Christmas and Other Holidays – A Frank and Open Discussion

I am unapologetically a Christian, I regularly attend church, and I exercise faith through daily scripture reading, prayer, and other works synonymous with being a Christian.  Being a Christian, I embrace freedom, especially freedom of religion; “Let [all people] worship how, where, or what they may.”  I am not smart enough to tell anyone, convince anyone, or try to force anyone to believe anything.  As a point of fact, my articles very specifically encourage you to find your answers, much as I have done, through study, learning, and faith.

Yes, this is a discussion!  I do not understand Christmas in any way, shape, or form; while this also applies to all accepted holidays, Christmas is my focus.  If you understand Christmas better or any holiday mentioned, feel free to teach me so that we both may learn more perfectly.  Christmas, as a child, was only once a time of wonder.  I remember that Christmas; I must have been 6 or 7 years.  I do not remember what I got for Christmas, but I remember how I felt.  I have not felt similarly since, and while I know why, I do not understand how to put the wonder back into Christmas.

Annually, Christmas, New Year, and the rest of the mid-winter holidays are a time for deep depression.  I struggle to feel anything from Halloween to mid-February; think London Fog as a mental condition, and your close to understanding what is happening between my ears annually.  As a child and teen, the holidays were always a time of stress, increased drama, and tons, and tons, of dishes.  The holiday season brought increased torment as parents’ stress (especially) resulted in increased violence (physical and mental).  Thus, I learned not to appreciate the holidays but loath the workload, violence, and abuse and view the holiday season as a time of greater pain and suffering.

Don’t even get me started on how to celebrate Mother’s and Father’s Day.  There are holidays, and choosing to celebrate or not is just as important as how to celebrate and whom to celebrate.  The biggest mistake society makes is trying to force everyone to celebrate the same holiday!

As an adult, mainly due to the depression, I avoid stores between Halloween and mid-February, like the plague!  The music of “Christmas” does not lift, and I find it difficult to hear.  To me, the people during Christmas are more challenging to be around.  I do not understand their choices and changes in attitude, their happiness, nor share in their wonder and excitement.  The pagan beliefs Catholicized into Christmas traditions blow my ever-loving mind!  I do not see Christ in a decorated “Christmas” Tree or other Christmas pageantry.  Simply put, every Christmas Tradition, generally accepted by Christendom, is stolen from mid-winter pagan holidays.  As I have studied the origins and beliefs inherent in Christmas, Easter, Halloween, All Saints Day, etc., I see more and more of the historical imprint of early Catholic Church leaders, and I stand aghast that these beliefs have turned into traditions that bind and hold fast the human mind.

Yet, to not wish someone else, especially another Christian, “Merry Christmas” is to be judged less a Christian.  I do not understand!  I believe in Christ; I believe in and have a knowledge of his reality, birth, life, death, resurrection, and visitation to all the Twelve Tribes of Israel after his resurrection.  I accept Christ as my Savior and advocate before the Father.  But, I do not understand Christmas celebrations or why these celebrations “speak of Christ, rejoice in Christ,” or promote Christian beliefs!  I understand the underpinnings of, and like the Jewish holiday Hanukkah.  I see Christ in this celebration of lights and appreciate those who celebrate this simple holiday simply.  But Hanukkah is not a holiday I can fully enjoy either, not for the lack of trying.

I have the same problem with Passover, not for the lack of trying, but I cannot celebrate this holiday, for I feel something is missing.  Easter, will someone please explain to me the lines of logical congruence between a bunny rabbit laying eggs and the resurrection of Jesus Christ!  None of the “traditions” of Easter make a lick of sense to me.  While I feel different at Easter than I do with any other holiday, I do not celebrate this holiday either, even though I respect and honor, follow and try to emulate Jesus Christ as my personal Savior, advocate, and hopefully friend.  While we’re on the topic of incongruent traditions, Santa Claus creeps me out!  The fear of being judged without an advocate or appeals process is anti-Christian, but Santa Claus continues to play a fearful role in Christmas.  Worse, the mysticism prevalent in a belief in Santa Claus fills my mind, not with Christ’s giving of himself, but of Halloween!  Tim Burton’s movie, “Nightmare Before Christmas,” is closer to how I see Santa Claus, put him in Halloween, and leave him there!

Yet, here we are, another Christmas celebration is upon the world, and I do not understand!  I like the lights of Christmas and enjoy them year-round, but they are not symbols of Christ lighting the world; they are just lights to me, with no particular holiday attachment.  I am a foodie, but food is just that, food.  No special holiday attachment; worse, as a diabetic, I have to watch how, when, where, and what I eat.  There is no fun in that, no holiday significance, and frankly, no joy in Mudville.

A friend declared, Christmas is about love.  What is love?  I know from significant study what love is not.  Love is not sex!  Love is not punishment, abuse, torment, and throwing all the dishes out of the cupboard and forcing a young child to wash every dish in the house repeatedly until that dish somehow passes an arbitrary level of cleanliness, with frequent beatings for failure to meet that level of cleanliness!  Love is not inflicting pain, causing tears, and being violent.  It has been easy to identify what love is not.  But defining what love is, what it feels like, and how to share love, I have no clue!

Often, I am referred to as a “Cold-Hearted, mean, bastard,” many times, other adjectives are thrown in to describe me.  I wear a “bar-sinister” proudly; I am a bastard!  I fight this nature of myself every single day; sometimes I win, more often I lose.  Sometimes I have thought, maybe this aspect of my character is why I cannot fathom the meaning of holidays, find wonder, or experience joy as readily as others.  Sometimes I think the method of how I was raised is inherent in being that bastard I despise.  Yet, I am a survivor because of the ways and manners of my childhood upbringing, and I have gratitude for being a survivor.  Meaning somewhere in there is gratitude for how I was raised and being a bastard.  I fully appreciate how paradoxical that thinking is.  Remember, a paradox is where two points that appear contradictory at first glance but in deeper understanding are closer than they are apart.

What does being a bastard have to do with Christmas and celebrating the birth and life of Jesus Christ; thankfully, I can answer that question.  Only in and through Jesus Christ can my nature change.  That single hope is precious to me, remains an impetus in motivating me to change, and powers my striving.  Without the birth of Christ, there could not be a death and resurrection.  Without the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Christ, man could not change his nature, understand and possess freedom, or comprehend the higher laws of giving of self, choosing a different method of living, and rising above the natural man and comprehending why man has to rise above his natural beliefs into a higher understanding.

Yes, I celebrate Jesus Christ!  Make no mistake; I am grateful for my Savior; but, I do not understand Christmas!  I cannot fathom a celebration of Easter as currently celebrated and understood in Christendom.  I long for further light and knowledge to more appropriately commemorate the birth, life, reality, resurrection, and example that is Jesus Christ!  I know that only through the merits, mercy, and justice of Christ can I eventually gain the further light and knowledge I seek.  Please don’t think I do not celebrate when I wish you the happiest of holidays; it is an honest expression of a heartfelt desire for you to celebrate and worship how, where, when, and what you may.  Please understand, though, I am not participating, not because I do not believe, but because I do not understand.

A well-intentioned person told me to “Fake it until you make it.”  I have tried following this advice, and while it worked in other aspects of life, I learned more, and faking it stopped working.  Where holidays are concerned, I cannot “Fake it, hoping to somehow, make it.”  Faking it requires a method of belief with a hope.  I have hope and knowledge; thus, I do not have a belief, or reason to believe.  In possessing knowledge, my belief can take wing with confidence, and in that understanding, I can no longer “fake it.”  As a respecter of religious belief, and as a seeker of light and knowledge, there have been times I have thought how easy it could be to be an atheist; but, in possessing knowledge, I understand I cannot live without the belief and knowledge of a Savior, a Heavenly Father who had the sense to hand man laws, cover his mind with a veil of his past life, and tell man to live by faith.  The atheist cannot understand the value in living by faith, for they choose not to believe, even when presented with evidence.

C. S. Lewis is one of my favorite authors, speakers, and characters from history. He understood the chasm between choice and the consequences of choosing not to believe and live according to beliefs. Mark Twain is another character, author, and speaker who I deeply admire and appreciate, for many of the same qualities exhibited by C. S. Lewis, are found in Mark Twain.  Thus, we find both an exemplar of the principles discussed and another issue with the holidays.  Knowing what I know regarding the origins of the holidays, the traditions adopted and Christianized, and the chains which bind from traditions, I struggle with celebrating holidays.

As a child, I asked why do we decorate a Christmas Tree?  After removing all the religiosity, the answer was because their parents did it that way.  Why did we feast; remove the religiosity, and we find it’s because everyone else celebrates holidays (peer pressure and traditions) with feasting.  In the movie and play “Fiddler on the Roof,” the primary character sings, discusses, and lives under the iron fist of tyrannical tradition, and I am left with one question, “Why?”  Why do something just because it is tradition?  Jesus Christ brought freedom of conscience; believe how, when, where, and what you may, act and live according to your beliefs, and you are exercising freedom and liberty.  Where does tradition fit into belief and living according to choice, freedom, and agency?

Bringing the conversation back to principles of freedom, choice and showcasing how decisions determine destiny.  Again, I am not casting aspersions, nor trying to convince anyone to do something they are not comfortable with, nor am I denigrating or deriding anyone’s beliefs, traditions, or methods of worship or celebration.  My intent is not to cause a crisis of faith but to understand for myself.  Please, embrace your freedom to choose to worship, and celebrate, how, where, when, and what you may.  In possessing this freedom, allow others to worship and celebrate how, when, where, and what they may.  Enjoy your holiday traditions and celebrations.  But, please do not judge me as less because I do not understand, believe differently, and live according to my beliefs.

Santa Claus coming to town fills me with dread and despair, not hope, wonder, or joy.  A white Christmas is not a dream for me but a symbol of more snow to shovel, even though I LOVE watching the snow fall and playing in the snow.  Christmas trees do not thrill me but represent a ton of work to put up, more work to maintain, and more work to take down.  Food is not a celebration but represents more work, time, effort, and sacrifice, for momentary pleasure.  While I enjoy food, eat food, and talk about recipes to make food, I do not worship at the altar of food or see any connection between food and traditional celebrations.

I totally get it; the Children of Israel fled Egypt the Passover is a sacred remembrance and should be celebrated; but, Christ showed a better way, and through that better way, the bitterness of fleeing is swallowed up in joy.  Why eat bitter herbs and unleavened bread as part of the tradition and celebration?  Joy is knowledge with aspects of painful experience encapsulated in achievement.  Thus, to me, the flight of Israel shows how faith, painful experience, and achievement are possible, and I want to shout and sing for joy.  I have always thought of Passover as a time for glorious celebration.  Strike up a band, sing, shout, and make merry, for we survived the Passover, escaped Egyptian slavery and harsh bondage, and now are free!  The same goes for Hanukkah, the resurrection of Christ, the birth of Christ, and every other holiday.  The holiday, to my understanding, represents, or signifies, a reason to make merry because those who came before achieved something through enormous difficulty, suffered dreadful pains, and achieved a better place.  They have joy, and we share in that joy.

Bringing up the final aspect of the holidays, sharing joy.  How do we share in the joy those who suffered experienced?  This is the crux of holiday celebrations.  How we answer this question determines the traditions we embrace; the decisions and consequences produce a destiny.  Consequences are neither good nor bad, simply natural actions formed from a choice an agent made.  How we choose to place a value on those consequences immediately determines how often we will make the same choice again, leading to determined destiny over time and repetition.  Using this understanding of choices and consequences, we revisit the question, “How do we choose to share joy?”

I do not know how to answer this question!  Worse, I feel this single question forms the crux of all holiday celebrations, and I am flummoxed!  Some have suggested I perform more service to share joy.  Others suggest giving gifts.  Others have offered well-meaning opinions, ideas, and suggestions that I cannot fathom as connected to a holiday—leading to a need to understand why.  Why act differently leading up to a holiday when you act in an opposing manner the rest of the year?  Why not act the same year-round?

Again, there is no judging, no aspersions cast, no denigration of actions and choices here.  I am not your judge!  But, these questions are the questions I struggle with living, understanding, and connecting to holiday celebrations.  If you have answers, please share them with me, help me understand how you share joy, celebrate, and feel.

© Copyright 2021 – M. Dave Salisbury
The author holds no claims for the art used herein, the pictures were obtained in the public domain, and the intellectual property belongs to those who created the images.  Quoted materials remain the property of the original author.

Taking a Longer View – Actions Really Do Have Consequences

Bobblehead DollIf you are dead set on living a life devoted to the philosophy of, “Eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die,” there is nothing I can do to help you.  Feel free to stop reading now.  If you are suffering from the consequences of overeating, a hangover, and are feeling nauseous from being too merry on the merry-go-round of life, keep reading, we might have something for you to consider.  If you are not one of the people described, you might want to consider continuing to read for some moral support.

Throughout my life, people have been made available when I have been ready to learn.  They have also been made available to laugh and scorn when I needed my butt-kicked and to provide remedial behavioral therapy when I have gotten way off the beaten track.  For which I am eternally grateful!  One of the first of these people, who made a significant impact in my development for the good, I might add, was Miss Murphy.  A school principal, who left the nunnery to help save children, she did a phenomenal job.  She also gave me the worst chewing out I ever got, the most brutal punishment I have ever had to take, the best compliment I had gotten to that date, and made me feel like a million dollars, all at the same time.  I left her office thoroughly convinced I was never going to do, whatever I did, again.

Grit - DefinedYears later, when I heard the comment, “Decisions Do Determine Destiny,” I knew exactly what the speaker was talking about, for I had experienced this phenomenon.  This is the first principle in need of understanding. If we live in the here and now, every behavior has an excuse, and depravity, abuse, murder, everything abhorrent can be excused for tomorrow we die—what a terrible way to live.  When our choices do not have consequences, and those consequences do not have long-term effects, we, as vapid human beings, lose an eternal spark of goodness, a willingness to strive, and a desire for achievement.

Consider with me a common theme since the early 1960s, it is a theme I am thoroughly sick to death of hearing, but it is a pernicious and invasive theme, “Free Love,” “Love is Sex,” “Love is All You Need,” “Just Love.”  By perverting love, the morals of society broke, chains of modesty were sundered, social decency was abolished, and curbs of compassion and care were thwarted.  Worse, it opened, for everyone to see, the windows of perversion that lurk inside some very troubled souls.  Today, it is considered normal to have statistics from the CDC regarding the number of live births to single, unwed children ages 10-14, decisions determined destiny, and the consequences are dire indeed!Courage

Consider for a moment the following from President Jefferson:

A nation, as a society, forms a moral person, and every member of it is personally responsible for his society.”

Hence, one can deduce a person is taught morals from their society and then is personally responsible for the continuation of that society by living the morals as taught.  What are your morals?  Who taught them?  What are you teaching as morals?  What morals do you live in public that you refuse to live privately, and do you see a disconnect in this moral behavior?

In asking these questions, I am not holding myself up as a moral authority, the moral police, or the enforcer of the moral squad.  I am just as prone to moral stupidity as the next guy, and I am often worse, as my wife continually reminds me.  I suffer for my mistakes and faux pas, just like everyone else.  So, please do not think I am making any judgments here.  As socially wired creatures, humans adopt and adapt to the social norms in our surroundings minute-by-minute, day-by-day, and we make a life by adapting to the environments when we cannot change the environments.Anton Ego

For example, when humans can control the weather inside a building, we change the environment to make it hotter or cooler based on our desires.  We do not alter our behaviors to fit the environments unless we cannot change the environments.  For example, being outdoors, we cannot change the weather, so we pack extra clothes for cold conditions, waterproof clothes for wet conditions, and make do in hot conditions by changing behavior and drinking water.  Does this make sense?  When we can change the environment, we prefer to change the environment than our behavior, even if it means we suffer consequences.  For example, dressing in revealing clothing to satisfy a trendy designer and packing a heater because the office is always “frigid.”Bait & Switch 2

Unfortunately, taking a longer view is not inherently natural in human beings; we are not born with a desire for delayed gratification.  Hence, we must choose, do we want a marshmallow right now or six marshmallows in 15-minutes?  Neither, we want the first marshmallow right now and the rest of the bag while we watch TV over the next 60-minutes, and we will accept the painful stomach ache, nausea, gas, possible vomiting, and the other discomforts because we got our marshmallows.

In our family lore, there is a story told of my older brother and a large bag of salt-water taffy.  It is near Halloween, and a large order of orange jack-o-lantern salt-water taffy Halloween candies have been procured.  The flavor is orange and anise, like a cross between black licorice and orange, and the amount is somewhere between 5 and 10 pounds.  My older brother gets caught stealing some candy, and my mother claims he will be forced to eat all the candy by himself in her infinite wisdom.  After much vomiting, a lot of whining, crying, and my father’s helping hand, the entire bag is eventually emptied.  But, the lesson that was supposed to be taught to stop stealing was not the lesson learned.  What happened, my older brother got better at getting the younger brothers in trouble, and he kept right on being a petty thief.  Why was the lesson learned not the one desired?  My brother made a choice, that choice had consequences, and he liked the consequences, even though the consequences made him sicker than Irving, the drunk dog on M*A*S*H.Father Mulcahy 5

Taking us back to the longer view and consequences.  We can have a short view, live for today, and die tomorrow.  Lots of people in the history of the Earth have taken this road.  But, what was their satisfaction?  What was their heritage?  A friend of mine related a story of a person with a short view and ended the story with, “He was an enjoyable idiot.  “Fun to have around during leisure time, a pest during work time, and a scallywag who could not be trusted to walk a dog.”  If that is the heritage you want to leave, be my guest; I promise not to try and stop or interfere.

For the rest of us, let’s consider what these morals are teaching in society.  Do we really want American society, a society built upon hard work, personal discipline, and individual effort, to be wasted for instant gratification and immediate death?  Do we want the American experiment to end with one bourbon, one shot, and one beer, where the rent is never paid, the job never worked, and the lifestyle unlived?

Knowledge Check!All I ask is that you take a minute, think about what you want people to say about you after you leave a room, and then live the way you want to be remembered.  I worked with a man who lived his principles, and I salute his willingness to live his principles.  He was going to die at age 40, with a fifth of Jack Daniels empty by his head, an empty six-pack of Mountain Dew scattered around his bed and empty bags of Lay’s Dill Pickle potato chips on his blankets.  He worked very hard to meet his end as he wanted while I knew him, and I have no doubts that he met his fate as desired—good guy, great worker, but not an example I would ever choose.

© 2021 M. Dave Salisbury
All Rights Reserved
The images used herein were obtained in the public domain; this author holds no copyright to the images displayed.

Thought and Character – A Discussion

WhyIn Proverbs, Old Testament, we find an oft-quoted aphorism, “As a man thinketh in his heart so is he.”  If we first accept this aphorism as truth, then the following from James Allen, from “As a Man Thinketh (1903)” can also be presumed truthful.  “A man is literally what he thinks, his character being the complete sum of all his thoughts.  As the plants springs from, and could not be without, the seed, so every act of a man springs from the hidden seeds of thought, and could not have appeared without them.”  Bringing into sharp reflection the connection between how a person thinks and their character.

In high school, the football and wrestling coaches played mind games to help us players think and become winners. Then, we went through drills to practice thinking and planning moves, so our most important muscle, the mind, was prepared to act when challenged physically.  Likewise, as a firefighter, I know the value of mentally walking through situations to prepare my mind and my fire teams’ minds before being challenged physically to respond to a threat or incident.

Ziggy on Political WeatherI once met a professional soccer player; we shared a bus trip from Salt Lake City to Vernal, Utah, as he traveled to catch a plane in Denver, Colorado.  While I do not envy him, his travel scheduler, we had a very interesting conversation on how thinking builds character.  Professional sports players have similar mental walk-throughs as a regular part of their daily exercises.  Here I had always been under the impression this was for non-professional sports players and was pleasantly surprised to hear his experiences.

James Allen insists that “Man is made or unmade by himself; in the armory of thought he forges the weapons by which he destroys himself; he also fashions the tools with which he builds himself heavenly mansions of joy and strength and peace.”  In the US Army, while serving as a Chaplain’s Assistant, I was wandering through the line company barracks and stumbled across a tank crew having “Sergeant’s Time” in the hallway.  There I met the most interesting character; he held a doctorate from MIT, he was utterly brilliant, and he was a specialist who drove tanks for a living.  When asked why driving tanks and not working in his field of study, he stated, “I do not like my field of study.”  Through education, this soldier had made himself tools for building a career he detested in a field he was bored with, and in seeking adventure, he joined the US Army as an enlisted man and found something he preferred.

ToolsThe tools of education became the chains of bondage and weapons that left him without passion.  His thoughts had turned his desires in his chosen field into a trap, where he thought his only way out was doing something radical and “out of character.”  Except for those who knew him, his character was always bent towards being a soldier, but he had not thought thru this character aspect himself.  His thoughts had already revealed his character, but he had not become cognizant of this aspect of himself.  How many times has this happened to you?

President Thomas S. Monson, a previous leader of The Church of JESUS CHRIST of Latter-Day Saints, was quoted as saying, “Decisions Do Determine Destiny” [emphasis in original]. Likewise, James Allen maintains, “… Man is the master of thought, the molder of character, and the maker and shaper of condition, environment, and destiny.”  Think of how vital thought is to the grand scheme of a person, and you will find the power to be and do anything!  “Man is always the master, even in his weakest and most abandoned state … [as a conscious master] man can only thus become by discovering within himself the laws of thought; which discovery is totally a matter of application, self-analysis, and experience.”  Doesn’t this assertion fill you with the hope that the chains of bondage in your mind are only there until you allow yourself to change how you think?

LaughterHow did I finally kick the cigarette habit, so the mental addiction could no longer tempt me to smoke; I change my thinking.  Instead of allowing myself to find second-hand smoke delightful, I began seeing it as something to avoid.  As I changed my thinking, my body stopped reacting in a manner to claim a need for the cigarettes.  It was not easy, but I had physically quit smoking 10-years before my mental processes, and mental addictions were finally conquered.  The power to correct my body’s behavior towards cigarettes was always mine to claim and apply, but first, I had to change how I think about cigarettes, then my mental needs changed, and then I was free of the mental addiction.  Changing thoughts and time, experience, was required, and slowly my body obeyed.

I have seen the same occur in reverse.  A female friend of mine claims she needs chocolate during her menstrual cycle to maintain mental health.  When she discovered that chocolate was the main factor in her deteriorating health and obesity, she still maintained that chocolate was healthy and blamed everything but chocolate for the problems.  When she went through menopause, she discovered that chocolate had no power over her body and was left without her mental crutch and excuses.  What could have been a life-altering discovery did not change behavior because the thoughts never changed.  I moved and lost contact before her story ended, but the failure to change thinking has always left me wondering what thoughts I need to change to avoid a similar fate.

Bait & SwitchThe New Testament records, “He that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.”  To which James Allen has added, “… for only by patience, practice, and ceaseless importunity can a man enter the Door of the Temple of Knowledge.”  I remember reading about a famous diamond mine in Africa, the largest diamond mine in the world, and how even with technology, the mining process continues to be one of patiently gathering, carefully digging, and unending repetition to haul diamonds from the dirt.  In L. Ron Hubbard’s book, “Battlefield Earth,” one finds the same pattern in digging for gold.  Patience, careful gathering, unending repetition, and still the results are teaspoons of gold for the tons of rock and dirt shifted.

The mind is the same.  Changing thoughts requires time, patience with yourself, and care in selecting new thoughts to plant.  Care in how old thoughts are removed so as not to damage those thoughts being cultivated, and unending repetition to remove the seeds of thoughts that would be the weeds in your mental garden.  But, with the pattern comes the promise; those who put forward the work will reap a garden of benefits.  What are those benefits of changing our thoughts, “As a being of power, intelligence, and love, [being the] lord [and master] of his thoughts, a man holds the key to every situation and contains within himself that transforming and regenerative agency by which he can make himself what he wills.”

Knowledge Check!What benefit could be grander, to will something into existence through the power of thought!  How amazing a world we could make when all people realize this power and claim this power by changing how we think.  There is a benefit to cause and effect; that benefit is realization, wisdom, and eventually power to will into being that which is powered by our thoughts. So choose to consider changing how you think and watch how the world shifts around you.  You can change yourself by changing your thinking!

© 2021 M. Dave Salisbury
All Rights Reserved
The images used herein were obtained in the public domain; this author holds no copyright to the images displayed.

NO MORE BS: Know the Why – NO Fear!

NO FearAs I was coming into manhood, a clothing brand began and was almost instantly popular; the brand is easily recognizable and states two words, “No Fear!”  Launched in 1989 by twin brothers Mark and Brian Simo, No Fear quickly became one of the most popular sportswear companies globally—and the most popular sportswear company staunchly against being scared.  I will not claim I have “No Fear,” but I choose to live without fear.  When fears arise, my answer is to learn all I can, mentally prepare for times when those fears will rise again, and then move forward living like those fears will not repeat, for I am mentally prepared.

USS Barry (DDG-52) - WikipediaCase in point, I was on a destroyer in the US Navy.  I had been on the ship for more than two years; I was in charge of Repair 5, the Engine Room damage control locker, and in the middle of the 0000–0400-watch, the bells and alarms go off, “Major Fuel Oil Spill in Main 1.”  Because I had practiced, I had personally trained my fire team.  I was exceedingly knowledgeable about the space, the equipment, and the watchstanders; I proceeded into an actual casualty with confidence, not fear.  More, my team could trust the training I had given them, and they moved from sleep to firefighting with confidence.  While no fire erupted that night, the casualty was quickly contained by the watchstanders.  My fire team was prepared to assist; the experience looked upon is not one of embarrassment from fear but confidence and appreciation for preparation, drills, and knowledge.

Gas Chamber 4My first time going through the CS Gas Chamber happened with my National Guard unit.  I was scared, not fearful, just frightened.  I had no confidence in the equipment, I had not been to basic training yet, and here I was going into a gas chamber.  This experience provided me with confidence that my fellow soldiers in basic training did not have as we went into the gas chamber in basic training when I experienced the gas chamber in the US Army Basic Training, Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.  I had no fear, no trepidation, and no reason to doubt.

During Basic Training, I remember only one time being truly scared, not fearful, just scared!  I had failed to pass on the shooting ranges and was facing being kicked out of the US Army because I could not shoot what I was aiming at.  I had been shooting since I was 14, I knew how to handle rifles, but still, I could not qualify with the M-16.  The problem, I could not relax, and this inability to relax was jerking the trigger and making my rounds go astray.  Worse, I did not know why I could not relax.  Thus, arrives the point of this article, do you know the why in your emotions, decisions, and desires?

Bait & Switch 2You possess beliefs, and some might even be firmly held beliefs; this is great.  I am not writing to dissuade you from your beliefs, to decide differently, or even to emote in a manner foreign to you.  My intent is to aid you in introspection, a path of self-knowledge where you know why you know, why you believe, and why you act as you do.  Do you know why; in knowing why you begin to understand, and understanding brings knowledge and acceptance.

I have a friend who had an abusive childhood.  Her childhood was fraught with danger, all types of abuse, and this childhood prepared her to be in two abusive marriages and consider those abusive marriages as normal.  She is now remarried to a good guy, not abusive at all.  Except she has a lot of health problems, and she seeks out medical opinions for everything, seeking to find domineering in a relationship as a by-product of her childhood.  She refuses to believe that childhood events drive her doctor fixation and not health problems.  I will not attempt to dissuade her of this opinion.  I support the good she does, the good she and her husband do, and I will continue to choose to be her friend.  But fear and refusing to know why has all but crippled my friend, and this is painful to see!

Question 3Do you know why?  Are you willing to investigate to know why?  What will you choose to do when the why is revealed?  Knowing why requires mental preparation, mental preparation requires mental strength, agility, and flexibility, all skills that require practice, time, and development through experiences willingly sought.  Therein lay the most challenging part of building mental skills, being willing to seek out these opportunities, and remaining fixed upon learning, no matter the cost.

I have met some amazing people who refused to accept what the truth was going to cost them.  Learning comes with a price; that price is in the choice to apply or deny what has been taught.  The price is the consequence that follows the decision to accept or reject that which was learned.  My brother’s wife discovered he was cheating on her and had been cheating on her almost from the moment they married.  She stayed in the marriage for seven kids and nearly 20-years.  Hoping he would change.  I honor her willingness and sacrifice; I respect her devotion to my brother, I understand her position and her reasoning.  Still, I wonder, should she have left him immediately upon learning of his infidelity?  She knows the why now, but she refused to accept the why, and the consequences were painful in the extreme for many years.  She is better now, remarried, and the kids are recovering, but did they have to suffer?  Did she have to suffer?  Choice and consequence after learning is mentally difficult.

GearsAs stated and repeated only for emphasis, you may choose how you will, believe, feel, and act the way you think is best for you and yours.  My aim and intent are not to dissuade but to help you more fully appreciate the why and lose the fear.   As a teenager, a friend of mine, a shepherd, asked me to help him on the ranch.  My first day coincided with shearing day, and with 400-head of sheep to shear, this was not going to be an easy day.  Herding the sheep into the corral was not difficult and was accomplished without incident.  Getting the sheep into the run and into the trailer to be sheared was incredibly difficult, but getting the sheep out of the shearing van was easier than falling off the porch.  Why; because of fear.  The sheep wanted to be sheared, but the confinement of the run and the noise the shears produced increased fear so much that the animals could hardly think straight, and they became more fearful the closer they got to the van where the shearing stations were.  Animals confined in tight quarters in the run turned themselves about and tried to flee backward in the run.  Fear made them do incredible things I had never imagined an animal could do.

WhyAs I experienced life, surviving the US Army and the US Navy, I learned what fear does to humans; worse, the consequences of fear leave an indelible impression upon the minds of those who chose to succumb to fear.  The movies never show this side of fear; books and magazines never discuss the aspects of what fear does to harm the mind and body of the person involved.  Worse, society has come up with terms and names to soften the repercussions of a moment’s fear.  As a kid, I watched a lot of M*A*S*H 4077; in one of those shows, Sigmund, the psychiatrist, talks about how a moment’s fear on the battlefield becomes a lifetime of regret, shame, and the potential of an eternal soul is lost.  All because, for one moment, fear overcame, and the body responded, while the mind lost control.

QuestionDo you know why?  Are you willing to discover the why and teach others what you have learned?  The final step in introspection is not acceptance but being willing to teach.  Through teaching, you learn more perfectly; this is a pattern that I have seen replicated in too many classrooms to ignore.  I met an amazing woman in a long-term care facility in Geneva, Ohio.  She was my mothers-in-law’s roommate.  She was a teacher and began her career in a one-room schoolhouse at sixteen.  She retired just after the school’s consolidated.  She had been blind for a long time.  I never met a more grateful person, and I have not met a more learned person!  She said every day she taught, she learned something new, which taught her to be grateful, and in gratitude, she taught and learned for her entire career and every day thereafter.

Thus, I ask again, do you know the why?  Are you willing to learn the why?  How you choose does determine your destiny.  I close with a final thought, are you willing to ever choose the harder right instead of, the easier wrong?  I am not perfect, I struggle to choose the harder right, but I also know the invaluable worth of being prepared mentally and not fearing.  I know the power that comes with choosing to know the why and allowing that choice, with its inherent and natural consequences, to lead towards making better decisions and learning.  There is power in knowing why there is power in failure, there is hope in failure, and great peace in knowing the why.How to Make Any Question Essential with Three Easy Steps – Wabisabi Learning

Search out the why.  Choose to learn.  After learning, accept the price of consequences and see how those consequences can change you!

© 2021 M. Dave Salisbury
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