Monday, October 11, 2010

It's Columbus Day...

“That men do not learn very much from the lessons of history is the most important of all the lessons that history has to teach”--Aldous Huxley, English Novelist and Critic

Today is the second Monday in October. Annually, this constitutes the observation of Columbus day. We remember him. Christopher Columbus. In grade school we probably learned about his voyage ships: Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria. We probably understood in fourth grade that he discovered America. Most likely, we learned of his voyage and have since forgotten. For me, this history has been archived in dusty corners of my mind and can be simply summed up with the familiar rhyme: 

"In fourteen hundred and ninety two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue."

Yet, if we grasp onto the spade of curiosity and hollow out a bit of historical excavation there is more to be had. A little "Google-ing" lead me to a few facts about Columbus previously unknown. We should be aware that Columbus really wasn't the first explorer to navigate to "the Americas." He was preceded by the Vikings, led by Leif Ericson, who built a temporary settlement there 500 years previous. So, why do we remember Mr. Columbus? 

Columbus' voyage and discovery came at a time of economic competition between nations and kingdoms when each were developing viable trade routes. In short, Columbus and his voyages had a spreading effect that created European awareness of the American continents in the west. Second, he stayed in contact. Historian, Martin Dugard, writes, "Columbus' claim to fame isn't that he got there first, it's that he stayed."

Here are a few other facts of interest:

1. The Europeans showed little interest at the time of Columbus' discoveries in the west.
2. Columbus did not believe in the flat earth. The round shape of the earth had already been known.
3. Columbus was highly venerated in America dating back to Colonial times with America often being called Columbia (beginning in 1738), Columbia being the capital city of both Ohio and South Carolina, a river named Columbia, and the federal capital named The District of Columbia in the latter end of the 18th century.

So, it is Columbus day and here is the bottom line: the men and women of history probably didn't know they were making history in their present time. They simply lived their lives and pursued their daily doings. Second, the meaningless moments of today could become the priceless memories of yesterday. The great things of history often go unrecognized by those nearest to them. We never know until we take a look!

Happy Columbus Day! 

Friday, October 08, 2010

"Oh, What an Atmosphere Encircles That Stranger"

We are like chameleons, we take our hue and the color of our moral character, from those who are around us." --John Locke, English Philosopher (1632-1704)

Think of the word atmosphere. It not only describes the layers of vapor and gases that surround the orb on which we live; it also illustrates the places we enter into and perhaps even the attitudes and habits we choose to entertain. This can be coupled with influence. Each day we are both an influence and are influenced. This is an immutable truth. Yes, we are who we are. I have my influence and you have yours but there is a component of interaction that allows our personal atmospheres of thought and being to interrelate, to give and take, to change and develop.

This influence coupled with the gift of the Holy Ghost leads me to a powerful quotation by Elder Parley P. Pratt. It has been on my mind and I wished to share it. Speaking of the Holy Ghost he says:

"It quickens all the intellectual faculties, increases, enlarges, expands and purifies all the natural passion and affections; and adapts them, by the gift of wisdom, to their lawful use. It inspires, develops, cultivates and matures all the fine-toned sympathies, joys, tastes, kindred feelings and affections of our nature. It inspires virtue, kindness, goodness, tenderness, gentleness and charity. It develops beauty of the person, form and features. It tends to health, vigor, animation and social feeling. It invigorates all the faculties of the physical and intellectual man. It strengthens, and gives tone to the nerves. In short, it is, as it were, marrow to the bone, joy to the heart, light to the eyes, music to the ears, and life to the whole being."

"In the presence of such persons, one feels to enjoy the light of their countenances, as the genial rays of the sunbeam. Their very atmosphere diffuses a thrill, a warm glow of pure gladness and sympathy, to the heart and nerves of others who have kindred feelings, or sympathy of spirit. No matter if the parties are strangers, entirely unknown to each other in person or character; no matter if they have never spoken to each other, each will be apt to remark in his own mind, and perhaps exclaim, when referring to the interview– “Oh, what an atmosphere encircles that stranger! How my heart thrilled with pure and holy feelings in his presence! What confidence and sympathy he inspired! His countenance and spirit gave me more assurance than a thousand written recommendations, or introductory letters.” Such is the gift of the Holy Ghost, and such are its operations, when received through the lawful channel—the divine, eternal priesthood."
We each have an influence. We emanate that which we admire the most in regard to attitude, discipline, and outlook on life. So, no matter how the weather looks outside, may we all create an atmosphere of goodness and gladness. If we do, none will be a stranger.


Friday, October 01, 2010

The Participatory Prerogative

"Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in the grey twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat" 
--Theodore Roosevelt

Moments to volunteer with raised hand come and go. There have been times when I've raised my hand at the request for a volunteer and times when I haven't.  Those opportunities either prosper or perish. It is interesting to look back upon the times that I have volunteered to make a statement, make an estimate, or make a fun-loving fool of myself. Not once have I said, "Oh, I wish I would've just shut my mouth or remained partners with my seat in the corner." Not once have I thought, "Dang, I shouldn't have given my buddy a ride or helped mom with the dishes." We get more than we give. It's a strong equation. 

This morning my accounting professor asked for a volunteer to put up the solution to a problem we had worked on in class. I had the numbers and I was ready. My hand was raised. I went to the front of the room with my notes, grabbed the dry-erase marker, and promptly forgot any morsel of how I had gotten my answers. Great. Yet, with the promptings of my professor help was offered. Problem solved--eventually. My voluntary performance was less than stellar but I wasn't bothered in the least by it. This is why: I was up and doing rather than down and stewing. 

There is great power in participation. It is powerful beyond the chapter's theory or the current methods. The key lies in the question: can one put the theory into practice and make it live? It begins with action followed by heightened understanding. 

Yes, there will be failure but we must use that for better tomorrows. After this morning's accounting encounter, I am a lot more familiar with contribution margin income statements than I was while sitting in the background. Any man can hear and see, many can come to know, but find a man (or woman) who can apply and do and he will be a victor. 

So, with Mr. Roosevelt's reminder, let us remember that we are not meant to dwell among the "poor spirits" as we do mighty things. We are built to triumph over suffering and "enjoy much" and gray is not our color! 

Stay the Course