Saturday, April 25, 2015

‘Attitude of Gratitude’ observation for Saturday evening

I am grateful that I live in the particular time and place that I do. When my furnace stopped working overnight, I made a phone call in the morning, and 30 minutes later a service tech was pulling into my driveway. He quickly replaced a part on the burner, and bingo, we had heat again! If I lived in, say, the 19th century, and had to provide my own food and shelter and heat, I probably would’ve survived for about three days.

Friday, April 24, 2015

The ‘Wait, What?!’ of the Week, April 24, 2015

In recent years Hillary Clinton has given countless speeches across the country, and each time has been paid $300,000 to offer her one-hour presentation. Wow, good work if you can get it. (And her husband Bill often gets $500,000 per speech!). On an hourly basis, Hillary’s fee is 30,000 times more money than a person who makes $10 per hour. Even if you figure that each speech by Mrs. Clinton is a full day of work—after all, she has to fly in on a private jet and spend the night in a five-star hotel—her compensation is still 3750 times more than the 10-bucks-an-hour average Joe makes in a day. When Hillary visited Iowa last week to kick off her presidential campaign, she said this: “I think it's fair to say that if you look across the country, the deck is stacked in favor of those already at the top. There’s something wrong when CEOs make 300 times more than the American worker.”

Wait. What?! A person who makes over 30,000 times more than a minimum wage worker is complaining about CEOs who make 300 times more? Hmm, what’s wrong with this picture? Is Hillary and her team of advisers even remotely aware of the concept of irony? How about hypocrisy? And we have to be subjected to this for the next 18 months? Oy, I feel sick.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

‘Attitude of Gratitude’ observation for Thursday afternoon

I am grateful that my wife and kids and I are in good health. That’s something which is easy to take for granted, as all the other issues of life swirl about during the day. But we watched an interesting movie the other night, “The Theory of Everything,” about the life of super-smart guy Dr. Stephen Hawkings. It was very moving to see how the terrible disease ALS first took away his ability to walk, then his ability to talk. So I’ll try to whine less often when, for example, my middle-aged back is achy or my gimpy knee is sore. It could be a whole lot worse. Thank you, O Lord, for the gift of health.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Smart Phones Cause ‘Telepressure’

A recent study coined a new term: “telepressure.” This is the stress caused by a need to check and respond to work emails while at home. It can begin the moment a person wakes up, and can continue until well past midnight, as one final email reply is sent out on a smart phone while lying in bed. And take my word for it, being exhausted but unable to fall asleep while visions of quarterly sales reports dance in your head is a delightful feeling, especially when the alarm clock is set to go off in five hours so the cycle can begin all over again.

Researchers have discovered that people who feel obligated to respond to work emails at all hours of the day have difficulty sleeping, have higher levels of stress and burnout, and have more health-related absences from work. Although since it’s possible to reply to emails on a phone even when in a hospital bed, should we really call these episodes “absences from work”? I know some people who in all seriousness would call these episodes “goldbricking,” “a sign of weakness,” and “reason to question your loyalty to the firm.”

The study did not mention another symptom of doing work emails at home: people don’t have bags under their eyes, they have carry-on luggage.

The research found that 52-percent of Americans check their email before and after regular work hours, and this includes Sundays, sick days, and vacation days. I suspect the percentage is even higher, as some people were unable to respond to the survey because at that moment they were too busy typing out a frantic work email.

There is one very clear conclusion we can draw from this research: Steve Jobs was an agent of Satan. OK, maybe that’s a bit harsh. The late, great inventor of the iPhone most likely did not have a secret master plan to make everyone unhappy and unhealthy. Smart phones are indeed remarkable devices. (I suppose you could say the same thing about hydrogen bombs.)

But as is the case with many good things (to clarify, I’m not including hydrogen bombs here), human beings have a tendency to go overboard. I’m thinking at the moment of two items: bacon-flavored chocolate, which I recently received as a birthday present (and if I’m soon in need bacon-flavored methadone, you’ll know why), and the proliferation of fluorescent colored running shoes. Really, Nike? You really think those glow-in-the-dark sneakers look GOOD? We all know your shoes are infinitely more comfortable than the old Converse All Stars of a generation ago. But when people want comfortable footwear, do they really need to look like Ringling Brothers employees?

An interesting aspect about the email research is that people who are on vacation and purposely force themselves NOT to check work emails are more stressed-out than if they spent time replying to emails. This is because they fear they are missing something important, and worry that a client or their boss or Steve Jobs will be displeased with them.

The only solution to telepressure is to force yourself to turn off the smart phone at 5 p.m., and don’t turn it back on until 8 a.m. the next morning. I’ll bet in many cases this won’t even be a problem. No clients or bosses or agents of Satan will be displeased. But if this does become a problem, look on the bright side. If you lose your job and the bank forecloses on your house and your spouse and children leave you, at least while huddled inside a cardboard box in an alley, you will get the best night’s sleep you’ve had in years.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

‘Attitude of Gratitude’ observation for Tuesday morning

I am grateful that my house is dry and the roof doesn’t leak. I thought about this at 2 a.m. last night when a crack of lightning and boom of thunder woke me out of a sound sleep. The rain was pouring like crazy, and I thought of the old Bob Seger song, “Night Moves,” with this line: “I woke last night to the sound of thunder / How far off I sat and wondered / Started humming a song from 1962 …”

No songs from 1962 readily came to mind. (I looked up afterward, and here’s some top hits from that year: “Johnny Angel,” “The Twist,” “Moon River,” and “Ramblin’ Rose.”) However, what did come to mind was this: man, I’m glad the roof doesn’t leak. There’s a lot to be said for having a dry house--just ask anyone who has a leaky house. The other thought I had was: man, I hope I can fall back to sleep soon. Too bad that didn’t happen.

Oh well, the house is dry and I’ll probably be dozing off at my desk this afternoon. Things could be worse.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Symbolon: The Catholic Faith Explained

An interesting aspect of Catholicism is the fact the Catholic Church has the oldest, deepest, and most philosophically vibrant history of any Christian denomination. There are so many fascinating aspects of Catholic theology, tradition, and practices, that it would take a lifetime just to list them all, let alone learn and understand each one.

With so much rich history and weighty doctrines, you would think Catholics are the most religiously knowledgeable people around. Unfortunately, the exact opposite is true. Average American Catholics—and I’m talking even about folks who go to Mass on a regular basis—do not understand core Church teachings very well, and they are usually quite ignorant about the Church’s rich history.

Well, in my parish, anyway, we’re trying to do something about this. We will be hosting a video series called “Symbolon: The Catholic Faith Explained.” The program was produced by the Augustine Institute in Denver, Colorado. There are two primary sections. The first series of videos focus on knowing the faith. Basic doctrinal topics include: the nature of God, the Trinity, divine revelation, the Bible, the identity of Jesus, His death and Resurrection, the Church, Mary and the Saints, and this crucial question: What happens after we die?

The second part of the program focuses on living the faith. Topics include: the sacraments, especially the Eucharist; a walk through the Mass; Catholic morality; and Catholic social teachings.

The Symbolon program features dozens of nationally-known Catholic teachers. The state-of-the-art videos were filmed on location in Rome, the Holy Land, and Calcutta, as well as in the studios and classrooms of the Augustine Institute.

The program was created in the first place for one simple reason: Catholicism is an entire way of life, but nowadays most people have lost sight of this truth. Sure, many folks are familiar with various aspects of the Catholic faith, but if they asked themselves whether the faith makes much of a difference in their lives, the honest answer quite often would be, “No, not really.”

Our modern world has become very compartmentalized, and we’re rather adept at thinking about faith for an hour on Sunday morning, and then shifting back to a thoroughly secular frame of mind the rest of the week.

The goal of the Symbolon series is to help adults discover, or re-discover, the beauty and richness of the Catholic faith, and to live in the light of Christ’s joy and peace seven days a week.

The best part of the Symbolon program, in my humble opinion, is that it explores these rather deep and weighty concepts in a very easy-to-understand format. Even though the hosts and teachers in the videos are brilliant theologians with advanced doctorate degrees, they are wise enough to understand that the target audience—we average Sunday pew-sitters—are not exactly rocket scientists, nor have we been trained very well in basic Catholic concepts. So the format is laid-back and relaxed, nothing like an intense classroom. Each 90-minute session will consist of a couple of videos, a little prayer time, and an opportunity for some discussion (but only if you want to participate!). Also, there is no homework and no tests.

My parish is Immaculate Heart of Mary in Harwinton, CT, and our program begins on Monday, April 27th, at 6:30 p.m. We will meet on the 2nd and 4th Mondays of each month. The program is open to anyone—I mean anyone—who wants to learn more about the Catholic faith. And if you’re reading this online right now in, say, Florida or Ireland, then you’d better leave the house right now so you’re not late.

By the way, I’m privileged to be part of the team that will facilitate the meetings—but please don’t let that keep you from coming!