The More Words, The Less Meaning

“The fish trap exists because of the fish. Once you’ve gotten the fish you can forget the trap. The rabbit snare exists because of the rabbit. Once you’ve gotten the rabbit, you can forget the snare. Words exist because of meaning. Once you’ve gotten the meaning, you can forget the words. Where can I find a man who has forgotten words so I can talk with him?”  ― Zhuangzi

There are times I can be quite chatty (and possibly obnoxious and overbearing).  But I wonder if maybe the reason that I talk so much is that I am trying vigorously to communicate something for which words do not exist.  Something that can only be felt in the deepest part of being.  Something that goes beyond words and their usefulness.

Is there such a thing?  A truth that cannot be communicated?  Wisdom that cannot be spoken?  an idea that cannot be uttered?  What characteristics would it have?  How would we notice it, or think about it; study it, or perceive it?  Could we?  Would we?  In a world of instant access to unlimited information, it seems almost absurd to seek after something that cannot be encoded into language.

This is exactly how Lao Tzu describes The Tao in the Tao Te Ching, “The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao, The Way that can be named is not the eternal Way.” But how can we have anything but a superficial understanding of this Great Truth when all we can do is speak or read about it?  Perhaps it can be reached through meditation.  Focusing on your breathing, moving into your body, getting in touch with your surroundings and filling your mind with the present moment.  This may get you away from words, but as the story goes, meditating to reach enlightenment is like polishing a brick to make it into a mirror (it ain’t gon’ happen)

[I have tactically chosen to leave the remainder of this post empty, instead of finishing it, in order to leave space for Wordless Truth.  Let me know if you see it]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Dropping Out of College Was the Best Decision I Could Have Made

It’s been over 11 years since I dropped out of college, and it has turned out to be one of the best life choices I have ever made.  My only regret is that I didn’t do it sooner. 

Straight out of high school, I really had no clue who I was, or what I wanted out of life (I knew my mom wanted me to become a Lutheran minister, and I was strongly considering it if only to make her happy).  When I signed up for classes at a local community college, I ended up majoring in business and minoring in music (I guess I wanted to open a…Music business?).  My class-load was not terribly heavy, but I still had a hard time dragging myself out of bed for my earlier classes, and after a few weeks stopped attending them.  No one seemed to care, so eventually I stopped going to my other classes as well, opting to wander around campus, hang out in the library, or go to more interesting classes that I hadn’t actually signed up for.  Well I couldn’t keep this up forever, at least not without someone getting wise to my shenanigans, so I had to come clean.

I ended up flunking out my first semester, as it was too late to withdraw from my classes.  My parents were not ecstatic (they were even less thrilled in the coming months when they learned I was getting married and moving 1100 miles away).

Sure, the main reason I avoided my classes was laziness, but it seems college has become the lazy option.

I can understand if you have a vision for your future, or a career or vocation that you would like to pursue that requires a degree, but anymore college is just an extension of high school, a way to postpone adulthood.  Not sure what you want to be when you grow up?  that’s fine!  Just change your major 17 times, you’ll get there soon enough.  Why go out into the real world and get real life experiences when you can spend another 4 to 8 years in a classroom?  And hey, If you’re not happy with your degree, that’s okay, you can just come right on back and get another one.

I am eternally grateful to my irresponsible 18 year old self for being lazy, selfish, and reckless.  That one decision propelled me into a life of travel, adventure, and awesomeness (not to mention the lack of debt!).  I may not have a degree, but I have an amazing wife, 4 kids, my own home, and 11 years of real life experience.  (maybe I would have had these things had I finished my degree, but then again, maybe not)

Disclaimer:  Everyone makes their own personal life decisions.  If college is right for you, go for it, just don’t feel like it’s your only option, or that you’re a deadbeat if you don’t have a degree. 

Shifting My Focus Away From Perfect Parenting

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I’m call myself an unschooler.  A gentle and peaceful parent.  An empathetic parent.  And most of the time, I am.  But sometimes my actions don’t quite line up with my declared parenting style.  Honestly, there are times when my actions are diametrically opposed to my declared parenting style.  I’m selfish.  I put my own needs before the needs of my children.  I yell.  I get agitated by things that don’t matter.  I fail to see things from my child’s perspective.  My fear of imaginary things that might happen causes me to harm the relationship I have with my children.  Sometimes I worry that by the time I figure out how to be a decent parent, my children will be grown.

Since achieving parental perfection seems to be out of the question, my focus is now on three main areas.

Admitting and Apologizing

What I did was wrong.  I shouldn’t have behaved so poorly.  I’m sorry.  No reason to try to cover it up, justify it, or ignore it.  We all make mistakes, and my children appreciate my willingness to be open, genuine, and vulnerable.

Learning and Improving

I am committed to constant improvement as a parent, and nothing helps more than making mistakes and learning from them.  Its hard to feel down about being a bad dad when I look at how far I have come in such a short amount of time.

Remembering and Empathizing

My imperfections remind me that we are all human.  Remembering this helps me to be more understanding when others exhibit imperfect behavior, and to respond appropriately.

So, I can’t teach my children how to be perfect, but I can set an example in repairing relationships, using failure as a stepping stone to success, and showing empathy and compassion to broken, hurting, imperfect people.  And I think that is just as good.

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My Kids Are Better Teachers Than I Could Ever Hope To Be

10257268_768654803153707_6684229888910505074_oChildren.  Kids.  The next generation.  Progeny.  Offspring.  The genetic mashup of you and your partner.  The little people who completely change your life, who completely change you.  Children.

I am in absolute awe of my children.  For as long as I have known them, they have been teaching me, and helping me grow as a person.  I owe them a debt that I can never repay, and I am deeply grateful to them.

As they were growing inside of their mother, locked away where I couldn’t see, they taught me that there are some things I cannot control.  When they decided to break free, and join us on the outside, they helped me to see what an amazing person my wife is; and what it is like to care for someone who offered you nothing in return.  As I changed diaper, after diaper, after diaper, after diaper, My intestinal fortitude increased dramatically, and as the urine splashed me, an unsuspecting new father, I learned to change those diapers with lighting ninja speed.  When I was waiting anxiously for the next milestone, they taught me to be patient, that life is not a contest, and that everyone learns at their own pace.

Soon they began walking, and talking.  they taught me to watch, and they taught me to listen.  I learned that an ounce of prevention was worth a pound of cure.  I learned the number for poison control.  I learned to follow my instincts, and ignore the critics, to do what is best for my family.

And as they grew older, they showed me how to play, sing, dance, and laugh without being ashamed.  They modeled creativity, and originality.  They taught me that its okay to make a mess, and that most things come out in the wash.  I learned to love what they loved, only because they loved it.  They taught me sacrifice, and over and over they taught me unconditional love.  They showed me that I have something to live for, that I matter, and that I am needed.

Every time I hear those little voices saying, “Will you play with me,” or “Can you get me a glass of water.”  When I find a sandwich in the couch.  When I am at my wits end, I try to remember how much they have taught me, and how much they have given me, and what my life would be without them.

Oh, and they taught me to play Minecraft.

Looking back at the person I used to be, I can’t believe I have made it this far.  There is no way I could have done it without them.  Thank you kids.  Thank you.  I love you.

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“The Elements” Coloring Pages

(UPDATE:  More element coloring pages can be found here by clicking here)

I am so excited about this!  When I was a kid I loved learning about the elements.  There’s a sort of mystery to it.  A magical world populated by strange and fantastic creatures, too small to see even with a microscope, AND THEY ARE ALL AROUND US!  So, I am really enjoying watching my own children discover the elements, atoms, and everything that goes along with them.  To aid in this process, I decided to prowl the web for element themed coloring pages.  But my search proved to be unfruitful.  Disappointed but determined, I decided to make my own.  One page for each element, and here are the first three:  Hydrogen, Helium, and Lithium.

(Along with the coloring pages, we are also reading an incredibly awesome and beautifully illustrated book called The Elements (By Theodore Gray), and putting four elements a day (one for each kid) on our giant periodic table.)

Enjoy!

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Hydrogoen Coloring PageHelium Coloring Page  Lithium Coloring Page

My Kids Are Better Teachers Than I Could Ever Hope To Be

10257268_768654803153707_6684229888910505074_oChildren.  Kids.  The next generation.  Progeny.  Offspring.  The genetic mashup of you and your partner.  The little people who completely change your life, who completely change you.  Children.

I am in absolute awe of my children.  For as long as I have known them, they have been teaching me, and helping me grow as a person.  I owe them a debt that I can never repay, and I am deeply grateful to them.

As they were growing inside of their mother, locked away where I couldn’t see, they taught me that there are some things I cannot control.  When they decided to break free, and join us on the outside, they helped me to see what an amazing person my wife is; and what it is like to care for someone who offered you nothing in return.  As I changed diaper, after diaper, after diaper, after diaper, My intestinal fortitude increased dramatically, and as the urine splashed me, an unsuspecting new father, I learned to change those diapers with lighting ninja speed.  When I was waiting anxiously for the next milestone, they taught me to be patient, that life is not a contest, and that everyone learns at their own pace.

Soon they began walking, and talking.  they taught me to watch, and they taught me to listen.  I learned that an ounce of prevention was worth a pound of cure.  I learned the number for poison control.  I learned to follow my instincts, and ignore the critics, to do what is best for my family.

And as they grew older, they showed me how to play, sing, dance, and laugh without being ashamed.  They modeled creativity, and originality.  They taught me that its okay to make a mess, and that most things come out in the wash.  I learned to love what they loved, only because they loved it.  They taught me sacrifice, and over and over they taught me unconditional love.  They showed me that I have something to live for, that I matter, and that I am needed.

Every time I hear those little voices saying, “Will you play with me,” or “Can you get me a glass of water.”  When I find a sandwich in the couch.  When I am at my wits end, I try to remember how much they have taught me, and how much they have given me, and what my life would be without them.

Oh, and they taught me to play Minecraft.

Looking back at the person I used to be, I can’t believe I have made it this far.  There is no way I could have done it without them.  Thank you kids.  Thank you.  I love you.

The Answers Are Within

I accidentally posted this on my other blog yesterday.  So, if you are subscribed to both, you may see it twice.

Sometimes, I get really worked up and worried, and I have to sit myself down, and talk some sense into me (Mostly because no one else will):

“Oh self,” I say, “Oh if only I could be like this person, or that person.”

You don’t need to be like them.  Just be yourself.  There is nothing wrong with that.

“But they have it so easy!”

You don’t know that.  You only know the ease or difficulty of your 0wn life.

“Okay, I guess.  But what am I even doing here?  I need some direction.  I need someone to show me the path.  How do I know if I’m doing whats right?”

The answers are inside of you.  Everything that you seek without and fail to find, is hidden within.  You know what is right, you know what you should be doing, and you do not need the approval or acceptance of anyone else.

“But what if I screw up?  What if I fail?  What if I change my mind?”

Making your own decisions, good or bad, right or wrong, and facing the consequences, is the only way to grow.  It is the only way to find out who you are.  Without failure, and without change, there is no growth, there is no life.

But I’m scared”

That’s okay.  Its part of being human.  acknowledge the fear, and release it.  Then go on doing what you know is right.

I really don’t think I can do this, but I guess I’ll keep trying.”

“At the center of your being
you have the answer;
you know who you are
and you know what you want.”  ~Lao tzu

“Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without.” ~Buddha

“Cherish that which is within you, and shut off that which is without; for much knowledge is a curse.” ~Zhuangzi

Help Yourself First

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I want to help people.  I want to make a difference.  My goal with this blog is to create content that encourages people, motivates them, makes them think, and reminds them of what is really important.

In my estimation, there are two main steps in writing this kind of material, and I have all but ignored the first.

Step 1:  Change Your Own Life

This is not to say I haven’t been trying.  Every day I strive to become a better father, a better husband, and a better person.  I work on quitting bad habits, eating healthy, being happy, and staying organized.  I have made vast improvements, but I am still on the first leg of my journey.

How can I be so bold as to say “This is what you must do to be happy” or “This is what you must do to have good relationships” when my own life is in shambles, and my relationships are unsteady at best?  I may very well be speaking the truth, but only as a spectator.  I might be giving good advice, but if I have not fully experienced the change in my own life, how can I speak it with confidence and authority?

So, going forward, I will be focused on my own continued improvement, until I reach a point when I am comfortable taking on Step Two (Using What You Have Learned To Help Others)

Plan Of Action

  1. Evaluate my current situation
  2. Find out what’s working, and what’s not
  3. Make a list of negative habits (over-eating sweets, losing my temper, spending too much time on social media, et cetera)
  4. Make a list of positive habits (Eating fruits and vegetables, meditating, exercising, and so forth)
  5. Choose one habit each month to work on, until I run out of habits, and thus become superhuman
  6. Save the world (or something)

Accountability

I have found that accountability is a very strong motivator for me.  So (whether you like it or not) you all are now officially a part of my accountability team.  Help me stay on track, and don’t be afraid to tell me when I am going astray.

I am probably breaking blogger etiquette by doing this, but if you made it through this post, and you’re willing to help me out, go ahead and leave me a comment or a “Like,”  just so I know I have your support.  I promise I’ll never ask again.

Thanks for reading.

Checkmate Dad! (Putting an end to my bias toward “Educational” activites)

Chess

There was a time when I had a clear distinction in my mind between “Educational” and “Mindless” activities.  I even had a mental scale, or rating system that I used to determined which activities would be more or less educational.

When my children would chose an educational activity (Studying the globe for example) I would be filled with joy and satisfaction, knowing that they would soon be silencing my critics with their display of awesome knowledge.  When they chose a less educational activity (watching Mickey Mouse Clubhouse for example)  I would be filled with anxiety, fear, and disappointment.

One place where this mental dichotomy would manifest itself is our local library.  We would walk into the children’s department, and the first thing my children would see:  The computers.  “Why?”  I would think, “Why can’t they look at books?  That is what we are here for, maybe they would actually LEARN something!  Must they spend the entire trip on the computer EVERY time we come here?”

On one of these trips my son (aged 5 at the time) stumbled upon a chess game on the library computer.  He fell in love.  For the next 3 weeks everything was chess.  He watched instructional videos to learn the names of the pieces and how they move, he played chess on the kindle and on the computer at home, and EVERY time we went to the library.  He was chess obsessed, and he was getting pretty good at it.

Had I insisted that he stay off of the Library computer, and go pick out books, he never would have had the joy of finding something that he loved.   By steering our kids toward activities we believe to be more “educational” we may just be robbing them of an opportunity to find something they are passionate about.

At any rate, our beliefs about what is “educational” are made up prejudices, and we should do everything in our power to make sure our children participate in any activity they desire, without regard to our biased opinion.

Hey!  Check out the new Dadosaurus Rex Facebook page! 

Inside an Elementary School

Occasionally for work, I make visits to local elementary schools.  I have the opportunity to see the way many (if not most) children are spending the bulk of their waking hours.  Having four young children myself, I know what they are capable of.  Children are creativity machines, always singing, dancing, building, digging, experimenting and exploring.  They have a tremendous drive to take in as much of the world around them as possible.  They are bursting with excitement at the newness of everything.  Imagine having 200-300 of these little imaginative beasts crammed into one area!  What would that look like?  What would they learn, create, and discover?

Well, I have seen what it looks like, and it is quite disturbing.  Today was my first visit of the school year to a few local elementary schools.   Each of the schools I visited was the pretty much the same.  None of the children spoke (At least not loud enough for me to hear).  They moved silently in single file lines, and the only sound was the commands and reprimands of the adults.

You couldn’t have asked for more docile and obedient children, but the school staff still found reasons to chastise.  One student put out his arm, and ran his hand along the wall as he walked (still in line) toward the cafeteria.  “Aiden, the wall does not need dusting!”

As I made my way through the school, I heard a teacher inform the students that they ought to walk “Single file through the hall please, quiet as a butterfly,” on hearing this, one of the more spirited children gently flapped her arms (like a butterfly), “SASHA!  We are not birds!”  Whoa.

It was pathetic.  The teachers were really grasping at straws.  On my way out I heard “Why would you put water in your hair!? Why? Just, WHY!?”  I turned to see a boy, not drenched as I was expecting, but patting his slightly damp head with his hand.

These are young kids we are talking about, anywhere from 4 to 10 years old.  I can’t believe that I am the only one who doesn’t think this is a natural or healthy way for them to behave.  And it is not enough for them to be silent for six hours, and walk in single file lines, but they need to keep their arms at their side, not touch anything, and whatever you do, don’t let any of them put water in their hair.

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