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Goodbye childhood, hello adolescence!

If you just turned thirteen it may be the most important date in your life. When hormones kick in bodies change – you’ve heard all this. What you may not have heard is that minds can change, too. Minds and selves, so different that what they see out there and in here is hardly recognizable.

That’s how it was for me and my classmates when we were thirteen. Kids fresh out of grade school and Sunday school. Challenged by adolescence, one of the biggest transitions of our lives then and thereafter. While we were also adjusting to Phillips Academy at Andover, then an all-male preparatory school with a no-nonsense approach to education. With a world of opportunity for character development, too. We were destined for four incredible years of education and growth that would put us all in the best universities: Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Columbia, Cornell, MIT, Caltech, Stanford, UC Berkeley, Oxford, Cambridge, the rest of the Ivies, and more.

But we didn’t know it yet. All we knew was this thing called childhood was over. We were adolescents. Instead of reading Justin Morgan Had a Horse (1945) now we were reading The Catcher in the Rye (1951). Anticipating a strange new world: the mysterious, sophisticated world of adults. Where safe passage through ambiguity -- the murkiness and deviousness of human motivation -- was by no means assured. We were intrigued, scared, ambivalent. That’s how it was. That was adolescence.

What’s life all about anyway?

We could feel ourselves changing. But changing into who or what was confusing. Because we couldn’t tell where all these forces of humanity and nature were taking us. Decisions coming at us faster than we knew how to decide. Not: Do we run with the crowd or go it alone? Keep up with our homework or blow it off? But: What really interests us? What really matters?

What did we want our one shot at life to be all about? Have something to show for it or just go with the flow? How could we apply ourselves in school to become the person we wanted to be? To develop character with solid values and abilities that helped us grow? To be of service. What was life all about anyway?

Creating something beautiful in the here and now

What can be more exacting, more exciting, than learning to think for ourselves? The beginning of adolescence is when everyone who has learning to share with us gets serious about it. What we learn or don’t learn counts. All the curricular and extra-curricular activities, competitions, assignments, social interactions, and entertainments give us an array of possibilities to choose from. Different beliefs and causes that will bless us with purpose, meaning, and satisfaction the rest of our lives. That will help us discover who we are and how we choose to apply our ideals and powers to create something beautiful -- an expression of what we stand for.

The world of the university may be some years away. But for the thirteen-year-old student who wants to make something beautiful of her life, it starts here. It starts now. it’s not too soon to reflect on her potential. Not If she means to qualify for the best universities. It’s not too soon to realize how satisfying, how much fun, it can be to be responsible for developing her own potential. To be in charge of it. To think for herself. Because no one else can do it for her.

What are the right values?

Kids from families that practice gentle loving kindness are already familiar with the best value of all. They’re halfway there to building character with strong values. For the rest adolescence is their chance to make up for lost time. In either case it’s a pleasure to talk with them about values. Because if they’ve just turned thirteen they want to grow. Their minds and hearts are open. They’re a work in progress, beauty put there to create beauty. Creativity that may not last, because with the onset of “maturity” minds and hearts often close to the possibilities, become set in their ways. Thirteen is beautiful. Keep minds and hearts open and you’ll make it.

Character and values are certainly role-modeled in school but they aren’t expressly taught. We could learn some of the best values in other venues, like church, and also some of the worst. Being parted from independent judgment to demonstrate “faith” in someone else’s judgment is not being mindful. Not when the value of mindfulness is right up there with gentle loving kindness. This is why it’s important to talk about values: there are no “saviors” to do our thinking for us. Building character with strong values is a do-it-yourself proposition. Do it yourself with lots of help, to be sure. Help from other people. Help from philosophy, psychology, theology, and any of the sciences that resonate with Mind and Love. With Logic. Help above all from our own intuition, the source of insights that guide and inspire the arts, sciences, and all of human progress. But always grounded in our own judgment, our own free will. Always.

Values are many things: ideals to inspire us, attributes to define us, instruments to be used. But the place to start is that they’re gifts. And what they require from us, if they’re going to do their job, is thankfulness and respect. Because they come from a Source that deserves thankfulness and respect – from Love. From the Source of our Being and our Worth.

What are the right values? Whatever values fit the situation we’re in. What’s the right fit? Whatever we figure out if we get it right. Choosing values to serve for different situations requires thought, feeling, and conscience. Mind and heart working together.

One thing it does not require is a formula. Minds unable or unwilling to do the work will make a show of values. Minds without conscience or character whose only value is what’s in it for them. If their “values” don’t feel like the real thing they probably aren’t. They’re just appearances for taking advantage, a clever formula someone learned to fool us and hide the truth. It’s not loving or kind. It’s cheating to avoid values. Cheating isn’t getting it right.

Character and values anchor us

We can’t think for ourselves without evaluating. Without being aware of our values and being true to them when we make up our minds. Using our minds to reason and evaluate fortifies us with understanding and good judgment. With conscience that knows right from wrong and displays good character. It assures others that we can be trusted. That we’re safe to be close to at work and play.

Children follow a path laid down for them. Adolescents learning to think for themselves begin choosing their own path. It’s how they transition to becoming young adults. Character isn’t defined for them anymore. They have to define it themselves, and it begins with choices. Choices among values that pull in different directions. The best defense against being pulled in the wrong direction is to choose the right values.

Character isn’t about blowing with the wind. It’s about the values that we choose and commit to. That define and anchor us. The best defense against choosing the wrong path is building the right character.

The ways we express our values

They’re things people need, want, or otherwise care about. One dimension belongs here with us on our planet of spacetime and matter. Another belongs in a part of our mind that’s not spacetime and matter. It’s called “intuition.” It produces spontaneous insights that guide thinking in science and every other field, but no one knows where they come from. A third dimension is their opposites – the “dark side.”

So if we think of “Wealth,” for instance, it could mean property we accumulate for our comfort beyond necessities, like yachts and jewelry. Or it could mean the thought and feeling of Abundance that motivate us to share our Love, Power, and Worth. Those are very different takes on “Wealth,” but they’re equally valid in their contexts. “Scarcity” is one word for their opposite.

Here are ways of labeling ten basic categories of human values or needs:

Love (family-intimacy)
Belonging (community)
Worthiness (affirmation)
Empowerment (energy, control)
Abundance (wealth, material comfort)
Protection (safety, security)
Freedom (free will)
Health (healing)
Beauty (purity, essence)
Hope (faith, purpose).

Like rivers they branch outward into tributaries that contain all kinds of things important to us. Values that we use to make up our minds. “Core values” that apply across humanity and values we choose and express as individuals. They’re part of our everyday experience, as concrete and immediate as the food we eat. If “belonging” doesn’t sound important “fairness” certainly will, and it’s part of belonging.

There are too many values to list all the ways we express them, but some that are implied by our needs are listed in the appendix. Terms that catalogue their opposites are given as well. This should give us a feel for how familiar and relevant values and their opposites are, like “kindness” and “scarcity.” How they influence our work and relationships and how important it is to be aware of them.

One perspective on our choices doesn’t tell us what to think. But by presenting the dark side as well as the light it does give us an idea how values pull in different directions. What choices can imply and where they might lead if we’re not mindful. If we don’t exercise solid independent judgment that comes from introspection, reflection, reasoning, evaluating, and discipline. So when we decide our eyes will be open. So the consequences – especially the costs – won’t be an unpleasant surprise.

Role modeling values

What grandparents learn from their grandchildren is the joyfulness of living in the moment. Of spontaneity that opens minds and hearts. That frees them to laugh and love, to play and think creatively in ways they’ve forgotten or may have never learned before. Time with their grandchildren is well spent. In fact, it can be enormously helpful. What grandparent isn’t grateful for being admitted into the world of a precious child?

We are all role models. Children no less than grownups. But the values a thirteener might learn from a grandparent can’t be following in anyone’s “footsteps.” Grownups’ lives and careers are also a work in progress. They’re not meant to be footsteps for anyone to follow. Let role models guide and motivate us, but don’t let them take over.

Are character and education worth the effort?

Three accomplished role models have written primers on adolescence, worthy causes, and qualifying for some of the best universities:

Being a Teen: Everything Teen Girls and Boys Should Know About Relationships, Sex, Love, Health, Identity, and More, by Jane Fonda (Random House 2014)

It’s Your World: Get Informed, Get Inspired & Get Going!, by Chelsea Clinton (Penguin 2017)

The Ultimate Teen Guide to Getting into the Ivy League: The 10-Step System, by Courtney Malinchak (Strauss Consultants 2017)

These are just a sample of what’s out there. Whatever our situations someone else has been there, thought about it, and come up with insights and information to stimulate our thinking and ease the way. If it seems like we’ve been abandoned the truth is very different. Whatever our situation it puts us into a community that wants to help. Just like our intuition, it only needs to be asked. So don’t let change come of its own accord: bone up on it and master it.

Even the best high schools and preparatory schools can’t make it easy to get into places like Harvard and Caltech. It takes extra effort. If what we’re looking for is “easy” why bother with school at all? Why bother with Life? What lies ahead for all of us is deciding whether we want to make the effort. Malinchak’s book could scare us away or fill us with determination. Which will it be?

Here’s one reason for making an extra effort. At Andover I was an average student with one distinction: I tried hard. I may have been the only athlete recommended for a varsity letter without scoring points for the team. My coach’s recommendation said my work ethic inspired my teammates to score points, and that’s why I deserved the award. The best universities look for applicants who want to excel. Who are passionate about pushing themselves beyond their limits. And one way they measure passion is by level of effort. I made it to Harvard. Andover might have gotten me there without extra effort, but maybe it wouldn’t.

Having an education from a world-class university is like being able to board a plane at a busy airport without going through security. Everyone wants you on board and they want to make it easy. Because the source of your education puts their minds at rest about your mind. About your character, talent, and values. You’re trusted. People can put their confidence in you. A degree from the top universities, like Harvard, Yale, Princeton, MIT, Caltech, or Stanford, that’s put to good use, can gain acceptance into the highest circles of wealth, power, and society. I know this from experience. Without my Harvard degree the opportunities that put accomplishment, satisfaction, and joy into my career would not have been there. This is a solid reason for making an extra effort. It might be stressful but you’ll never regret it.

Just as the best universities open up worlds of possibilities, only the values of good character can get us into those worlds. Can give us the power and ability to realize our potential once we’re there. Good education and good character are gifts that never stop giving.

Career or no career? What does Mona Lisa say?

If an adolescent girl is unsure of her motivation Mona Lisa Smile, with Julia Roberts, might help. It’s a 2003 film that tells the story of an art professor at Wellesley College who encouraged her students to pursue careers. The professor’s students divided themselves into women who wanted careers and those who didn’t. I knew a graduate of Wellesley who earned a degree in economics. After that, she earned a law degree from Harvard and a license to practice law in Massachusetts. She had a very good mind. But even though she earned a profession she never actually wanted it. And as soon as she could, she abandoned it.

Do you want training for a professional career? Or are you one of the Wellesley students who don’t want a career? It can be a difficult choice for a conscientious girl that requires a lot of thought. This film may help, because it dramatizes the choice from both sides. Good thinking and great entertainment!

The values of a grandparent: Mindfulness, learning and growth

What this grandparent wants others to know about him is that he places a high value on mind – on learning and growth. That he believes that Mind and Love, thought and feeling, are inseparable. That he will be honest with others and places a high value on facts, Logic, and Truth. He believes that we make the world a better place by making ourselves better persons, and we make ourselves better persons by making the world a better place.

We choose Life when we choose not to be satisfied with the way things are. When we choose to explore the possibilities open to us by our minds. When we allow and encourage our minds to reflect. To see things from perspectives different from our own, To explore new approaches to our work, relationships, and wellbeing. Our values are to be used for creativity, to build character and self-worth.

The “niceness” of sharing, empowerment, and affirmation

In five different regions this grandparent practiced the value of service. Service through ideas (mindfulness), sharing, empowerment, and affirmation. He helped others come together to make good things happen. He shared his ideas, organized, and put them in charge. In one region he helped to secure community leadership training through twelve colleges and universities. Accumulating wealth and power for himself wasn’t a consideration. Attracting support for his career today, in thinking and writing, is a consideration. But he’s still committed to the same values.

The values that make a grandparent loving are gentle loving kindness, service, sharing, empowerment, and affirmation. These are the “niceness” that secures a grandparent’s place in his grandchildren’s hearts, that can cover him with hugs and kisses from grandchildren who need and appreciate it. That secures a place for them in his heart and makes them Best Friends Forever.

What is “empowerment?” It’s sharing our strength and energy with another person to make them stronger. To support their efforts. To help them compete. To cheer them on instead of trying to take them down so we can always be the “winner.” When we empower others we empower ourselves. It makes us all winners.

“Affirmation” is applause. It’s sharing all that we value in ourselves to affirm another’s worth. It’s making sure that if we think we’re important they’re important, too. In a world that can make us all feel overlooked affirming another’s worth can make the difference between hope and despair, between succeeding or giving up. Sharing our worth is sharing our Abundance. It’s Love. And anytime we love another it always comes back. It’s what it was meant to be: Love and affirmation for you and me.

Where did these values come from? From many sources over time. But none more important than the values that shaped this grandparent’s character in adolescence. None more important than what he learned at Phillips Academy, Class of ’55. From teachers, coaches, administrators, and classmates, all devoted to excellence. To making an effort. To being and doing your best. This was Andover. The best.

Sharing or ownership? One way of looking at it

This grandparent’s take on what values are all about is just one perspective out of many. If it stimulates an adolescent’s thinking then it’s done some good. But if she already has high ideals and it messes with them, then it hasn’t. These reflections aren’t “wisdom” if they don’t do any good. All they’re for is to help adolescents think about values so they can learn to think for themselves.

Values are gifts given to us to be shared by a source that is Sharing. It’s Love, and what Love does is share. If we want to know what to do with our gifts we can follow the example set by their Source: we can put them to good use for everyone by sharing. By using our values to empower all of Life and Creation and to affirm its Worth. When we feel truly loved then we feel Love’s power and its affirmation. We feel gentle loving kindness. This is what we share when we share our values. We connect.

Ownership pulls in a different direction. If Love is Freedom ownership is containment. Responsible ownership is sensitive to its impacts on others. But we live in a world where ownership is often abused, where instead of sharing and sensitivity to community it pulls toward possession and control for itself. Owning our gifts can pull us toward misusing them to attain dominance and supremacy by empowering ourselves and affirming our own worth. To compete to “win” by making others lose. To achieve “rightness” by making others wrong. This isn’t gentle loving kindness. If it looks like it don’t be fooled. It’s just appearances – formulas that avoid values. Formulas that avoid mindfulness. It doesn’t connect us with others. It disconnects.

The choice is: Are values to be shared following the example of Love, their Source? Are they to be “owned” responsibly? Or are they to be used only for possession and control? Are they to be used to empower ourselves and others, to express our individuality? Or used to control others to suppress it? Are they to be used to affirm everyone’s worth as equals deserving respect? Or to deny others’ worth?

Friendships and ownership don’t mix

The rules that govern competitive relationships done wrong are beating the other guy, owning, possessing, controlling, dominating, attaining supremacy, and always being right. The rules that prevail in personal friendships are the reverse: share, empower, affirm, respect the other guy’s free will, and keep everyone safe. The rules aren’t win-lose; they’re win-win. They’re both are right.

If it seems like we can’t avoid values owned instead of shared it’s because we spend a lot of time in groups. And group behavior either encourages or tolerates competition. What it offers is belonging, but that’s not the same as Love. Rather than individuals sharing their Abundance, their worth, it’s the group gathering up our worth and sharing it back. As if we were worthless without it. Loyalty to groups and their credos is inevitable, but it can be too much of a good thing. Ownership – the rules that govern group competitive relationships -- never works in individual family relationships and friendships. What does work is sharing. What works is Love.

Competition done right

Ownership focused on supremacy isn’t even the rule when competition is done right. Olympians do compete to win. But what they’re really doing is competing with themselves to excel. They’re feeding off competition to push themselves beyond their limits. The distinction of Olympic gold is excellence, not dominance. If the mindset of Olympians were otherwise they wouldn’t win. They wouldn’t even be in the Olympics.

What we learn at the best schools and universities is the pursuit of excellence. Competing with ourselves to push beyond our limits, not to dominate. Not to puff ourselves up with “winning” and “supremacy.” The pursuit of excellence is the value, the learning, that animates character with strength and energy at schools like Andover and Harvard. Not everyone can qualify for the Olympics. But anyone with talent and motivation, anyone who’s shown that they’re worthy of their values, their gifts and talents, can strive for an Olympic-grade education. For excellence. The best schools and universities are there for us if we qualify. If we’re committed to character and the right values.

What’s the use?

We build and express character according to how we use our gifts. Misusing our gifts is a mistake. Our gifts were given to us for a purpose: to create, support, and affirm the worth of Life. Using them for any other purpose is a mistake. Owning our gifts instead of sharing them so they can be used as weapons is the dark side. A very big mistake.

Strong character and education are developing our talents so they can be used. Weak character is putting talents to the wrong use or letting them go to waste. Sharing and ownership of values are the use and misuse of values.

The goal of values is to be worthy of them, to deserve them. To show their Source and others that they belong to us. They belong to us when they’re shared. The values we own for possession and control aren’t being used for their intended purpose, so they don’t belong to us. They shouldn't be entrusted to us.

The ideal of sharing isn’t always attainable in a world that’s not always “nice.” That conditions us from birth to think of our values as things to be owned and used for our own benefit, to gain wealth and power in competition with others. The wrong values are like toxins that keep us in a state of paralysis, an unchanging status quo without learning and growth, where development is arrested.

Depending on how we use them values are the sun that radiates light with the force of Love and sharing or they’re black holes that consume light with the gravity of ownership and containment. When we turn values into black holes the first object that they consume is our self because we’ve betrayed it.

The goal of learning and growth: sound judgment based on strong ideals

Taking it to the next level in our education and taking on adolescence at the same time can be fulfilling and frightening. Learning and character development are meant to take us out of our comfort zones. That’s natural. What all this shouldn’t be is painful. It can be painful if we’re not prepared. If we’re looking back instead of looking forward. We need to recognize that turning thirteen puts our lives in a different context, with new meaning and purpose. With minds opened to the possibilities from books and thoughts like these, it can make all the difference.

We can choose Love and share our gifts. We can resist the pull of its opposite, because character matters, and so does the truth.

The pull of our ideals is strong but so is the pull away from them. This is the thought to share on the eve of adolescence. A time of exploring and experimenting when an adolescent needs good judgment for protection, based on strong ideals.

As children entering adolescence begin thinking and evaluating for themselves one view is that the best use of our gifts and values is sharing. But that’s just one view. It’s their take that matters. When they’ve taken on the challenge of adolescence and education, when they’ve learned to think for themselves, what will they believe?

From the Class of ’55 to the Class of ’25, with Love

To all thirteen-year-olds may the next four years take you beyond the challenges, adjustments, and frustrations of adolescence. May they take you to a taste, a passion, for its incomparable gift: for learning and growth that never end. For Life as it’s meant to be lived, with meaning, purpose, and joyfulness. May you never be content with the way things are. May you never stop questioning.

Good luck and God bless!

Appendix: Values derived from human needs

Love: spiritual wealth and abundance, giving and receiving, openness, generosity, feeling, empathy, caring, kindness, affirmation-validation, tenderness, home, family and intimacy, interconnecting web of creativity, timelessness, immediacy (the here and now), awareness, unconditional acceptance

[The dark side] Fear: separation, abandonment, judgment and condemnation
(blame), abuse, cruelty, savagery, terror, hatred, rejection, anxiety, hollowness,
invalidation, retribution, neglect

Belonging: roots, extended family, community, fairness, equity, justice, emotional support

[The dark side] Alienation: isolation, loneliness, grievances, resentments,
bigotry, prejudice, inequality, unfairness, injustice

Worthiness: character, enlightenment, presence of mind, competence, gifts, talents, learning, discovery, work, worthy causes, growth (spiritual, personal, character), perseverance, achievement, recognition, largeness, self-respect, innocence

[The dark side] Worthlessness: quitting, surrender, failure, shame, guilt,
littleness, invisibility – not being seen or heard

Empowerment: order, control, strength and energy, forcefulness, assertiveness, will, resolve, conviction, truth, centered, grounded, competitive, prevailing, enduring

[The dark side] Disempowerment: emasculation, humiliation, embarrassment,
debilitation, disorder, disorientation, deception, confusion, doubt, loss, subjugation,
defeat, extinction

Material comfort: food, clothing, shelter, material wealth and abundance, having

[The dark side] Scarcity: impoverishment, homelessness, hunger, deprivation,
exposure, not having

Safety and security: protection and peace, trust, harmlessness, sanctuary (temenos), joyfulness and spontaneity, happiness, playfulness and laughter, immortality

[The dark side] Endangerment: vulnerability, exposure, harmfulness,
betrayal, treachery, pain, injury, mortality

Freedom: choice and expression, independence, individuality, liberation

[The dark side] Enslavement: confinement, restriction, addiction, the
tyranny of judgment and condemnation (blame), oppression, conformity, suffocation

Health (mental, physical, spiritual, emotional): wellness, wholeness, healing (the separation-wound), reason, integrity, miracles

[The dark side] Sickness: woundedness, insanity, delusion, depravity,
grievances, resentments, dismemberment, impairment

Beauty: perfection and purity in forms and functions, appearances and essences, thoughts and ideals, artistic, inspiriting, inspiring, sacred, uncorrupted, aesthetic, sensory attraction and pleasure – sights, sounds, taste, touch, smell

[The dark side] Repugnance: revulsion, aversion, deadening, flawed, marred,
desecrated, violated, corrupted, impure

Hope: faith and purpose

[The dark side] Despair: depression, surrender, collapse, purposelessness,
nihilism, ambivalence, confusion, disbelief

Getting beyond appearances with Intuition

Isabel Myers believes that just because we get good use out of some elements of our personalities doesn’t mean we can’t get use out of all the elements. If accessing Intuition helps Intuitive Introverts fend off loneliness but Intuition hasn’t been put to much use by Sensing Extraverts, it doesn’t mean they can’t learn to use it. Isabel says so in her book Gifts Differing. Sensing Extraverts have Intuition and can use it to put an end to sadness living alone. Their personality type doesn’t take much interest in people’s internals and it’s time it did.

Sensing Extraverts are gifted with externals. They look outward rather than within to establish what’s real for them, to find Worth and affirm it, and to meet their needs. Sensing types identify with the body rather than with mind which is not matter. They rely on their bodies’ senses to tell them what’s real when they look outward. They do not rely on Intuition. This deprives them of attributes of mind – the inner guidance of Logic, insight, and wisdom – we all need to see beyond appearances. To get at the Truth and Meaning of things that lie behind the distractions and facades imposed on us by our bodies and their physical environment.

Sensing Extraverts get by without concerning themselves with internals, but that changes when they age and social connections dry up. Their internals tell them that this is so. Every time they feel the anguish of loneliness and abandonment, it’s their internals reminding them that they have work to do: to let go of attachments to externals which are only appearances. To get serious about attachments to what aren’t appearances: their real Self, their real Worth, their real companions. Their inner Guide who loves them, wants them to be happy, and will lead them there if they let her know that’s what they truly want of their own Free Will.

"Happiness is an inside job"

If they truly want companionship that will end the anguish of loneliness then they should know that what they truly want is to connect with their Self. With their inner Guide who’s there for them if they choose to connect with her through their own Intuition. In their youth, they may have suspected that “happiness is an inside job.” They may have written it, recited it, without reflecting on it. What it means is when other people can no longer provide companionship, there’s an alternative. An even better source of companionship than other people that Intuitive Introverts are blessed with: the Truth that we are never alone. That no one, including Sensing Extraverts, need ever be alone.

I’ve spoken in the past of the inner Guide that Christianity refers to as the Holy Spirit. I’ve suggested that Sensing Extraverts reach out to their inner Guide – to connect with their Self so they don’t have to be so dependent on others – by putting their thoughts and feelings of the moment into words. By bringing them to the surface and working with them. Teasing implications and meaning out of them by letting their minds reflect on them. Realizing that every thought, every feeling, is led forward by their implications to a deeper understanding of where they’re coming from and what they mean. To the message of Love and Hope they have for us when we delve into them and allow them to speak to us.

Experiencing emotions like grief and abandonment without inquiring into them is missing opportunities. To find and articulate the purpose and meaning of Life. The purpose that Life has for each of us subjectively, individually. Inquiring into feelings means being with them, letting them speak to us of their own accord, unforced, through the spontaneity, the Free Will of our Intuition. Through the Memory that all of humanity shares.

Serving a cause worth living for and not being alone

Where our inner Guide is to be found is not in anything to do with “social.” With professional resumes that detail our service to groups and their agendas. With social connections and the broad sweep of history’s flawed ideologies. With the “broad sweep” of anything. It’s in the specific circumstances of our individual lives in the moment. Accompanied by our most intimate thoughts and feelings. These frame the context Logic needs to answer the questions that trouble us: Where are we and what are we doing here? What is our Purpose? Where is Meaning? How can we turn the pain and despair of loneliness into fulfillment instead of emptiness? Into a sense that we serve a cause worth living for and in doing so we are not alone?

The key to getting started is putting thoughts and feelings into words. Composing sentences that require thought, that open us up to what’s going on inside our minds where the questions are, where the pain is coming from. Letting them lead us forward through their implications to deeper understanding, deeper connections, until there is reciprocation. Until our minds open and become accessible to another Self hearing us, responding to us. Until our awareness is no longer limited to bodies taking up space in rooms but is instead liberated by Mind to explore an expanding universe of possibilities. Our other Self, our Real Self, is there because our Intuition is there. The Sensing Extravert’s Intuition is there.

I describe what Intuition is and what it does. We all have Intuition. Sensing Extraverts’ Intuition hasn’t been exercised much over the years not from negligence but simply because of their personality type. Isabel’s theory is well served by Intuition and it tells us that they can fix that.

Questions of purpose and meaning always begin with circumstances

When Sensing Extraverts write what’s on their minds what they will be bringing to awareness is their circumstances in the moment. They will be examining their lives in all their extraordinariness and banality down to the last detail, as if they were looking at them through a magnifying glass. If they wonder what they would have to say to their typewriters, their computers, this is my answer. Getting at purpose and meaning must begin with where we’re at. Because without context Logic has nothing to work with. The philosophy built on this premise has a name: it’s called “existentialism.”

When Alice B. Toklas asked Gertrude Stein on her deathbed, “What’s the answer?”, Gertrude is said to have answered, “What’s the question?” It’s taken as a joke but it’s right on. Questions of purpose and meaning always begin and end with circumstances. With circumstances that are experienced, i.e. lived. Subjectively not objectively: with personal hopes, fears, desires, ideals, passions, pleasures and hurts, vulnerability and wounds, perceptions and beliefs, rationality and craziness. A point I’ve tried to make in Origin and Meaning: the Logic of Everything (April 4).

It’s hard for Sensing Extraverts to be subjective rather than objective. Being Introspective, self-aware. They can change that by accessing their Introvert. Any Introvert can help.

Our circumstances are raw material for purpose and meaning and there’s plenty of it in every life. Getting a handle on where we want to be headed now begins with being intimate with our situation, the details of our circumstances. With the specifics of what our mind-Logic and our heart-feelings have to say about them. Every observation we put in writing will lead to another observation. We will be led by Logic and by value, what our minds’ reflections produce and by the feelings they evoke.

The dynamic of conversation with our Self

Our individual worlds may seem static at first. Not being used to this Sensing Extraverts may even feel resistance. But as our Intuition opens up, as reflections come of their own accord, there will be movement. Our worlds will expand. They will be less and less anchored to concrete physical reality and more and more attuned to conversation, a dynamic-reciprocal flow of thoughts that won’t let us rest until the points our inner Guide wants us to have are made. Until the gifts of insight that incubate with yearning are brought to life through Intuition.

If I were the inner Guide of a Sensing Extravert suffering with loneliness I would be encouraged. Because I would know that I’m loved. That my host wants to be close. Yearns to connect, to communicate, and be involved with me. Other people fill hearts with love, too. But they come and go, don’t they? They’re not always available. And even when they are they can make us think we’re better off alone.

Our inner Guide is our connection to our Real Self, our Real Parents, our Real Home. She’s always available. My inner Guide has expanded into a spiritual-personal family: spiritual, human, and animal friends inhabiting a Temenos of soaring moonlit clouds, lakes, mountains, forests and streams. Lighthouses and great trees all connecting me with Mind and Love. Aligning my thoughts with Logic that leads me purposefully, joyfully back Home.

Feeling better

Want to feel better? That’s what our inner Guide is all about. It’s her whole purpose. So if you’re a lonely Sensing Extravert get to work! Your Intuition is waiting. She’s waiting.

To my two shining stars,

Learning

Our world is a laboratory where we have to figure out how to make things work, including relationships. Families are laboratories for figuring out how to get along when everyone has their own personality. It helps us get along at school, at work, and at play when we’ve learned to get along at home. When we understand that our differences can be our friends that show us how to grow. How to unlock abilities we didn’t know we had. How to experience pleasures we didn’t know were there to be enjoyed.

Different personalities that seem to make our lives more difficult may actually be teaching us how to be happier. We just have to be aware that we have our personalities and others have their personalities. Respect the differences, let others be our teachers, and learn from them.

It’s what I’ve been doing with you: learning from you. One of many reasons why you make me happy, because you’re my teachers and you’re good at it. I don’t have to be like you for us to get along. I can be myself and you can be yourselves. You’re very good at it. Thank you for being my friends. Thank you so much for being my teachers.

Adapting and growing

What did I do when my wife left and took my boys? I went to work, came home to empty rooms, and cried. Then the day came when I stopped crying, moved away, and began a new life. I reconnected with old friends and made new friends:

* Sally, who became my mentor and led me on a journey of personal growth to what I could do to make my life better.
* Judy, who led me on a journey of spiritual growth, to a Guide who would help me from within to make every life better.
* And Larry, who threw open the doors to professional adventure, to a world of friends and acceptance I never knew existed.

I went from being a solitary life in an empty room to a life of abundance and purpose. To being blessed and thankful and wanting to share. To never looking back.

The Why and the Who of Easter

Our world is a laboratory for figuring out Why to make things work. The story that made Christmas and Easter part of our lives is the story of one life, a brother who tried to help us with that. He was born on Christmas and on Easter showed that no matter what he will always be trying to help us. He is here now, a presence to share with everyone because he set a good example. He is the Guide that I was led to and he is the nicest.

He helps me understand every day Why it’s important to learn: to change and grow. Because our personalities aren’t supposed to lock us in. They’re opportunities to open up. To unlock. To be more than who we are. To be stronger and freer, more creative, more imaginative. And happier. By being who we are and allowing others to be who they are. By teaching others and allowing them to teach us.

What does Easter mean to me? Faith, Purpose, and Hope. It’s what it means to everyone touched by its story. It’s what I would like for it to mean to you.

And, by the way, he was also a she. In our minds, that is, where she belongs, now and forever.

Happy Easter!

David Clark Harrison
In memory of Owen Clark Harrison
March 31, 1970 – March 2017

Not long ago, I asked a friend for a favor. It was a bit unusual and I knew it would require some thought, but not so unusual that it could upend a friendship. But it did, at least for a while, quite emphatically. The way my friend and I interpreted what happened was a study in contrasts. It was as if we lived in two separate realities, spoke different languages, and transacted business with different currencies, hers as worthless to me as mine was to her.

It was one of those things, a train wreck in a relationship we’re all familiar with. And yet it turned out to be very interesting. It revealed that my friend and I, who have been close over the years, are exact opposite personality types. I’m an INTJ and she’s an ESFP: INTJ for Introvert-Intuition-Thinking-Judgment, ESFP for Extravert-Sensing-Feeling-Perception. These are from Isabel Briggs Myers’ Gifts Differing, not as “scientific” as other theories some might prefer, but my Intuition trusts her Intuition.

The holidays are all about one universal value: everything that makes us family. Forgiveness is one of those things, and let me be the first to admit: If you’re reading this it probably means you’re a big nuisance but you’ve been forgiven – many times. “I love you in spite of your many faults” my dad liked to joke, usually to a good laugh. But it’s no laughing matter, because real forgiveness is beyond reach. At least it is for me. Especially if the big nuisance happens to be my exact opposite personality type.

My instinct in this case was to bail for good. I was on my way out the door. Then I read Gifts Differing and discovered that Isabel’s theory doesn’t stop at showing us how opposites wreak havoc with relationships. It shows remarkably how opposites can be used to bring us closer together and, in the process, promote personal growth and self-awareness. What philosophy, what faith, couldn’t use an analytical tool like this to bring about peace and forgiveness!

It’s done by accessing the opposites of your weak personality traits – mind-Intuition, for example, if you’re a body-Sensing type, -- preferably in consultation with someone who’s your opposite. You “pool your resources,” and at the end you’re both more fully developed, better balanced personalities, more sympathetic, more adaptable to change, and better equipped to forgive. That's the theory and, so far, it's working for me.

Isabel’s theory is inspired, not least because the metaphysics of A Course in Miracles calls for its practical application to individual circumstances, and students of the Course intent on practicing forgiveness will find that it’s a big help. If my friend is reading this she might be incensed that I’m talking about us, but not if her Feeling has accessed Thinking, and Perception has accessed Judgment. You see, what this is all about is making everyone more like me. Proof that what I've learned from her is the joy of spontaneity and laughter. Pity the poor INTJ Scrooge who never learns it!

Wishing you the Joy of Life and laughter for the holidays and all through the New Year.

Our values are what really matters – love and family; friendship and community; health and healing; freedom and free will; self-worth; purpose, learning, striving, growth and achievement; abundance; protection and trust; beauty, purity and innocence; empowerment and control. Whenever we’re in doubt, these are our conscience. These are our best guide to avoiding mistakes.

Grandparents know all about mistakes because they’ve seen and made lots of them. They know a lot about values, too, because experience has taught them what’s important. Kids might do fine without a grandparent. But it’s possible they’d do even better with one. Grandparents want kids to have this resource: helping them with values so they avoid mistakes.

This is how grandparents want to be there for their kids. They applaud kids' performances and cheer them from the sidelines. But when kids are ready for more, grandparents are ready for more.

Grandparents don’t tell kids what to do. Setting a good example, standing up for their values – that’s their job. If they follow the wrong example they won’t be role modeling their values. They won’t be role modeling the values they want their grandchildren to have.

What kids need from their grandparents is good role models.

Here are some thoughts about grand-parenting, relationships, and role modeling based on one grandparent's experience:

Respect and affection between friends can never be taken for granted, because that would be telling our friends their needs and feelings don’t matter. That they don’t matter. It would tell them that they’re worthless when friendships should tell them the opposite.

Differences between people can cause serious problems. Our reading and entertainment tell us that every day. Our minds work differently. Our personalities aren’t the same. We value different things. Our priorities are different. We present ourselves differently. We try to connect and communicate differently – the list goes on and on.

Our circumstances are always changing. And our needs and feelings change with them. Because everyone’s circumstances are different, no one has the same point of view.

Our physical, biological, and social environment is a dynamic system driven by powerful forces. Understanding these forces is the purpose of every field of learning -- physics, philosophy, psychology, neuroscience, social science, political science, ethics, theology, biology, and more. We are brought together in one great human enterprise: learning.

One of the great lessons of life is the need for continuous improvement -- for learning and personal growth. This is as true for groups as it is for individuals. It is our purpose. We can’t stand still. We must move forward.

Learning takes effort. It takes thought, and kids are capable of that. If grandparents didn’t believe in their kids they would say, “They’re just kids” and ignore them. Grandparents don’t ignore their kids. They think their kids are worth a whole lot more than just one birthday gift. They're worth a million birthday gifts! They're not “just kids.”

As Vince Lombardi would put it: What’s best for our kids isn’t everything: it’s the only thing. Being useful to their kids is why grandparents exist. A good grandparent will try to be useful even if it means doing without the affection, kindness, joy, and laughter that their kids bless them with. Their kids are worth a trillion birthday gifts!

Relationships usually survive misunderstandings and hurt feelings without too much damage. But when we don’t respect our differences it can have more serious consequences. It can cause wounds that take away trust and safety. It can even bring close friendships to an end.

In the end, there is only one way to save a friendship and that is to earn it. To have strong values, share them, and to stand up for them even if it takes work and may not succeed. What is friendship worth, anyway, if it doesn’t ask something of us? If we don’t risk something?

Living a truly good life and doing what’s right aren’t things to be casual about. They require thought and deliberation. They require care and concentration, because it can be very easy to lose sight of what really matters and make a mistake.

It’s up to each of us to determine for ourselves what’s right. It’s everyone’s duty to affirm the truth about who we are and what we believe in everything we do. It’s all about Character. It’s all about Purpose.

Modesty is being aware that a higher power knows what’s best and letting this awareness guide our conscience. Anyone can find fault with what’s wrong, but who really knows what’s right? This is modesty, a virtue that is everyone’s duty to share, and grandparents would share it with their kids.

Miracles happen when power that we’re not aware of works quietly through our minds and hearts to overcome barriers to change and lead us forward. The barriers to change necessary for friends to move forward may not come down without a miracle. This is as true for brothers and sisters as it is with fathers and sons.

“Happy endings” aren’t a given but neither is disappointment. What we think are “happy endings” may also lie beyond our understanding. We should be prepared for both, because whatever comes may be for the best – we don’t know.

Freedom and spontaneity imply no limits on doing whatever we want. Absolutes of all our gifts-values imply having it all without limits. This violates the logic of Reality because we live in a state of opposites, a condition where logic says being or having it all without limits is impossible. Defying this truth can have painful consequences. The way we go about using our gifts requires discipline.

Spontaneity that’s allowed to cross this line will insist that the only permissible approach to feeding the body is to gratify-indulge its senses for our wants-pleasure (excess). It will overrule an approach that recognizes and respects limits (moderation) in order to care for its needs-health. Spontaneity will do this because its purpose is happiness-fun that we experience from living uninhibited in the moment. It will do this especially when it is an idea raised to the level of an ideal -- when it’s part of a value system linked to a feeling that’s compelling because it’s become an absolute, because it’s idealized.

Weight management requires spontaneity management. It requires discipline that respects the logic-limits imposed by mind-reason and Reality. Evidence that spontaneity has been allowed to rule beyond reason is arrival of the opposite of pleasure-fun: disabling abuse and pain. Our bodies are saying they need less pleasure-gratification from spontaneity and more health-nourishment from caring-discipline. They need less free-spirited happiness-feeling and more disciplined reasoning-thinking.

Excess weight is concrete evidence of an imbalance between body-feeling-spontaneity and mind-thinking-order within a sensing-feeling-perception (spontaneity) personality type. The conversion of feeling-pleasure into its feeling-pain opposite is the body’s signal that it’s time to correct the imbalance. It’s a necessary stage in personal growth that focuses on the role of youthful passions in obstructing maturity.

The creative sanctuary that makes spontaneity and freedom possible has boundaries that protect as well as confine. The onset of body abuse-pain says the time has come for the Illusion of spontaneity without limits to cease its irrational rebellion against confinement. It’s time to recognize and appreciate the protection of boundaries. Accepting limits on our gifts, respecting the mind-logic that put them there, bringing thought to our choices as well as feeling, keeps us within our boundaries and safe from opposites.

Strenuous exercise while carrying serious excess weight beyond our youth is physical abuse. Straining muscles-tendons-joints-nerves to “burn calories” can wait until after healthy weight is restored by light exercise (walking) and by managed diet. Risking permanent damage and chronic pain is not rational. If burning calories by intermittent strenuous exercise was once rationalized to permit bouts of undisciplined excess – the joys of youthful spontaneity, -- those days are over. Undisciplined excess is over.

Attempting weight loss while preserving the ideal of youthful spontaneity is unworkable. Our bodies carry us forward inexorably. Clinging to youthful spontaneity is pointless. Resistance to parting with youthful fun that imagined it could do whatever it wanted, without consequences, is pointless. It reflects not the exhilaration of life but morbid fear of the loss of life.

Too late, we declare, “I’m going to beat this.” What clinging to an idealized spontaneity translates into is, “’I’m an exception; I won’t have to part with my youth.” It translates into “I insist on being who I’ve always been: a loving-lovable, happy-go-lucky, live-in-the-moment, carpe-diem guy.”

The pain, the loss of resiliency, that accompanies aging requires adjustments not only in how we live but who we are. The old identity delivered a cornucopia of benefits for family, community, and profession. It wants to prevail beyond its time because it was hugely successful. But time requires identities better suited to changing circumstances when our bodies can no longer support the fantasies of youth.

Willpower – psychic energy -- that’s needed to remove excess weight, restore health, and avoid pain is now directed toward preserving an idealized self-identity that can never grow old. The feeling that’s getting in the way of doing what circumstances call for isn’t just spontaneous pleasure, fun, and happiness. It’s fear of separation from a self that served its purpose and belongs in the past.

Being overweight may actually reinforce the illusion that it’s not necessary to let go of the past, because it’s become a part of the self-identity that experienced the fruits of spontaneity: gratification, indulgence, fulfillment, camaraderie, contentment, and pleasantness. This may explain why obesity has been so well tolerated. The onset of chronic pain could be a wake-up call that forces a more realistic calculation, an awakening to costs that now outweigh the benefits.

All these considerations lead toward a new paradigm, a new definition of self and the world the self occupies. They lead toward acceptance of what mind-thought-logic can contribute to the life of a mature person, along with feeling, in achieving a kind of happiness that’s better suited to circumstances: happiness with limits and discipline, happiness that may never deliver super-bowl euphoria but it can let our bodies live in contentment without pain.

If our youthful objective was achieving pleasure, our objective beyond youth becomes preventing debilitating pain. The balance is tipped toward realistic thinking-logic-discipline and away from when idealized experience-feeling dominated. It’s tipped from needing constant contrived action toward the calmness and serenity of thankfulness for life-being, from the joys of sensation (indulging the body) to the joys of thinking and awareness (indulging the mind). And always connecting.

Why do selves who idealize spontaneity falter in their efforts to manage weight on their own? Why do they need to borrow someone else’s self-discipline to succeed and lapse when it’s gone?

The sensing-feeling-perception personality type who idealizes spontaneity has purposely deprived himself of the function of self that’s essential to management – mind-logic-order-discipline, i.e. deliberation. This is done to allow instinct to open him to unlimited possibilities to feel and express the joy of living (joie de vivre), creativity, happiness, fun, pleasure, and gratification in the moment.

In pursuit of an ideal of fulfillment that’s rooted in gratification of the body’s senses, the deliberative self that normally imposes limits is discarded in favor of impulse whose only guide is the “moment.” The void this leaves in self-management reveals itself when obesity calls upon willpower, an essential attribute of self, that’s been turned over to its opposite, the “moment.”

Precisely what’s been sacrificed to achieve the ideal of spontaneity is self-discipline. No wonder the perception-spontaneity type can’t manage weight on his own!

The personality type intuition-thinking-judging experiences satisfaction and contentment from continuous learning and growth. Yes, without super-bowl rapture but also without debilitating pain. This can’t be a role model for an opposite personality type. Or can it? If needs and aspirations come together as we age, maybe it can.

Children will have recourse to their immediate ancestors’ examples to guide their own choices – their parents and their grandparents. They deserve to experience their own youthful spontaneity. They deserve the gift of role modeling that lets them express the joys of life without being conditioned to believe that their gifts come with no limits, that discipline isn’t necessary, and that excess has no consequences. What will be the legacy, the imprint, of an overextended youth troubled by its consequences and preoccupied with its preservation? What can it offer to guide its children’s choices if it struggles with its own?

The role modeling that guides children toward happiness can’t come from other children. It can only come from parents and grandparents who put their own childhoods behind them, who take their responsibilities seriously, have their acts together, and pay attention to role modeling. It can only come from grownups.