shortbread

short, sweet, and to-the-point — by Keith Elder

Archive for the month “February, 2013”

“What Steinbeck, Gibran, and Jesus have in common”

“I was born lost and take no pleasure in being found.” – Steinbeck

“Perplexity is the beginning of knowledge.” ~ Kahlil Gibran

“Don’t rush me…I’m waiting on the last minute.” — anonymous

I am a quote-aholic. The above are quotes I cut-and-pasted just this morning from people’s Facebook quotes. I have boxes filled with spiral-bound notebooks filled with incidental words of wisdom, humor, and inspiration.

I’m not sure where it started. Maybe with the little plaques on grandmother’s walls—strategically placed for maximum readership—in bathrooms, over kitchen stoves, on den or living room walls, on top of television sets.  Quotes ranged from “This is the day the Lord hath made….” to “All fishermen are liars except you and me—and sometimes I’m not so sure about you.”

My Mom and aunts picked up the subliminal teaching/programming technique as there were always meaningful quotations around the home.

“If you run out, please don’t shout.  Just pick me up, I’ll help you out.” (on a crocheted, emergency toilet paper roll cover.)

And even more meaningful quotes:

“Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent….”—Calvin Coolidge.

Jesus quoted—God mostly. “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word (quote) that proceeds from the mouth of God.’”

What is that all about—I mean, the whole ‘quoting’ thing?  Maybe, we feel it validates us. Law is based on precedent—i.e., quoting from previous quotes in previous rulings. Maybe a quote resonates with our life struggles or joys and just “says it for us” at a particular moment in time.  Maybe it gives us a place to stand or a springboard to writing our own to-be-quotes.

They inspire. They provoke. They affirm. They connect. They support. They leave a person’s “Kilroy was here” on the cave walls of history.

What words will you leave?

The title of this little rambling is, “What Steinbeck, Gibran, and Jesus have in common.”  Answer: they’re all in my spiral-bound notebook.

Keith   2/28/2013

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“Cosby…gift-giving…and adding value”

Holding a doctoral degree in education from UMass, comic icon, Bill Cosby has always been one to teach as well as to entertain.  Thursday evenings from 1984-1992, Cosby, a.k.a. Dr. Heathcliff Huxtable taught us about marriage and family, friends (go, Cockroach), honesty and integrity, history and culture, and life in general.

Teaching, in and of itself, can be a bit dry.  Entertainment alone can also lose it’s buzz.  (Example: you can only ride Space Mountain at Disney World so many times before it loses it’s zippity doo da.)  Put the two together, though—fresh insight and a good laugh—and people will tune-in again next Thursday night.

In one episode of “The Cosby Show”, the Huxtable kids decide they will break the time-honored tradition of giving lousy Father’s Day presents. I recall a couple of the new-and-improved gifts.  Vanessa gave her dad a weather vane.  Why?… because he was always asking about the weather. Now, he could know what the weather was like outside without having to ask.  Theo’s gift was house slippers that, turned inside-out, became galoshes.  Why?  Dad loved the morning paper, so this way, he could go out to get his paper, even on rainy mornings.

All of the gifts were a little goofy. Still, Heathcliff gushed about how much he loved them—for the items themselves, but more, for the thought behind the gifts.

Keeper insight: a good gift adds value to the other person’s life—practical or sentimental.  Picking or creating such a gift takes time and thought, which means you have to actually think about the other person.  What do they like?  What might make them happy?  What might make their life a little better?  Good gift giving grows love muscles.

You can build a business around the concept. Just ask, “How can I add value to people’s lives?”  Create a product or service that addresses a legitimate need at a fair price—like the Slinky!  (O.K., bad example.)

Add value to other folks’ lives today. It’s a little humor.  It’s an on-point idea.  It’s a sincere compliment.  It’s not about getting your two-cents-worth in—that’s about you. Think about them…then offer a gift.  But, warning—they probably already have a weather vane.

Keith   2/25/2013

“Looking Up”

“October Sky” chronicles the story of Homer Hickman, a young boy in a 1950’s coal mining town, inspired by a high school science teacher to pursue his dream of becoming a rocket scientist.  Against all odds, he and three friends win a national science award and receive college scholarships.  Homer becomes a NASA scientist working alongside Werner Von Braun.

One clip that caught my attention was the final scene. Homer and his “rocket boy” friends are firing a rocket in honor of all the townspeople who had helped them along the way.  While Homer is making his humble speech, his father—a foreman at the mine who did not support Homer’s dream, and who had never seen one of the launches—appears and Homer asks him to press the ignition button.

“Five, four, three, two, one. BLAST-OFF!”  Now all eyes are looking up.  That’s what caught my attention—all eyes looking up.  The crowd at the launch site.  People in town.  Men at the mine.  Mrs. Riley, the science teacher.  Everybody was looking up!

I would like to do what the rocket boys did that day.  I would like to do something that makes people look up.  Something that inspires people.  Something that puts people in touch with their higher possibility—and we all have one.  I’m fifty-something and I would like to say to my contemporaries that the best can still be yet to come.  There’s life and love and fascination and excitement and challenge to be known and experienced—whether you have been a high achiever to date or not.

I would like to do something that makes you look up.  A song…a blog…a book.  Steeples make people look up.  Good worship does that.  Great art makes a person look up, as does a truly good person.  An inspiring speaker or visionary makes you look up.

Making people look up—someday, somewhere, somehow.  It’s a good thing.

Psalm 121:1 has something to say about looking up.

A couple of questions:  1) Who or what are you looking up to?… and 2) What is it about you that might make people around you look up?

Keith   2/23/2013

Modes and Mortals

I haven’t blogged for a couple of weeks.  Reason?  I’m working on a new CD project and my brain has been in a different room—literally and figuratively.  I write in one room and record in another.  Can’t be two places at once—physically, mentally or emotionally.  And that’s not a bad thing.

The recording process involves lots of numbers, meters, mixes and cables—and countless decisions, great and small.  Even the playing and singing are different in record mode.  It has to be just so, because once mastered and replicated, it is what it is.  The artist mode can generally be summed up in a phrase, “going with the flow.”

One day I asked acclaimed Alabama artist, Sarah Towery Carlisle, how she approached a new painting.  Wizened by experience and years, she said that her way was to sit down in front of the blank canvas with pallet and brushes–and  just begin painting.  Over time, she would paint and watch as the subject emerged.

Call them “modes”…capacities…rooms in our house of life.  We all have many. Role-wise, we are friend, spouse, parent, employee, teammate, student, etc.  Capacity-wise, we are thinker, feeler, judge, responder, reactor, talker, listener, etc.   I’m sure you could create your own lists.

Sometimes I feel guilty or inadequate because I can’t be all things to all people all the time.  Welcome to mortality. We have only so many minutes.  We can only be in one place at a time.  We can only listen—really listen—to one person at a time… read one book at a time… etc.

I love the words of Achilles (Brad Pitt) to Briseis, in the epic movie “Troy”.

“I’ll tell you a secret. Something they don’t teach you in your temple. The Gods envy us. They envy us because we’re mortal, because any moment might be our last. Everything is more beautiful because we’re doomed. You will never be lovelier than you are now. We will never be here again.”

Friend, do what you are doing now.  Do it the best you can. Enjoy the ride.  Tomorrow, if you are lucky, you will be in another mode and get to do something else.

Keith   2/04/2012

Something to Celebrate

So, the Baltimore Ravens won the Super Bowl last night.  Must have been destiny because they already had purple and gold loaded into the confetti cannons.  Fans were dancing in their seats.  Team owners and coaches and enormous, tatooed football players were hugging and crying and planning trips to Disney World. Electricians were just glad the lights didn’t go out…again.  Definitely something to celebrate.

I saw a facebook post amid the flurry of Super Bowl posts.  “The tumor was benign—Praise the Lord!”   Sort of put things into perspective.

“Juxtaposition” (one of my few two-dollar words), means to place two things side by side—usually, two very different things.  It makes both stand out   “Super Bowl victory” vs. “benign tumor.” Hmmm.

(My other two-dollar word would be “disingenuous”—but I could never use it without being disingenuous.)

Joe got home from Afghanistan. The new medication really helps with Dad’s arthritis.  It’s a girl after three boys!  It’s a boy after three girls!  The house was destroyed by the storm, but no one was hurt.  After two years without work, he finally got a great new job with benefits.

Something to celebrate.

“I finally got a cut with a major artist,” the new songwriter said proud-humbly.  I heard one established writer deadpan, “I’ve had several cuts—and a few nasty gashes.”  (Songwriters will particularly get this—when someone records your song…badly. Arghh!)

“’What day is it?’ asked Pooh.

‘It’s today,’ squeaked Piglet.

‘My favorite day,’ said Pooh.”

Dr. Robert Schuller used to open his Crystal Cathedral telecasts exuberantly with Psalm 118:24: “This is the day the Lord has made!  Let us rejoice and be glad in it!” 

Something to celebrate–this day.  Another day to kiss your spouse and hug your kids!  Another day to walk or read or create something with your own two hands! Another day to call your Mom or Dad…or enjoy a cup of your favorite coffee…or sit on the deck and feel the ocean breeze.   Been struggling?  For you (pardon the cliche, but it’s true), this is the first day of the rest of your life.

Something to celebrate!

So, what’s yours?

Keith   2/04/2012

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