You Can’t Just Stay On The Fence

“When your intelligence don’t tell you something ain’t right, your conscience gives you a tap on the shoulder and says ‘Hold on.’ If it don’t, you’re a snake.” As one might expect, Carl Jung expressed Presley’s folk wisdom in somewhat more formal language; but the idea is the same, “Through pride we are ever deceiving ourselves. But deep down below the surface of the average conscience a still, small voice says to us, ‘Something is out of tune.'” Christopher Reeve also heard that inner voice, “I think we all have a little voice inside us that will guide us. It may be God, I don’t know. But I think that if we shut out all the noise and clutter from our lives and listen to that voice, it will tell us the right thing to do.”

The recurring belief is that the voice of conscience is ever-present and far less fallible than the voice of reason. For example, Josh Billings asserted, “Reason often makes mistakes but conscience never does.” Jean-Jacques Rousseau made the same point this way, “Reason deceives us often; conscience never.” Although stated less dogmatically, Joseph Cook agreed with Billings and Rousseau, “Conscience is our magnetic compass; reason our chart.”

Unfortunately, that little voice may not be quite the totally reliable key to recognizing the good and right some say it is. Samuel Butler pointed out, “Conscience is thoroughly well-bred and soon leaves off talking to those who do not wish to hear it.” As it turns out, conscience has an attitude. If you don’t pay attention to it, it may just stop paying attention to you. Were that not problem enough, what conscience is saying isn’t always clear. You can listen and still struggle to understand. As William Dean Howells pointed out, “The difficulty is to know conscience from self-interest.”

Conscience and reason are having a fight. They go back and forth all through the night. It’s a right to the nose and a left to the chin. When morning comes, they start over again.

Reason says that it makes perfect sense. It’s trying to nudge you off of the fence. The tug of conscience is hard to abide. It’s pulling you hard to the other side.

You sway back and forth, first left and then right. Do you do what makes sense or do what seems right? Conscience gives you a pull, then reason a push. If this isn’t resolved, you’ll be dumped on your tush.

Does reason prevail or does the little voice win? Do you take one on the nose or one on the chin? Either way you go, it doesn’t feel good. Do you do what makes sense or do what you should?

Calm yourself and try to unwind. Take a deep breath and make up your mind. Do you go with what you think or with that little voice? It’s up to you; and you live with your choice.

Now you know so there you go.

Test Your Teen

Young people, like adults, have better days and worse days. Even so, they typically stay toward the middle between better and worse and seldom drift very far toward worse. They have many more up days than down, with the down days being reasonably described as feeling sad or just bummed out.

The point is that as dramatic as youngsters can sometimes be, they do not normally get seriously down or depressed; and when they do, it does not last more than a few days. They rebound fairly quickly.

The same holds for their behavior and adjustment. They keep it between the lines most of the time; and if they get a little out of bounds, it is unusual and temporary.

The following statements describe a well-adjusted young person. Although any youngster is unlikely to fit the descriptions all the time, the descriptions fit most young people most of the time. When a youngster’s behavior or adjustment noticeably deviates from the description, concern is appropriate. If the problem or issue goes on for more than a few days, something is going on that needs appropriate adult intervention. Talk with the young person about your concern. If that does not lead to positive change within a couple of weeks, consider consulting with a professional who has expertise in working with young people. If the problem or issue is more severe or serious, do not wait to initiate your intervention.

1. Is energetic and interested in what is going on around him or her.

2. Feels attractive.

3. Is relaxed and comfortable with himself or herself.

4. Likes himself or herself.

5. Is self-confident.

6. Has a normal appetite and eating habits.

7. Stays away from drugs and alcohol.

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Leave Foot Prints

“Stubbornness does have its helpful features. You always know what you are going to be thinking tomorrow.” — Glen Beaman

Stubbornness certainly has its up side. It’s like the famous Anon. said, “Most people are more comfortable with old problems than with new solutions.” While you are considering how relaxed you will be though, ponder Doug Floyd’s point, “You don’t get harmony when everybody sings the same note.” The truth of the matter is that it can quickly get down right boring.

There is another snag that can seriously temp you to stick to the same ol’, same ol’. J. K. Galbraith described it this way, “The conventional view serves to protect us from the painful job of thinking.” Sure, thinking can be painful; but more to the point, it’s frequently hard work. As Henry Ford said, “Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is probably the reason why so few engage in it. ” If you were born tired and haven’t rested up yet, thinking probably just isn’t for you; but…. – and there’s always a “but.” This particular “but” was slipped in by Bertrand Russell who said, “In all affairs it’s a healthy thing now and then to hang a question mark on the things you have long taken for granted.”

If you are like many other folks, you may believe that you are doing fine and don’t need to bother hanging a question mark on anything. You may strongly feel that you are in good company and on the right road; but the famous Anon. had a bit of homespun wisdom worth a moment’s thought, “Don’t think you’re on the right road just because it’s a well-beaten path;” and while you are on a roll with the famous Anon., don’t forget that, “Before you can break out of prison, you must first realize you’re locked up.”

Are you ready to make a break for it? If so, Dr. Seuss suggested the perfect strategy for you, “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”

If the notion of having your own thoughts and ideas causes you discomfort and anxiety, Tolkien had a helpful insight, “Not all those who wander are lost.” At the same time, John Locke had a further insight to help you make it through the transition to thinking for yourself, “New opinions are always suspected, and usually opposed, without any other reason but because they are not already common.” People’s disagreeing does not mean you are wrong. It’s like the famous Anon. said, “One who walks in another’s tracks leaves no footprints;” and footprints of your own you will and should leave. As you leave your footprints along the road to thinking for yourself, Satchel Paige had what may be the only advice you need, “Ain’t no man can avoid being average, but there ain’t no man got to be common.”

Now you know so there you go.

You’re Just Going Too Slow

“Are things out of control?” This is a most interesting question. You likely ask yourself this question sometimes and experience pronounced anxiety as you consider the answer. The problem is, of course, if things are out of control, there is no predicting the outcome. The possibility of a huge crash is out there and the prospect is somewhere between alarming and terrifying. Even if things are out of control, odds are that the outcome will be acceptable; but…. Perhaps Mario Andretti had a thought worth remembering, “If everything’s under control, you’re going too slow.”

You have both experienced this existential anxiety and have thought about the intense level of uneasiness associated with it. It’s indeed uncomfortable and evokes feelings of self-doubt, frustration, and a sense of helplessness. At times, these feelings can be overwhelming and nearly paralyzing.

If you run this issue by Sparky (a local guru on the topic) you may be quite taken aback to learn that the question itself is a product of retrograde thinking. Sparky will point out that the question is based on an invalid assumption. It assumes that things should be in control and that control is a desirable state. Not being one to stop with a brief comment and a few fries, That Sparky will probably go on to point out that most everyone has been in environments where control was the central priority and the major goal of those in charge.

Did you like that? Was that anymore comfortable? Is controlling the right thing to do? Do you want things to be controlled by you or anyone else? At that point, you may want to tell Sparky to take those fries and….

Once you’ve had a chance to settle down some, asked Sparky a different question. “If having things in control is not what we want, then what do we want?” As you might expect, Sparky says, “Now, there is a great question,” as he gets up and goes out to find some more fries. Giving a great impression of Columbo, he pauses and adds, “I doubt if it is having things in control, though.”

Perhaps the right question is actually, “Are you getting better and better at getting better and better, one issue at a time?” That question is easy. You certainly are, even though you lose the perspective once in a while as you see that you are not yet nearly as good as you need to be, as you are going to be. Still, you are a lot better at it than you were last month and much better than you were last year. When the anxiety comes, and it will, just think about how good you are going to be at it this time next year; and keep in mind what Lao Tzu said, “He who controls others may be powerful but he who has mastered himself is mightier still.” Now there is an awesome thought! It also goes very well with fries.

Now you know so there you go.

93 Things to Say and Do in a Pinch

When dealing with people at work or at home, do you find yourself at a loss as to what to do or how to proceed now and then? If not, good for you, but if you are merely human like the rest of us, here’s a bulletin for you. There are always things to say, things to do.

Here are ninety-three that you can pick from the next time you find yourself in a pinch. Just pick one, any one, and go for it. They all work in a pinch. If you have five minutes to explore the full set, it’s always okay to select the exact one that best fits what’s happening right now. If you are feeling rushed, just pick one and go for it. Either way, you will never again be at a loss as to what to say or do.


You might expect a blog called Sundry Ideas to pop from topic to topic and switch from this style to that. I am up to post 30 and have definitely skipped here and there. As the sidebar declares, I am in search of my illusive muse and have been looking for her high and low.

STOP: There is a slight tickle at the edge of my mind. A thought, a possible insight is trying to catch my attention. I hear the gentle voice. The words are hard to understand but are becoming clearer. I think I hear but cannot quite assimilate the message with my existing thoughts and perceptions. The included truth cannot be true. The voice assures me as it increases in firmness and volume, it is indeed true.

Alas, I must accept the reality, am reduced to a single option. My muse never left; she has been there all along. She has stayed close at hand, as near as a whisper. It was not she who abandoned me. Rather it was I who turned a deaf ear to her. It was I who refused to listen or more correctly, refused to credit her for her efforts on my behalf. She struggles with me for the words; she is along side as I ponder what to say; she is helping as I write and then re–write. She has been there each step along the way.

Wow, I do not think sharing the details is appropriate but let me assure you being chastised by your muse is no picnic, no walk in the park, no stroll on a summer evening. As tough as it is, I must now stop looking elsewhere for causes and cures. My muse has been holding up her side of the writing equation. It is time for me to now accept full responsibility for holding up mine. No more whining about my missing muse. It is time to simply say, “What you get today is the best I can do today. It will have to do.” – Hmmm. Wonder to what else that may apply beyond blogging? There may be another post brewing in there somewhere.

BS Detectors Up!

Come with me now into the heart of the pulsing confusion that passes for reality. There we find all of the experiences that register as real and meaningful. We also register that which we call phantom and fanciful. It is a cauldron of real and not real, possible and not possible, and what we determine to be reality and the other. It’s the other on which we are focusing.

We know that our experience goes beyond what we know to be real and meaningful. It is the realm of the other. But how do we distinguish and what are the distinctions?

We want to believe that the real is that which we see but we nonetheless invasion that which we know to be of the other.

We want to believe what we hear and don’t want our ears to mislead; but even so, we hear sounds and voices that can only be from the other.

The other appears to us and intrudes as sound, but still we believe in the real but not the other.

The other may come to us through taste, touch, or smell, but we still persist in believing that we can know it is of the other and not of reality.

We like to conclude that real is what our senses tell us is real, but experience tells us that our senses provide a somewhat imperfect set of instruments for knowing the real from the other. We know that it is far from axiomatic that seeing is believing just as belief cannot be firmly based on hearing, touching, tasting, or smelling. If we are to know the real from the other, our sensory instrumentation is necessary but not sufficient.

Then what is the non-sensory capacity that supplements and corrects the reality distortion that would come through exclusive reliance on our senses? Here is where experience mediated by judgment and intelligence can serve us, can prevent most if not all false positives and false negatives. This internal capacity has the potential to protect us from the mistakes of our senses, protect us from believing that things are real which are not, thinking that things are illusions that are in fact real.

This capacity is no more useful than when we need to distinguish between truthful and valid news and information on the one hand and fake news and misinformation on the other hand. It is for each of us our built-in BS detector. This BS detector is there for each of us but frequently ignored and even more often just turned off.

What to do? Be sure that your BS detector is turned on and working correctly. Once you have assured that your BS detector is fully operative, run everything you see and hear through your personal BS detector before ever considering anything to be true or real. This starts with being skeptical with respect to anything important that you hear or are told, no matter who tells you. Other than your close friends and family, don’t believe anything you are told until you have thoughtfully run it past your personal BS detector; and even friends and family may be misrepresenting reality or distorting the truth, so beware.

Here is the conclusion. Since much of what we hear and are told is BS, simply assume that anything you hear or are told may be BS. So, keep your BS detector in front of you at all times, scanning and assessing the flow of news and information coming your way. It is the least you should do and, when you get down to it, it is the only protection we have from lies and damn lies that seek to overwhelm us.