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First Published on March 16, 2008

The classic differentiator between optimism and cynicism is the half glass of water. It takes a neutral fact and adds a judgement that tells us much about the observers life view, half empty or half full. I think it is possible for either view to overstep its bounds, be it Pollyanna type platitudes or cynical misrepresentations of the motivations of others leading to prejudice and division. One popular truism in the cynical worldview is that it is the same people doing both, that the dreamer is always destined to become the cynic. I do believe this is a possibility and a danger, but I question the underlying assumption. Are optimists just fooling themselves? Do they become cynical when they face up to the truth? There is a certain school of thought, ascribing cynicism to realism with a certain self righteousness about “keeping it real.” Is this valid? Read the rest of this entry »

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” Be ye Therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in Heaven is perfect.”

Matthew 5:48

    We love and adore that which is perfect in our society.  Hollywood is built on the premise that the beautiful people can sell movies, models are airbrushed to perfection to sell magazines.  The Olympic games is going on currently with its motto, “Bigger, stronger, faster.”

    As the records fall, it seems these athletes do live up to the motto.  Just look at Michael Phelps, the epitome of the bigger, stronger, faster ideal.

 

Michael Phelps, olympic swimmer has a very real chance at an unprecedented eight gold medals this Olympics.

 

    Sadly, as recent scandals in Baseball and Bicycling have revealed, the push to be bigger, faster, and stronger can lead to the use of steroids, amphetamines, or other substances with very real consequences for an athletes long term health and well being.  When does the drive to perform cross the line into madness.  In my day, Michael Jordan was celebrated worldwide as the greatest ever, even carrying his team to victory over my beloved Utah Jazz in one game in the finals with Forty some odd point and the flu.  Today, it is Tiger Woods held in much the same esteem, having just won the US open with a severe knee injury in a playoff he counts as his greatest victory ever.  My question is, at what point does this single minded devotion turn into madness.  

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When I was in the third grade, I learned about this very cool thing called a bike-a-thon.  I could take my bike and by just riding it help cure cystic fibrosis, a disease that I had no idea what it was, but sure sounded bad.  In my idealistic eight year old mind this just seemed like it just having fun for a good cause, so I signed right up and went for it.

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My second grader sister heard about the same thing and decided she had to do it as well.  That was a pain.  This meant every pledge I went to get had to pledge equally to the both of us by royal decree of my mother.  I was irritated, but we both pluckily canvassed the small town of under 1,000 inhabitants, all of whom knew our family, and gathered pledges.  I knew no fear in those days, heck, I didn’t even realize knocking on doors asking for money is annoying in my innocence. 

    Pledges were made per mile and so the first question we were asked was how many miles we were going to bike.  I pulled the number twenty off the top of my head as it seemed a nice even number.  I still remember some of the amused, patronizing smiles as these wordly wise adults then penciled in their donation.  Our pledges piled up and we ran out of room to contain them, requiring extra pledge sheets.  What’s the harm in donating to a couple of naive kids playing grown up biking on their Schwinn’s after all.   Read the rest of this entry »

The classic differentiator between optimism and cynicism is the half glass of water. It takes a neutral fact and adds a judgement that tells us much about the observers life view, half empty or half full. I think it is possible for either view to overstep its bounds, be it Pollyanna type platitudes or cynical misrepresentations of the motivations of others leading to prejudice and division. One popular truism in the cynical worldview is that it is the same people doing both, that the dreamer is always destined to become the cynic. I do believe this is a possibility and a danger, but I question the underlying assumption. Are optimists just fooling themselves? Do they become cynical when they face up to the truth? There is a certain school of thought, ascribing cynicism to realism with a certain self righteousness about “keeping it real.” Is this valid?

Read the rest of this entry »

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