Tag Archives: Destination

Provoked to Excellence

“Negativity will either distract you from your purpose or it will provoke you to excellence”

J.M. Cortés

 

Copyright © 2013 J.M. Cortés 

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The Light of the North Star

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Spinning blue orb, how you change how you shift

North is unfound at full pass, final twist

Magnetic influence from temporal means

Mislead the mortal to trust, to lean

Small metal compass, your needle a north sees

An imbalanced axis  an untrue divinity

Turn from the instrument, look to the dark sky

Behold the starry host, find a ladle on high

Placed on his small back, at the tip of his tail

Little bear has a light by which you may sail

His name is Polaris some call him Lodestar

A guide in the heavens to carry you far

His north is true unlike all earthly means

Set your course in the rays of his celestial beams

Celestial North

 by J.M. Cortés

In North America, True North is not found by looking at which direction a compass needle points. Compasses are based on Magnetic North which is influenced by the earth’s axis. Our earth’s axis is in constant motion which means Magnetic North is also in constant motion. With that said, it is estimated that Magnetic North reallocates anywhere from 20 to 40 miles a year. So trusting any compass to accurately find True North would be impractical.

To find True North we must look to the stars and there we will find it…a Celestial North. Easily found in the night sky is a constellation known as Ursa Minor which is Latin for Little Bear. This constellation depicts a readily visible form that many know as ‘the little dipper’. The brightest star in this constellation is at the tip of the little dipper’s handle. This star is known as Polaris, which is the most current North Star. Next time you see it, point at it and make a line to the ground. You will see True North…Celestial North.

The poem I wrote is a metaphor for guidance sought outside the limitations of the temporal. It is ironic that measures to find our way are often based on variable means. Earth is always changing, always spinning. Seasons change bringing with it temperatures of extreme cold or intense heat. The same parched ground that pulls from the sidewalk becomes saturated in a deluge of rain then covered by snow and ice. These are a symbol of humanity with its temporality and inevitable change. As the compass needle points to ‘a north’ our efforts can point toward ‘a destination’. But what if that destination is not where we really want to be? What if we were meant to be somewhere else? Something else? Someone else? Our terrestrial nature is inexplicably connected to a celestial one. Allow them to connect, look up and find Celestial North.

Copyright © 2013 J.M. Cortés 

Direction and Destination

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“For the ship without direction or destination, any wind will do”

The thought of being without direction or a destination is something we must never accept. Maturity acknowledges that life can change fast and unexpected; it will disorient even those who excel in focus. But there is a vast difference between situational disorientation and aimless wandering. We have all met people whose sum of initiative was merely to exist in the moment. The bare minimum was enough to satisfy them and absolutely no effort would be made to travel beyond it. We all have met them: they have worked beside us, lived near us, and may even be related; they live life in a transitory state avoiding commitment and responsibility.

Perhaps it is fear that causes people to live life this way; perhaps its anger. Possibly they became conditioned for it through the environment they were raised in. Today I listened to an educator talk about homes where a child’s academic success was optional. I have personally known individuals who communicated to their children a dismissive attitude regarding education; “a job pays bills, not a school”.  Whatever the cause, without direction or destination, there cannot be expectation either. It could be that expectation itself is the enemy to those without drive. If someone does not have any expectations they are safe from disappointment as well.

The United Nations has declared the ocean floor has evidence of 3 million ship wrecks on it. There are many causes for shipwrecks: storms, navigational error, and a ship being over loaded. However the most common cause is when a ship runs aground. A ship that runs aground typically hits a sandbar or rocks near shore causing the hull to be pierced and the ship becomes entangled. Then the ebb and flow of the tide works to literally pull the ship apart. It seems logical that the most destructive threat against a ship is when it does not serve its purpose.

Our lives are like ships; we cannot prevent the storms of life but we can navigate them. Our navigational skills are honed by learning from our experiences. Sometimes we drop our anchor and weather the storm, sometimes we move forward in spite of it. Sometimes we try to bear more than we should and casting off the excess becomes necessary.  But most importantly, we must have direction and destination otherwise we will become lost at sea. If we are without purpose, we are like a ship that moves toward shallow waters near land and faces the severe risk of running aground.

“A ship in port is safe. But that’s not what ships are built for” – Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper

Copyright © 2012 J.M. Cortés

TABULA RASA

The dichotomy of mind-body duality and the basis for intellect was never resolved by Plato or Aristotle. The idea of ‘innate ideas’ did not sit well with Aristotle and we know Plato had a problem; how could someone understand something but not know how they understand it? This problem came about when his student, Socrates, purposely engaged an uneducated servant in discussion of the Pythagorean Theorem. The servant had never been taught any geometry so how could he comprehend the theory Socrates presented him? Plato’s conclusion was people must have a preexistent soul or some reservoir of innate knowledge.

Aristotle, though a student of Plato, countered his theory by stating humanity appears on earth with an ‘unscribed tablet’; just as the brain grows in size during development so can the mind. This unscribed tablet becomes ‘written upon’ by the environment in which it is placed. About 7 centuries later, Avicenna of Persia advanced this ‘unscribed tablet’ theory and it would become better known by its Latin rendering “tabula rasa”. Then about 6 centuries later, Rene Descartes of France (the ‘I think therefore I am’ guy) articulated, the mind, unlike the brain was a nonphysical substance. Recognizing a distinction between consciousness and intelligence, he stated “…something that I thought I was seeing with my eyes is in fact grasped solely by the faculty of judgment which is in my mind”.

Place a stick in a glass of water and observe how it appears bent. The mind could perceive it is really bent though logic states otherwise. That’s where the rub was with Plato; a presumption that either 1) the viewer thought the stick was truly bent and 2) the stick straightened out when removed from the glass of water. Simple deduction tells us the stick never bent at all, it was merely a distortion by an improper view.

I don’t understand all I know about what they were fussing over. But I do appreciate the idea of a Tabula Rasa.

An unscribed tablet speaks to me about opportunity; it demonstrates the hope of a new beginning. We have often wished for a ‘clean slate’ to start over with. Like the old green chalk board, a good swabbing down with the dusty eraser and smears of white chalk is all that remains. Sometimes life will not offer a clean slate to us so we have to exercise our own power to create one. Sometimes you are the only one who can change what’s going on in your life. A fresh start awaits you but you will have to seize the moment and take dominion over your life. Find your eraser and do not be afraid to start over.

Reading Plato or Aristotle, to some degree, we get what they aimed at. But we also find issues with some of the theories they conveyed. An open mind is essentially what Aristotle was in support of. The mind is capable of comprehension; it just needs environment and opportunity. As I write this, I am reminded of the first commentary I wrote this year that spoke of The Scapegoat. We are already approaching the 5th month of 2013 and time seems to pass so quickly. As I reflect upon events that have occurred in my life over the last 6-7 months, I think about that Scapegoat but more importantly about a Tabula Rasa.

I would hate to think that I was a prisoner to a predetermined fate. That nothing I did or said could ever make a difference in the direction my life takes. If a preexistent soul has always been, then the condition displayed by fragile humanity offers little hope! I am thankful that God alone has always been, always is and always will be. And I am more thankful that He provides erasers.

Copyright © 2012 J.M. Cortés

Perspective

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Raising the window shade to look again, I still could not see anything. First it was 15 minutes, then 30, and soon an hour had passed. There we sat waiting to begin our flight out of Washington and yet our plane had scarcely moved from the loading bridge. I could not recall a time where I had seen fog so dense, it was as if we were surrounded by billows of smoke. Finally the fog dissipated enough for the Captain to announce we would depart and I was hoping he could see more than I could. Taxiing along the runway then launching forward, we soon took flight. Climbing to 10,000 feet, then 20,000, we finally were cruising at nearly 40,000 feet. The view from that same window now presented a much different perspective; a clear blue sky and hardly any clouds could be seen.

This experience represents how perspective influences response to a situation. Nothing changed concerning the weather, but our perspective changed when we rose above it.  Many times perspective becomes obscured by difficulties, interactions with negative people, or having a pessimistic attitude. While we cannot prevent every difficulty, we can control how we respond to it. We cannot transform the negative outlook others  have but we do not have to be influenced by it. And of all these things, the one we have most power over is our own attitude. Our attitude is formed and shaped by our perspective.  “Two men look out through the same bars, one sees the mud and one the stars” (F. Langbridge)

Perspective and Difficulty

When we are confronted by difficulty, regardless of its degree, the mind immediately formulates a response. The situation may be different but the response is typically consistent with our nature.  As the density of the fog hindered visibility for flight, difficult times can hinder our vision. It’s hard to believe when everything is falling apart that a resolution is possible. Or at the least, it has an end.  The day before posting this article, I was flying in a small non-commercial aircraft. As we began our descent, the pilot told me we would encounter turbulence very soon. Descending into clouds that had been below us, we now flew in a pattern that kept us surrounded by them. Visibility was zero. The pilot responded to my surprise by stating the instrumentation is what we were now relying on. When flying in zero visibility, a pilot cannot follow feelings or perspective. Spatial disorientation might cause them to feel they are going one way when they might be going another.  When difficult times disorient us, our perspective can become our undoing. This is where the importance of positive (and higher) influences becomes most evident.

Perspective and Negative People

“Protect your spirit from contamination; limit your time with negative people.”  – Thelma Davis

Naysayers, whiners, and skeptics are everywhere. These people walk among us criticizing and complaining about everything. Some of them do not even view “the glass as half empty”; they have a readymade presentation about the insufficiencies of the glass itself. They are trained well in the art of minimizing potential and maximizing limitation. These people have rallied associates for their cause as well; an alliance based on their ability to offer fear and anxiety. They see the dark side of things; citing chapter and verse on how pitiful things are. They see the worst in people and the worst in every situation. Avoid their toxicity; they should not be permitted the opportunity to distort your perspective.

Perspective and Attitude

Remember “Tough times don’t last but tough people do”. Once I have reached the other side of a trial, I know it helps to reflect on the perspective I had during it. I try to think about how I felt and how I was thinking when it started, then the same when it was over. This helps me to work toward attaining a proper perspective when the next trial arises. Proper perspective of the past helps to have a proper perspective of the future. On the flip side, I am reminded of material I used to teach anger management that used an allegory of “life views and windows of time”. The material created a metaphor of people standing before “windows of the past, present, and future”.  Viewing life (and thus living it) from a window view of the past is not constructive. You cannot undo what has happened and regret will only create negative feelings for today. Living life from a window view of the future can create anxiety and stress. The material encouraged focus on living life from a window view of the present. We cannot change the past but the future is best prepared for by focusing on the present.

“It’s your attitude, not your aptitude that determines your altitude”.  If you’ve ever heard Zig Ziglar speak, you probably have heard him say this!

What kind of perspective do you have? Where has it taken you? Or by contrast, what has it taken from you?

Seek a higher perspective and once you have attained it, seek a higher one than that.

My Photo

 

 

Copyright © 2012 J.M. Cortés

2013: The Scapegoat comes to an End…

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Photograph: Copyright © 2009 Mike Bade

“Victory has many fathers but defeat is an orphan” – Galeazzo Ciano

It was considered by all of them a time of new beginnings. Expectation and aspirations filled the air as if they were a soft, enticing fragrance. The weather made its transition from the rain-less  scorching days of summer to a tranquility offered by no other season than autumn. Situated far enough east of the Mediterranean Sea, the city escaped the residual humidity lingering from the end of the season. The nights were just shy of being cold and the daily temperatures would not overheat but offer comfortable warmth instead.

The citizens of the city gathered in the temple’s courtyard and all eyes were upon the High Priest. He made his way to the Upper Gate that was situated on the eastern side of the courtyard. There waiting for him was a bound goat bleating sounds of frustration. When the High Priest stood before the goat, he dropped his right hand down hard upon the head of the goat. Hand in place; he began to confess the shared failings and transgressions of the people over the goat. At this action, those assembled in the courtyard fell prostrate silently whispering their own confessions of failure.

At the conclusion of this the High Priest commanded the goat be lead out of the courtyard, out of the city and into the wilderness. This goat became known as the scapegoat; all of their failures as individuals and as a nation were now imparted upon it. It was banished to the wilderness and sometimes purposefully led to a cliff for it to wander off of.

What I have described is how the holiday of Yom Kippur was celebrated in antiquity.  This holiday occurs in the first month of the Hebrew calendar which corresponds to September. It was believed that God during the beginning of the month would inscribe the person’s fate for the upcoming year in a Book of Life. Then on the day of Yom Kippur, the outcome would be sealed.

Today is January 1 of 2013 and all have received a new beginning. The misinterpretation of what December 21 signified on the Mayan Calendar’s was confirmed nearly 2 weeks ago. We are beyond that as well as the rest of 2012’s misinterpretations. Was 2012 a year defined by success for you? Was it a year of defeat? Reflecting on the events of the year, we might recall tears shed in sadness and tears shed for joy. We might reflect upon good memories and bad memories. But regardless of what we remember the most of, the focus must now be upon 2013.

At the beginning of this commentary was a quote found in the diary of Benito Mussolini’s son in law who was a Foreign Minister of Italy. Things were changing in him and his view of his country’s role in World War 2. His statement sums up the feelings of many who pursue success (victory). Everyone is ready to stand up for the credit of what worked, what solved the problem, and what made the difference. Yet when things fall apart rarely does anyone want their name attached to it. We’ve seen it in every social dynamic from work to family situations to events involving friends or acquaintances. While there are many contributing factors to something being defined successful, most important is that which was is honestly a part of it. Credit should be given where credit is due and what did not work needs to be admitted to as well.

I recently read a quote of Will Smith that encapsulates what I am confronting in this commentary. He said: “If you’re absent during my struggle don’t expect to be present during my success”. A true friend, a true companion, a true love will be with you when you are down and when you are up. Life will take you down some hard roads and when the day of reckoning finally arrives look up and see who is standing with you. They are your support base, they are your real friends, and they are the ones who truly love you. And when failure comes to those you care about, do not abandon them but help them. Lose the judgmentalism, don’t focus on the disappointment, and forget about saying “I told you so”. Take them by the hand, lift them up and walk with them. Whichever side you find yourself on of this paradigm, beware of contemplating the use of a scapegoat.

Many spend their entire lives depending upon the scapegoat; something they can blame their failures on. To them it seems easier to rely on their scapegoat as their prepared response. They can ascribe their shortcomings to it then cast it out to a place where it will never be found. The scapegoat will be an option for you in 2013 but you must choose another way. When difficulty comes, when resistance confronts you, do not run nor reach for the scapegoat. Settle it in your mind now: you will encounter trouble and somewhere an obstructionist awaits you. There is also a possibility those standing with you now might not be by the end of 2013.

You must decide that you will rise with them or in spite of them.

Copyright © 2012 J.M. Cortés

 

Relativism…the road that leads nowhere

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Anaximander, a pre-Socratic philosopher, is thought to have been the first to create a map of the known world. His visionary efforts at cartography would serve as a foundation for modern day geography. He, like other early map makers, created their maps with Greece as the centre of the world. This was primarily rooted in national pride with an idea of Greece as the world’s epicenter. But on a deeper level, this revealed a great deal about their overall world view. This “center of the world” mentality did not end with the map makers of antiquity; it is alive and well today. One of the ways it manifests today is through ‘Relativism’.

Relativism is a philosophy best defined, not by what it affirms, but rather what it denies. Relativism denies the idea of absolute truth and views “truth” as subjective. The saying “Beauty is in the eye of the Beholder” could be the sum of Relativism – “Truth is in the eye of the beholder”. What drives Relativism is an idea that what is true for some might not be true for others. Truth becomes relative to some point of reference rather than actually existing in a tangible fashion. Again, Relativism is best defined by what it denies not what it affirms. The first recognized father of Relativism was Protagoras who said: “Man is the measure of all things”. He placed humanity as being the author and definer of Truth. Both Socrates and Plato opposed Protagoras’ philosophy by pointing out its foundational compromise. To emphatically deny the existence of absolute truth would also be an admission to a truth’s existence (i.e. emphatic denial of absolute truth).

Relativism is duplicity in the least and a precursor to anarchy at worse. I say this because I believe the end of a thing should be the basis for its beginning. What is the ending point of Relativism? How would Relativism and our Legal System coexist? Is there a basic and universal code of morals that humanity should abide by? According to Relativism’s end, these morals become subjective; one may believe they are right while another chooses not to. Proponents of Relativism fancy themselves as anti-establishment which is driven by a perception of free will. I recognize that perspectives are influenced by cultural, racial, and educational points of view. But there has to be a prevailing reality; there also has to be an absolute truth.

A term associated with Relativism is Postmodernism. This term retains some use in westernized culture but is dissolving in parts of Europe. Postmodernism claims that realities are social constructs subject to change. This is upheld by Relativism’s assertion that absolute truth is nonexistent and “binary classifications” are what creates a division. Thus a reality’s existence becomes dependent on a demographic with its ideals and agenda. When the demographic shifts its focus on something else, the reality adjusts or dissolves. As the demographic evolves the reality evolves with it.

You are perhaps familiar with the parable of 7 blind men and an elephant. The lesson presented in this parable depicts blind men attempting to describe what they felt an elephant was like. To one man an elephant was like a wall for he felt its side. To another an elephant was like a pillar for he felt its feet. To another an elephant was like a brush, for he only felt the tip of its tail. Thus each blind mind’s perspective was right according to their experience. Relativism would say all of them are right because they are basing their concept of an elephant on their perspective.

But is an elephant a wall, pillar or brush? No, an elephant is a mammal in the pachyderm classification. This is not a subjective truth, this is a quantified reality based on a scientific classification. Systems of Law, Morality, and such like are the same. For a society to remain intact it needs boundaries otherwise it will fall into barbarianism. Relativism may fancy itself as enlightened thought but I say it is reductionist thinking and a pretext for people to do what they want. Some folks are like the original map makers, wherever they are is where they think the world begins. There is a reason the great thinkers of antiquity opposed Relativism; it is a road that leads nowhere.

Copyright © 2012 J.M. Cortés