Sunday, April 28, 2013

Paradoxical Commandment #3


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I am a Spurs fan.  Always have been.  Though I have made my home in another city for the past 15 years, my hear still beats for the black and silver.  I have always appreciated their poise and character, and have dedicated my basketball fandom to the Spurs for all time.

There are those who hate the Spurs as much as I love them.  They see the organization as an upstart, broadcasting their team-first mentality in a sport full of me-first players.  The decry the lack of heroics, they complain about the lack of a flashy superstar, and they loathe the absence of drama surrounding the humble Spurs.

So, we arrive at the third Paradoxical Commandment:

If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies. Succeed anyway.

http://www.sportsmemes.net/pics/4752.jpgThe Spurs have found plenty of true enemies, though I have not encountered many I would describe as false friends (fans); I am sure they are out there.  Plenty of other successful NBA organizations have gathered false friends (I can visualize the flood of fans fleeing the Lakers bandwagon at the moment), and I count myself among the true enemies of such teams as the Lakers, the Mavericks, and the Jazz (I am shaking my fist at you, Karl Malone).

Have the complaints about the Spurs’ style stopped them from pursuing excellence on their terms?  No.  They believe in their formula and execute it to the best of their abilities, turning deaf ears towards their critics.  Their success has lead the Spurs organization to consistently rank at the top of the four major sports in the US.

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Yes, this is Teen Wolf.  The original.  They
wanted the wolf.  He gave them a win.
We have all seen the movie where the hero stumbles as success goes to their head.  The false friends abandon them and the true enemies revel in their failure.  The story never ends there, though.  The hero gets back up, believing in the possibility of success, and tries again, achieving their goal no matter what it takes. 

We all have the choice.  Succumb to those around us or go out and find your success.  Find it no matter who follows in your wake.  Success is worth it.

- I first encountered an adapted version of the “Paradoxical Commandments,” titled “The Final Analysis,” while listening to a Wayne Dyer audio CD in my early twenties.  The meaning and message struck me as true, helping guide my thoughts and actions as I developed from a big kid into a real adult.  Later, I discovered the poem was not actually written by Mother Theresa at all, but adapted, framed, and hung on the wall in her Calcutta orphanage.  She cared about its message enough to use it to empower the weak and marginalized children to whom she gave her life.

The Paradoxical Commandments are reprinted with permission.  © Copyright Kent M. Keith 1968, renewed 2001


Sunday, April 21, 2013

Paradoxical Commandment #2


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People often assume the worst of others.  We judge too quickly, assigning motive to actions with little to no information.  Then, when true facts arrive, the unfortunate strength contained within first impressions cements our original impressions despite evidence to the contrary.  Conversely, the same actions affect other people’s view towards us.

Dr. Kent M. Keith’s second Paradoxical Commandment stands to battle the reality of the above paragraph.

If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.  Do good anyway.

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The definition of “good” fluctuates based on perspective.  What I perceive as good may not be the same as you.  People with shared cultural values tend to believe in similar “good,” but not always.  Just take a look at the political landscape of the last few years.  Though Republicans and Democrats claim to work towards the highest good for our country, they quickly decry anything the other party presents as “good” for the country, accusing each other of selfish and ulterior motives.

The same can be seen on platforms as immense as the geopolitical landscape or as tiny as inter-office politics.  The human inclination towards distrust clouds our judgement.  Dr. Keith suggests ignoring negative opinion, or at the very least acknowledging and summarily dismissing its existence, continuing with actions in which we find inherent goodness.

This commandment contains two powerful suggestions - do good no matter what, and don't worry about what other people think.  Acting in this spirit helps to move you forward on solid footing.

http://24.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_m6k1glZ2aA1rw3tv8o1_500.jpgI believe in the contagion of good actions.  Good breeds good.  One good turn deserves another.  Pay it forward.  No matter the collection of words, the intent and meaning carries truth and power.  Despite how others may view your actions, and no matter the size, the inherent truth and goodness contained within infects others.  Soon, through consistent good action, your life changes.  You become contagious.  You infect others.  Goodness spreads.  The disease others decried as self-serving becomes the norm instead of the oddity.

Remember, it is none of your business what other people think about you.  All it takes is one action to kickstart it all.


- I first encountered an adapted version of the “Paradoxical Commandments,” titled “The Final Analysis,” while listening to a Wayne Dyer audio CD in my early twenties.  The meaning and message struck me as true, helping guide my thoughts and actions as I developed from a big kid into a real adult.  Later, I discovered the poem was not actually written by Mother Theresa at all, but adapted, framed, and hung on the wall in her Calcutta orphanage.  She cared about its message enough to use it to empower the weak and marginalized children to whom she gave her life.

The Paradoxical Commandments are reprinted with permission.  © Copyright Kent M. Keith 1968, renewed 2001

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Paradoxical Commandment #1


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Words have always had power over me.  Crafted correctly, hammered together in creative ways, they illuminate this experience we call life.  Written or spoken, powerful words have always moved the human race.  Over the next weeks, I will explore a collection of words that have guided me for the past decade.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/2/27/Pentagon_vietnam_protests.jpg/300px-Pentagon_vietnam_protests.jpgDr. Kent M. Keith penned “The Paradoxical Commandments” in 1968 as part of a pamphlet titled The Silent Revolution: Dynamic Leadership in the Student Council.  Dr. Keith, at the time a 19 year old sophomore at Harvard, sought to empower the rebellious youth of the ‘60s by offering an alternative to violence by creating change within the system.  He echoes the sentiment found in the paraphrased words often attributed to Mohandas Gandhi - “Be the change you want to see in the world.

This week, I dwell on the first commandment, quite possibly the most frustrating of the ten for me.

People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered. Love them anyway.

Right away, the difficulty stands out.  I encountered this problem more as a public school teacher than I have at any other point in my life.  Each student arrives carrying their own baggage, every parent their own perceptions, and every colleague their own agenda.  Schools lie at the epicenter of our culture, sending wave after wave of students into the world, reflections of the people they encountered in their youth.  Those waves have the power to destroy.  They also have the power build.

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Not me.  I am not that pretty.
I live in an auto-centric city; we drive everywhere.  Of course I have cursed other drivers for their illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered decisions while behind the wheel.  The road offers a great education in the first commandment.  Finding the patience, the resolve, and the commitment to allow others to drive how they will, without growing angry, breeds a sense of peace in the rest of our lives.  

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Does this make you mad?  Does it surprise you?
Are you surprised when the sky is blue?  You know what to expect when you step from your home and look up, so why be surprised?  The same is true for people.  Why do we allow what we already know about other people to affect us?

Ultimately, the most profound aspect of the first commandment lies within its simplicity.  We know people are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.  We KNOW it.  So, why do we respond with anything other than love?

Accept what you already know to be true.  People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.  Why give them the power to dictate your moods, your feelings, and your actions?  Reserve the power for yourself.  Follow the first commandment and choose to love them instead.

I don’t always consider myself successful in my attempts to live by the first commandment.  Certain people press buttons more than others.  Driving always offers opportunities to practice love.  Strangers who leave shopping carts in the middle of parking lots test my strength.  But, despite every temptation towards an angry, negative response, I strive to hold tightly to the spirit of the first paradoxical commandment.  I am a person who loves first, no matter the situation.  Every day in which I practice this belief leads me closer to living a life in which it is absolutely and permanently true.


- I first encountered an adapted version of the “Paradoxical Commandments,” titled “The Final Analysis,” while listening to a Wayne Dyer audio CD in my early twenties.  The meaning and message struck me as true, helping guide my thoughts and actions as I developed from a big kid into a real adult.  Later, I discovered the poem was not actually written by Mother Theresa at all, but adapted, framed, and hung on the wall in her Calcutta orphanage.  She cared about its message enough to use it to empower the weak and marginalized children to whom she gave her life.

The Paradoxical Commandments are reprinted with permission.  © Copyright Kent M. Keith 1968, renewed 2001

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Step One

You might have noticed my absence from the blogosphere for the last few weeks.  As March rolled on, I made a decision to actually finish first draft of the novel.  Instead of using my morning time to blog the last few weeks, I used it to write my novel.  On Easter Sunday, I finally completed one of the first steps of a project that has stretched eight years now.  With 92,418 words spread over 476 double-spaced pages, the first draft is complete.  I will make content edits next, then move to proofing.  I am excited to move on in the project and start a few more.  I plan on completing two more novels this year while submitting this work to agents and publishers.  Wish me luck!  If you are interested in reading the opening chapter, I have posted it here.  Enjoy!  Now, on to today’s blog.



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Sometimes in our lives, we fail to believe in something until we have proof.  Though many of our lives our built on some sort of faith in larger ideals, when it comes to smaller, personal ideas, skepticism rules the day.  As a writer, I have experienced this sort of faith challenge for a long time.

I have always held the idea of “Frank Chambers - author” close to my heart.  In High School and college, I channeled my words through poetry, usually the tortured heart type as I struggled to understand both the pain and joy of finding love.  Interestingly enough, my painful poetry dried up not long after I met my wife, leaving my writing whimsically descriptive and metaphysically introspective (click for some less tortured examples).

http://www.the-iss.com/2009/06/30/img/diploma.jpgIn 2004, after returning from performing in London for a time, I faced a decision about my future.  Writing remained my passion, though I did not write at the time.  So, in order to fuel the fire, I enrolled in post-baccalaureate English classes.  I figured an English degree would help me feel like a writer.  

Unfortunately, during my first semester back, I faced the first of many internal hurdles.  Instead of following through with that path, I chose to fall back on what I knew I did well - music.  I reasoned that I could earn my teaching certificate, teach band for money, and write at the same time.  Since my certificate would take two years of classes to earn, I might as well get my Masters in Performance at the same time.

Where is the time to write in all of that?  Exactly.  I succumbed to my own personal skepticism, failing to trust in myself and my dreams.

So, fast forward to 2005.  I got married.  I scratched down some notes on a story idea called the Lone Procession, but didn’t do much with it.  

In 2006 I graduated with my Masters and teaching certificate and started teaching high school band.  The plan commenced.  The writing did not.  Those readers who teach band understand the lack of free time, or energy to write when free time occurs.

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In 2008, I realized four years had passed.  I hadn’t done a thing.  Writer?  Nope.  Unless I planned on abandoning my supposed passion, I had better get moving.  I resumed making notes on the Lone Procession.  I spent many a night in creative avoidance, performing “research” on how to write.  Finally, I wrote a chapter that is now the prologue.

So in 2010, again realizing how much time had passed since I decided to write, I came across a very simple statement.  The first step to being a writer is to write.  Duh!  Without active writing, I am just a dreamer, an idea factory sitting idle.  The universe smacked me in the face, placed the paddles on my chest, yelled “Clear!” and shocked me back to life.  I began my blog.  I wrote.  

In 2011, I changed my career to free up time to write, taking faith steps I should have been strong enough to take in 2004.  I started transforming The Lone Procession into a novel.

http://www.foodbloggersofcanada.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/Writing.jpgThe question of when to refer to myself as a writer still plagues me.  I am not a published author yet, but does being published grant me the title?  Is there a graduation from amateur to professional?  No.  I am a writer because I write.  It remains as simple as that.  I write a blog.  I have completed a novel.  Despite knowing this, the internal skeptic still cringes when Samantha refers to me as an author.

Now, I sit here writing, still doubtful, still scared, still mildly skeptical.  My belief barrier has taken some blows; it leans a little crookedly, the light hiding behind it shining through new cracks.  I have taken step one though, and while I still find embracing full belief challenging, step two looks much easier than it did before.  All it took was one step.