. Today it was two things combining in perfect harmony, just like poetry coming together on the page: music and good writing. Two obvious things that inspire me (and lots of other thoughtful writers, poets and songwriters), but as I am embracing simplicity this year I find solace in (even) these most obvious of things. Miracles happen in simple moments like this.

I was reading today’s thoughts on Simple Abundance, which focus on finding specific things to be thankful for in even the cloudy days while listening to “Tell Me a Story” on Phillip Phillips’ album.

“Hope is just a ray of what everyone should see
alone is the street where you found me
scared of what’s behind you
and scared of what’s in front
live with what you have now
and make the best of what’s to come.”

Phillips sings to me his guitar-stringed thoughts on the world, and I find myself so grateful for his words that I want to share them with anyone who reads. Quite the paradox, since today’s Simple Abundance entry cites the thoughts of author Melody Beattie.

“Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow,” she said.

Tantalizing little cursor on a blank screen? You’re no match for me. Trouble lighting the match for my lantern of love? Forget about it. There is hope in gratitude, even on a day like today.

 

Silently Speaking: Life’s Little Reminders January 3, 2013

I’m a glass-half-full kind of dog. I wake up each day and make a heartfelt commitment to see the good in people, places and things. But even our best intentions get challenged. For me, a constant challenge to my outlook on life is silence. I hate not being able to talk. Perhaps that’s why I find such comfort in writing down my thoughts…because the silence drives me bonkers.Smiling for Silence

What I find most ironically disturbing about silence is how it can be more powerful than words. As a lover of words, I can’t help but wonder why is it that silence speaks so loudly?

I take the challenge. I am going to find something good to say about silence. Let us welcome Sir Francis Bacon to the conversation. Talk about finding the good in people. The English philosopher wore many hats, including one of disgrace following his political career. Yet somehow, he remains thought of as the creator of empiricism and respected for his influence on philosophy and science.

“Silence is the sleep that nourishes wisdom,” he once said. Well, I like sleep. And I love wisdom. In fact, I think my passion for wisdom got me in some trouble recently.

I noticed today that I have been one day ahead of myself in my journey with Simple Abundance. Clearly the problem is not my obvious enthusiasm for this journey of my mine. But that got me to thinking about life’s little reminders to hit the pause button from time to time. To be still in this super-sized, action-packed, fast-forward world. To respect the silence.

And we’re really missing out. Its been my experience that (even though silence is not my favorite thing) sometimes the stillness speaks to us in ways no words can interrupt. Southern novelist Mark Twain knew a thing or two about this. “The right word may be effective,” he said, “but no word was ever as effective as a rightly timed pause.” So today I pause my Simple Abundance experience and (in doing so) find something good to say about silence.