August 26, 2014
“Red sky in the morning, sailor take warning…”
The above common phrase is a line from an ancient rhyme of mariners. It is based on the reddish glow of the morning sky, caused by haze or clouds related to storms in the region. The saying assumes that similar clouds are coming from the west.
Red flag is attributed to a warning. It is a signal or sign that there is some danger that should be noticed or attended to. Red flags can be of use, at railroad crossings, for severe storm warnings, as well as, an alert for potential forest fires, due to dry conditions. Wherever impending dangers are possible, a red flag warning, may be appropriate. We too, along with the animal world, are equipped with red flags. They provide us each with a personal sensor that automatically warns us of impending danger; a sense that something just is not right.
A few years ago we had a problem with pesky woodpeckers damaging the cedar siding on our house. We tried home remedies that worked for a time, but soon the pecking would resume. While searching for solutions to our problem on the internet, I stumbled upon a company that manufactured a sound system that emitted the distress calls of woodpeckers, followed by the sound of their predator, the hawk. Once installed and activated, gone were the woodpeckers. With their departure, was avoided a great potential expense in future siding repairs. The focus here is not, solely, the successful ridding of the woodpeckers, but rather a glimpse into how their red flag warning system worked. Nature provides them with that protective system to avert attacks from natural enemies. If not for it, woodpeckers, as other prey of predators, would be defenseless.
Many of us have experienced an uneasy stomach, tenseness or numbness when confronted with a circumstance that instills uncertainty. An uncertainty manifested by fear. It is as though an inner voice implores us to think before we act. In the case of the woodpecker, it is a simple reaction to the flight or fight response to danger that is natural to the animal world, and ourselves as well. We, however, have reason and foresight at our disposal. It affords us the opportunity to observe, in the less critical yet potentially dangerous circumstances, before deciding what action to take. We are capable of over-riding the defense system. We, unlike the woodpecker, wake up each morning quite aware of our physical mortality. We know that danger lurks at every turn. Our woodpecker friend does not possess that benefit or burden, because it is not of his nature. To him, danger is, when danger is.
Red flags, for us, can be both an advantage and disadvantage. A disadvantage, because we can also be frightened by those things that are potentially beneficial to us. Whether it be a new job opportunity or a new relationship, red flags can arise. For often, we are uncertain of possible unseen repercussions that may result from a new experience. One can be as frightened of success, as one can be of failure. Strange as that may seem, it is true. For when one attains a long sought after goal or a much desired someone; it is clear that either can be lost. However, with reason and foresight utilized, a person can avert a knee-jerk reaction to a decision that is before one. We can sleep on it. Woodpeckers do not have that luxury. To sleep on it, in their case, may result in their demise.
So, what is the advantage of our inherent early warning system? The advantages are many. Primarily it helps us to avoid the temptation to blindly move forward with something that may not seem harmful at the moment, but has the future potential to be harmful to one; whether that harm be to body, mind or soul. To name those particular harmful somethings is difficult, because there are fundamental dangers that affect us all, and there are dangers that are specific to us as individuals and our unique circumstances. Instinct alone can not protect us. Instinct, may actually prevent us from experiencing a true good. By including reason and foresight, prior to taking action, one clears the fog of vagueness from the situation at hand.
One must avoid being paralyzed when their instinct alerts them to a potential danger. Paralyzed to the extent of not making decisions at all. Life often involves risk. And it is unavoidable, if one is to live life to its fullest, as intended. Life is a gift, not meant to be left unwrapped, simply because we are uncertain of what may be inside. No matter the nature of a gift, it is still a gift, given out of love. Nothing bad can come from love.
“And which of you, if he asks his father for bread, will he give him a stone? Or a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? – Luke 11:11
The true value of a gift can only be known when it is used. In that use, one can realize great satisfaction in achieving worthy goals and the joyful blessing of wonderful friendships that will last a lifetime.
A Prudent decision made, while being directed by right reason, insight and common sense, validates the valuable purpose of red flags. That purpose being two-fold; to protect us from imminent harm, yet encouraging us to avail ourselves to the good that is ever-present. As a result, red flags will not compel a person, in all instances, to wave the white flag of surrender in fear; for such directed persons do not rely on instinct alone.
June 6, 2014
Alan A. Malizia
“Success is often the result of taking a misstep in the right direction.”-Al Bernstein
By the good grace of God, I survived the storm. Poliomyelitis would initially leave me paralyzed from the neck down; but alive. That morning I was an active and vital four-year old; shortly after, gravity would become my master. I was in the one percent of victims who had motor neurons infected and destroyed when the virus entered my central nervous system. This virus form, known as asymmetric paralysis, leads to muscle weakness and flaccid paralysis. So weakened, was I, that my legs and chest had to be bound to a chair to keep me seated upright, with my arms suspended from slings, to provide elevation and movement. Otherwise, I would simply slump over with my ineffective arms at my sides. After a nine month stay in a convalescent hospital, restoration would continue elsewhere. Piecing together the meager physical remnants and renewing shaken self-confidence, would be the task of the Easter Seals Rehabilitation Center, and a supportive, loving and patient family.
The program addressed the many weaknesses that were particular to me. Focus will be on that which would be most obvious to those when in my company; walking. Each weekly session would include an obstacle course, stairs included, until I became accustomed to my leg braces. As a toddler, before polio, my parents held my hands as I struggled to my feet and stumbled about acquiring a natural balance that would come by trial and error. Now, my physical therapist would assume that role. With his hands extended, he beckoned me to step toward him. I, again, struggled to my feet and stumbled about; only now, while gripping supporting parallel bars. And in this endeavor, that natural balance would be sought and achieved by unnatural means, with the errors incurred by trials here, purchased at a higher price.
As a part of the process, my therapist would take me out for a stroll in town. There to apply my training by traversing sidewalks, curbs and accessing businesses. All in preparation for what I could expect from the once familiar outside world, which has now become foreign. I had to integrate an alertness into my new way of life. Unlike the able-bodied, the potential for danger was everywhere. I looked down more often, than most others looked up. I would approach any stroll with the mind-set of a golfer. As a golfer lines up his putt to the hole, he takes into account the breaks and texture of the green along the way. In his mind are registered the grain of the grass that determines speed, and break points along the path, that must be met to successfully put the ball in the hole.
In walking I, too, would have to assess the route that I would be taking to successfully reach my goal(the place where I wished to be). Success would be achieved, in a well planned timely manner, if I did not fall along the way. I, like the golfer, would survey the path and detect obstacles that were present, along with the contour of the terrain, that may prove to be problematic. With my eyes now off the target and realigned to the ground, I would move forward-focusing on those points along the way that had to be successfully negotiated or avoided. For one not dependent on crutches and/or leg braces, it seems quite a bit to consider, for simply taking a walk. But, for those similarly challenged, it is par for the course.
The Golden Rule for the disabled is simply– Don’t fall. However, as a precaution, learning how to fall was integrated into the training process. Gym mats were placed on the floor beneath me for protection. And I was well armed with the necessary techniques to further cushion the impact. However, when falling in the real world, one encounters the likes of asphalt, linoleum and concrete, rather than a soft matted surface. Even though every attempt to avoid falling is made; it does happen. I have had my share of mishaps in 64 years of living. Yet I am still here to discuss them. I will therefore presume that my presence confirms success. Most falls, that I was victim to, resulted in bumps and bruises; and on a rare occasion, a fracture or concussion. When such events occurred, I would make adjustments from the experience, to prevent the same in the future.
On the last day of school, before one particular Christmas vacation, after dismissing my class, I waited by my classroom until all the students had cleared the hallway. With all the hustle, bustle and excitement, the halls were filled with students who were rushing to catch their buses at dismissal. When the halls finally emptied, I felt it safe to make my way out. With the lights already shut, the halls were a bit dark. But, there seemed to be enough light from bordering classroom windows. As I walked down the hall, suddenly, I felt one foot slip out from under me. I was still on my feet, but caught in an awkward position-bent forward and teetering on one braced leg and crutch. Evidently, the students, in their zeal of celebration, had tossed handfuls of rice, which covered the floor. I was alone with no one to call out to. The teachers on that floor had left as well. I was deciding, whether or not, to simply drop to the floor, and then crawl to a classroom, in an attempt to get back on my feet from a chair. With each attempt to right myself, I was nearing exhaustion.
Just as I was ready to let myself drop, one of the senior boys came into the hallway, having forgotten something from his locker. I yelled to him for help. He rushed over and propped me up until I regained my balance. I leaned against the wall until my strength returned. Then I made my way out, not by the hallway, but through the classrooms that lined the hall. Valuable knowledge that does not translate to wisdom is wasted in pride. If I stubbornly insisted on traveling again through the hall, I very likely would have fallen again. For one who is characterized by the idiom: “he has gotten too big for his britches”, may very well find himself on the seat of his pants.
In any goal of life, from simply enjoying an anticipated uneventful walk, to seeing life’s dreams to fruition, there will inevitably be falls along the way. If one is prideful, then one will be prone to repeating the same mistake. In so doing, one will fail to achieve the simplest of goals, and, as would be expected, the more complex. For pride does precede the fall.
On the contrary; he who, through humility, would not twice put his hand over an open flame, is the wiser. For when he falls, he learns from it, and continues successfully toward his goal by a different route. By willingly changing one’s route, one eventually arrives at the desired destination. One who is unwilling to alter one’s route, is destined to suffer the disappointment of an end not intended.
As one can learn how to fall; so ,too, can one learn from it.
March 16, 2014
Alonso Quixana (Don Quixote) is an aging gentleman who is enamored by and devours books about chivalry. He becomes so absorbed with the subject that he soon escapes reality as he fancies himself a knight, and travels about the countryside performing acts of imagined valor and good deeds. His world, as that of Cervantes, was anything but virtuous or chivalrous.
Quixana recruits a good-natured and keen-witted farmer, Sancho Panza, to be his squire (actually more of a protector), and onward they go. Windmills are seen as menacing giants to be vanquished, and ladies of the evening are seen as simply ladies, as beheld through the refined eyes of the brave and good knight. One woman in particular, Aldonza, he chastely adores. He chooses to call her by another name, Dulcinea, and envisions her his lady. Of course the upright world, which he battles to uphold through his quests was at that time downright debased and debauched. However, Don Quixote saw it as it otherwise should be.
Don Quixote’s virtuous behavior and insistence of compliance to the same, by those (often the dregs of society) whom he came upon, was first viewed as humorous and entertaining. But in time would become intrusive and threatening to their customary practices. Yet his example, though a worldly contradiction to all, other than himself, began to have a converting effect. The prostitute Dulcinea began to see herself as a lady and act as such. And Sancho, who played along most unwillingly at first, became a dedicated and loyal companion with each new imaginary adventure.
Meanwhile, Alonso Quixana’s niece, being so embarrassed by his antics, feigns concern for his sanity and safety, and contrives a plan with the family doctor, Dr. Carrasco, to hopefully return him to his senses. Alonso (Don Quixote) is confronted by Dr. Carrasco, disguised as the Knight Of The Mirrors, and accompanied by compatriots dressed in armor and carrying reflecting shields. Dr. Carrasco challenges Don Quixote’s claim that his love, Dolcinea, is a lady. The doctor characterizes her as no more than an alley cat. Don Quixote, angered beyond reason at this insult to his lady, takes up Carrasco’s gauntlet and is surrounded by those with mirrored shields. He is forced to see his image at every turn, which appears that of a madman. Reality strikes an overwhelming blow as the doctor’s disparaging and humiliating rants cut deep. Don Quixote falls to the ground after seeing the foolish dreamer that he is perceived to be. The plan succeeds because he returns to reality. For better or worse?
The mirror is where truth and reality come face-to-face. However, what you see is not necessarily what you get. If reality yields to truth, then there is order. Reality is subject to the variables of time and circumstance. Truth is not. If a couple is thinking about buying a house, but one says to the other, “In reality we cannot afford to buy now.” Does that mean forever? No, because with the passage of time, circumstances have an opportunity to change. So in the future, that same couple may have the means to purchase a house. Now, if a person were to step off a ledge, in an attempt to refute the law of gravity, he will find that the outcome of his experiment will not be altered by time nor circumstance. The first is an example of reality, the second of truth.
Conversely, let us suppose that truth yields to reality. Then there is disorder, in this instance, as truth changes congruently with reality by time and circumstance. If truth does change, then truth is a lie. Our friend on the ledge should then get a different outcome to his experiment on a Thursday, than he would have gotten on a Monday – which would then make the law of gravity a lie, and that is not the case. For truth is ageless and beyond contestation.
The story does not end with Alonso Quixana on his death bed, a beaten man. Present with him is his squire Sancho and his lady Dulcinea. They are overcome with grief, because the man that lay prostrate before them is not he who rekindled in their hearts the flame of goodness, charity and dignity. They remind him of the truth that he stood for in his quest to revive chivalry. As he listens to their pleas, something stirs within him. His despairing heart is rejuvenated by their overtures of encouragement and love. He rises up vigorously and passionately promises to sally forth again. However, his endearing strength of spirit is too much for his frail and aged body to bear. As he succumbs to death, he is again Don Quixote, who passes from this world to the next, while in the arms of his lady and squire. He dies as he lived: a knight.
The image that Don Quixote beheld in the mirror was his reality, not his truth. His truth was in how he saw himself. And this, likewise, is how others saw him. The profound impression left upon those who crossed his path encouraged change (where once thought impossible) – and for the better. So much so that an Aldonza believed she could become a Dolcinea.
Truth is not reflected in a mirror, but contained in the heart. It is often obscured by reality. Yet truth’s existence is confirmed by its outward effectiveness. No matter how distorted the inconsistent worldly realities may jade a heart, there in its farthest corner truth abides: A truth that endures and ensures the restoration of life to its full goodness, for one who desires it enough to fight for it. Like Don Quixote, we too can fulfill our just cause. If in the end, we are found fighting still.
Harold Payne is a multi-Platinum songwriter and master improviser, who combines prepared customized material and “on the spot” songs to create a pinnacle moment for concerts, special events and conferences that entertain, inspire and involve the audience.
Harold will speak at Contagious Optimism LIVE!, a daylong event with inspirational talks, music, and entertainment. Contagious Optimism LIVE! is taking place at Florida Atlantic University’s Lifelong Learning Society on the Jupiter campus on Friday, April 4, 2014, from 2 to 10 p.m. Tickets are $50, which includes a reception following the event. Group discounts are also available. All attendees will receive a free copy of the bestselling book, “Contagious Optimism.”
David Martin is a wealth manager at INDX Strategies with 20 years of experience working with individuals, families and non-profits. As a wealth manager, he focuses on helping his clients achieve financial independence and a healthy retirement. Prior to founding Quantflow Strategies and INDX Strategies, David was a Vice President at Smith Barney and UBS.
David will speak at Contagious Optimism LIVE!, a daylong event with inspirational talks, music, and entertainment. Contagious Optimism LIVE! is taking place at Florida Atlantic University’s Lifelong Learning Society on the Jupiter campus on Friday, April 4, 2014, from 2 to 10 p.m. Tickets are $50, which includes a reception following the event. Group discounts are also available. All attendees will receive a free copy of the bestselling book, “Contagious Optimism.”
February 27, 2014
Cynthia Makris has been an operatic singer for thirty years, and has performed on stages in Chile, Japan, Germany and more. Throughout her career, she has sung almost every leading role written for a soprano. Critics have praised not only the beauty of her voice, but the honesty, integrity, and depth of her portrayals.
Cynthia will speak at Contagious Optimism LIVE!, a daylong event with inspirational talks, music, and entertainment. Contagious Optimism LIVE! is taking place at Florida Atlantic University’s Lifelong Learning Society on the Jupiter campus on Friday, April 4, 2014, from 2 to 10 p.m. Tickets are $50, which includes a reception following the event. Group discounts are also available. All attendees will receive a free copy of the bestselling book, “Contagious Optimism.”
February 23, 2014
Joel Heller worked in the insurance industry for twenty-five years in various underwriting and management positions. He left the insurance industry in 2010 to open a retail clothing, jewelry, and gift shop in Vermont. Joel holds a B.A. degree from Fairfield University and resides with his wife in New Hampshire.
Joel will speak at Contagious Optimism LIVE!, a daylong event with inspirational talks, music, and entertainment. Contagious Optimism LIVE! is taking place at Florida Atlantic University’s Lifelong Learning Society on the Jupiter campus on Friday, April 4, 2014, from 2 to 10 p.m. Tickets are $50, which includes a reception following the event. Group discounts are also available. All attendees will receive a free copy of the bestselling book, “Contagious Optimism.”