“Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: you don’t give up.” (Anne Lamott)

For as long as I can remember I have had a craving to do things that are new and difficult. Adapt and overcome has been my mantra for all of my life. I have little to no interest in anything predictable. I am always hopeful. That might explain why I enjoy working with foster kids so much. After nine years and several thousand different kids I have gotten to know, I think one new truth has been revealed to me.

Simply put, “Without hope, life isn’t worth much.”

Hopelessness is rampant in the world today and we see the devastating effects all around us. I meet kids every day who don’t know what it means to be hopeful and frankly I don’t blame them for feeling that way. In those moments when I hear the desperation in their voices, I am challenged to be kind and patient and willing to listen to anything they might say. I don’t judge, I just listen and sometimes if I’m lucky we connect and something good happens to them, maybe even for the first time in their young lives.

Being hopeful was instilled in me by two amazing parents and a wonderful extended family of doers. My dad and grandfather, who I share names with, were two of the most hopeful men who ever lived. Everything they did was based on a firm belief that tomorrow was going to be better than today but only if they worked hard to make that happen. Words were never enough. Hopefulness was based on actions and seeking the greatest good for the greatest number. Selfishness was a curse to be avoided at all times. In those days, there was a moral in every story and I was always hopeful for more.

Today, belief in a moral code has been contracted to mean the opposite, as amoral is the new normal. Amoral means being unconcerned with either right or wrong. This is what leads to the disease of nihilism and hopelessness that has resulted in so many inhumane events recently. When nothing has value to the individual, that person no longer cares about right or wrong and it becomes easy to choose destructive behavior as a way of getting back at humanity for the loss of hope. Everyone needs to feel wanted and when those human connections are severed, hopelessness leads to nihilism and sometimes to death and destruction. I won’t be that surprised if some day I hear the name of one of the kids I met in foster care who lost all hope and did something very tragic. That’s going to hurt a lot because it means I failed to connect with that kid when they needed it most.

Compassion and empathy for others is the only way to bring hope to the less fortunate and that comes from each of us every day. A smile, a touch or a simple act of kindness will do more to eliminate hopelessness than any act of Congress. If we want to end the evil that comes from nihilism we all have to act in ways that contribute to the greatest good and we should start with our children. Interacting with children is fascinating to me and it fills my need for discovery. I love the unknown that comes with each new face and every new behavior. I adapt to them so they feel accepted for who they are. I expect certain things from them for their own good but I try not to judge too harshly when they struggle with my rules. Even when I have to discipline them, I still ask to be their friend.

Everything I do for these foster kids is rooted in the unconditional love I received from my family growing up. I was able to overcome whatever came along because I had a huge safety net of compassion and understanding to land on when I fell. Every child needs that net and every adult owes it to them to catch them when they fall. Nothing we will ever achieve in life will come close to the feeling that comes from helping a child. If you haven’t had that experience, I feel sorry for you because you don’t know what you’re missing and some kid somewhere could really use your help.

I sincerely believe that tomorrow will be better than today and to that end I will do my part to help each child I meet overcome their challenges and adapt to the scary world they live in right now. I will laugh with them or cry with them, I will try to teach them right from wrong and why forgiveness is so important but most of all, I will be there for them and give them a reason to hope. I can’t wait for tomorrow.

©Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com, 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

 

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“No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; …….. any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind. And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.” (John Donne)

I started writing this blog about eight years ago. Since that time I have posted more than 250 unique articles and some have been posted more than once. It has always been fascinating to watch the stats that WordPress provides on a daily basis. Stuff that I loved often goes unread and stuff that bordered on complete nonsense is a hit. It shows what I know about what works. Human nature is and always will be a complete mystery and in a way that makes life more interesting.

Take this last month for example. My stats have been off the charts and all for one particular post from 2010 titled, “Egotism is the anesthetic that dulls the pain of stupidity.” That post was actually about my friend, Dale Eldred, who was anything but egotistical and a true genius in his own right. I’m still scratching my head in amazement that something I wrote seven years ago finally got noticed by 4000 new readers over the last few weeks.

Just to provide some perspective, my blog gets viewed about 125 times a day on average. It’s a pretty typical blog by most WP standards and since I have never promoted it in any way, I’m satisfied with it’s footprint. I’m not on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter or Instagram because I just don’t have time. It takes every ounce of my ability to do my work with foster children, keep up with my chores at home and write this blog when I have something to say. Achieving blogging stardom was never the point.

I write for my own enjoyment and to leave a kind of biography for my grandchildren. Given the amount of time I spend on the road and the behavior of some of the kids I work with, the odds are against me for having a long life, so I feel a critical need to put into words the thoughts that define me. I want my grandchildren to know me even if I’m not here to explain it in person. I want them to hear stories about people like Dale Eldred and my dad, who lived amazing lives. I want them to have an archive of wisdom that they can turn to when their own lives are challenged in the future.

The written word is still the most powerful force on Earth and I intend to keep putting out stories that are truthful and meaningful. If it takes ten or twenty years before those stories get discovered by the rest of the world, so what? Living for the moment has never been important to me. I enjoy life but I have too much I want to accomplish to waste time sitting around congratulating myself. I can almost guarantee that my blog will be far more popular after I’m gone because then it will be considered a limited edition. Human nature always wants what it can’t have.

On the other hand, my curiosity is raging right now. Why did that particular post create so much attention? I can imagine that the title seems to be apropos for the politics of the day and all the egotistical people who have sold their souls to become rich and powerful but the story is actually about a humble genius who left a mark on the world so profound that he will always be remembered for his ability and his kindness. Maybe people are so tired of the ship of fools who run this country that they are craving stories about real geniuses and actual achievements.

I love telling those stories. That’s why I write about Jesus so often. Two thousand years later people argue incessantly over His resurrection from the dead. It seems pretty clear to me that the argument itself is all the proof I need to believe He is still with us to this day. Who else, in the history of the world, has ever had so much of a lasting impact on humanity? Who else causes so much fervor on both sides of the argument? Who else denied Himself every worldly pleasure and willingly gave His life for the benefit of others? One man, in the entire history of the world, did these things and for all of that He will always be revered. Humility, kindness and compassion are antithetical to egotism and greed and they are the traits that make our lives worth living and our deaths meaningful.

I’m going to keep writing about goodness and self-sacrifice until God calls me home. When I get to Heaven, I will make my case for salvation with all my words posted here on WordPress. I like my chances.

©Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com, 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

 

 

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“How paramount the future is to the present when one is surrounded by children.” (Charles Darwin)

Now that I am officially a grandfather, by way of my son’s recent marriage, I find myself thinking more and more about the future my grandchildren will inherit. I know my days are numbered and there’s only so much I can do before I go on to the great hereafter but I still want to keep trying to make the world a better place for all of us. My dad always taught me to hope for the best but plan for the worst so I guess I’m a little jaded when it comes to the future and my hopes for the little ones who will spend their childhood in a vastly different environment than I grew up in. Here’s the future as I see it.

I see the negative effects of the disintegration of the family every day in foster care. Most of these kids are being raised by young adults who have no interest in being parents. They gave no thought whatsoever to the consequences of sex, pregnancy and childbirth. They brought children into the world without the means or desire to take care of them and then when it became too much to deal with, they turned them over to the state. I have seen families with eight or nine kids, all in foster care. They get to see their kids once a week for an hour and the state does the rest all the way to the age of eighteen. Which means that the rest of us are paying to raise those kids with our tax dollars. We all pay but very few of us have the courage to become foster parents. God bless them all for what they do. The only possible solution is to teach young people that all actions have consequences and responsibility is not optional. I would love to teach that in a high school, Cause & Effect 101.

My chances of getting a teaching job at a high school are less than zero because the educational system is partly to blame for the way the younger generation thinks, which is to say, only when they have to. They’re great at Google searches and using apps but applied reasoning like the Socratic Method is missing today. I see very little cognitive discipline in the next generation. They can be dramatically persuaded by anonymous words on a screen faster than any generation ever. They actually believe that Google is the definitive arbiter of truth and ignore the fact that Google exists only to make money. Truth and profits have always been strange bedfellows. We have to start teaching kids that technology is just a tool not a means to an end.

It never ceases to amaze me that technology has far outpaced our human ability to make the best use of it and this is only going to get worse in the future. Twenty years ago, in my graphic arts business, we could go for coffee while a fifty meg Photoshop file rotated on the screen but the creative things we could do were truly phenomenal. At the time, I thought the coming generations would be devoted to their computers and all the technology that was at their finger tips. Of course, that was before smartphones and social media disrupted the technology landscape. Now, I can’t fathom why anyone thinks social media is beneficial to our civilization. It should have been but once people succumbed to the temptation of anonymity it was lost forever to the dark side. Now we have an entire subculture of dishonesty, deceit, and perversion that preys on the weak-minded and innocent children. No one would dare leave their kids at home alone with all the doors unlocked and windows wide open but millions of people do worse than that with the internet and social media. Children will always need our protection from predators, whether we can see them or not.

I predict that a hundred years from now, historians will look back on the present day and wonder out loud how so many people were addicted to various drugs including social media induced dopamine highs. It’s entirely possible that Facebook will go down as the single worst invention of all time because so many people became addicted to the dopamine rush of “Likes” on Facebook and the subsequent disengagement from the real world of meaningful relationships. In my opinion, smartphones make dumb people.

My last prediction is also the most likely to come true. I predict Clayton Christensen’s theories on disruptive innovation in the business world will cross over into society as a whole and we will see seismic shifts in many institutions like healthcare, schools, religion and government. I think schools have already reached critical mass and they will be the first to fall. Online education is going to replace public schools as the first choice for families who want the best possible education for their kids. The public school system is going to be left with the kids whose parents want daycare first and education second. This disruption doesn’t bother me so much because I do think kids learn better at their own pace and online classes are perfect for that. One size fits all classroom education is going to die a slow death at the hands of the established system because too many people have a vested interest in keeping their jobs, not because it’s better for the kids. The only thing missing from online learning is social development but that will be replaced with communities of families who bond together to instill good values in their kids. Morality should be taught in the home but it must be practiced there first.

I actually can see a bright future once holistic education disrupts the school system in America. Parents should be the role models and by forming educational communities the future generations will have the well-rounded education they will need to succeed and the cooperative skills for dealing with all the other disruptions that are coming. Whatever time I have left to mentor my grandchildren, I will spend in teaching them how to adapt and overcome challenges, how to be respectful to others, how to be compassionate and helpful, how to look for new and better ways to achieve whatever they want out of life and how to survive societal prejudice or pressure. The world will always keep changing and as long as most of us actively seek to make it better, then it will be better. Let’s all make sure that every kid has an equal chance to be part of that bright future by being there for them every step of the way.

©Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com, 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

 

 

 

 

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“Everybody’s talking at me. I don’t hear a word they’re saying. Only the echoes of my mind.” (Harry Nilsson)

Has anybody else noticed how much louder the world is today? It just seems like everybody’s talking but I don’t hear a word they’re saying. Harry Nilsson wrote that song in 1968 but it really fits with today. For me, more than most people, silence is golden. I like to walk in the woods with the wind rustling the trees and the birds chirping at me and my footsteps breaking new ground. If I can’t find some woods, I’ll take a beach with my feet dangling in the water and the rhythm of waves lapping on the shore. If I’ve got a copy of Huckleberry Finn to read, I’m a happy camper.

When everybody’s talking at me, I stop listening. Hence, the problem. As a society, we’ve stopped listening to each other and our minds have become echo chambers of preconceived ideas. We have an insatiable need for validation that what we think is right and what everybody else thinks is wrong. That’s not really how wisdom works and we’re really just deceiving ourselves with lazy thinking. Finding truth and meaning in life is the hardest work we will ever do and lots of us are going to fail at that because it’s way too hard and not much fun.

The internet has made the process of validating our preconceived ideas too easy. For all practical purposes it’s what the internet does best. Anyone who wants to find like-minded people who are there to reaffirm their beliefs can do so with just a few clicks and a keyword search. People who might challenge our beliefs can be dispatched in milliseconds, never to be bothered by again. Of course, any chance that a tiny bit of truth was there for the taking is also gone forever and with it the chance for a bit of wisdom.

Truth is the proverbial needle in the haystack. Would you like to know my foolproof method for finding the needle of truth in the haystack of falsehoods? I would dive in head first. The truth will find me and jab me right where it hurts the most. Every time I feel the pain caused by the discovery of a new truth, I also get the pleasure that newfound wisdom brings. The latter doesn’t happen without the former. Life is always consistent that way.

Good and bad are inextricably connected and no one gets around that constant. Self-deception is the only way to avoid the truth and way too many people today choose this coping mechanism. They don’t know because they don’t want to know. In Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, self-preservation is the first need that must be met. This same concept is present in Darwin’s survival of the fittest rule. A human’s most basic instinct is survival. Higher order thinking and wisdom will never be achieved until survival is assured. Most humans prefer the path of least resistance when it comes to their needs. Self-deception makes life apparently easier because it requires less effort and leaves more time for meeting essential needs.

When I go for a walk in the woods, I take the same trail that others have taken before me. I could hack my way through the brush but I wouldn’t enjoy my walk very much. This is how most people live their lives, going the same way as others without really thinking about it at all. There aren’t very many people in history who took it upon themselves to blaze a new trail for others to follow. Where would we be without those few brave souls who risked everything on the prospect of discovery? Those are the rare individuals who achieved Maslow’s highest order of needs, that being self-transcendence. Self-transcendence can only be achieved when all the other needs have been mastered and the individual gives themselves over to total selflessness for the benefit of others. Even fewer people in history have reached that level of spirituality. Risking everything in order to become selfless is not a priority for most people and it goes against our most basic instincts.

This is why I choose to follow the teachings of Jesus. His example of transcendent selflessness is perfect in every way. He spent his short life serving others, challenging the prevailing belief systems and showing us all a better way to live. He cleared a path for all of humanity to follow regardless of age, gender, race or faith. And in the end, He gave His life willingly to offer us salvation. Even to this day, His voice is the one trusted voice we should all listen to and learn from. His wisdom is waiting to be discovered if we can just be still long enough to hear the words and accept their meaning. I sincerely hope that when my time comes to meet my maker, my last breath will be taken while I’m serving others. If that’s as close to transcendent selflessness as I ever get, then I will die a happy man.

©Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com, 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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“I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain.” (James Taylor)

In my lifetime I have never had to experience the hardships caused by natural disasters and for that blessing I am truly grateful. I lived in Houston for a year and I remember how easily flooding happened whenever it rained but I can only imagine what 50″ of rain does to a city like that. The reality is that when Mother Nature picks a fight, she always wins. The best we can do is start over and thankfully, Americans are great at that.

Today’s blog isn’t about suffering or loss. It’s about hope for the future and the greatness of humanity. Once the clouds go away and the water recedes, the world will get to see just exactly what makes America great. We never give in to disasters and we never give up on each other. The media will tell you all day long how divided we are and how much hatred exists in every corner of this country but it’s simply not true and every hurricane definitively proves them wrong. I have heard no stories of people being turned down by rescuers simply because of the color of their skin, their gender, their faith or their political affiliation. It didn’t happen because the vast majority of us don’t see anything but another human being who needs help. Then we do what needs to be done.

Isn’t it amazing how many people just showed up in coastal Texas with their boats and started looking for survivors. They didn’t wait for FEMA to give their approval or ask who was going to pay for their gas. They knew what to do and they did it and they’re still doing it with chain saws, trucks, blood, sweat and tears. That’s what makes America the envy of all the world. We never stop trying to help each other. Thousands of people, whose names we will never hear on TV, are working extremely hard right now trying to get SE Texas back to normal. It will continue to be a monumental task because now we have all the devastation in Florida to deal with too.

The greatness of humanity always comes to light when darkness overtakes us. Unfortunately, darkness is what sells for the media and they will be looking for stories that highlight our difficulties not our achievements. The good news is, for most of those involved in the rescue and clean up efforts they won’t have time to watch TV or worry about what some talking head says is important. Honestly, that happens every day for most of us because we’re too busy living and helping each other. We don’t need anyone to tell us about reality because we experience it every day and far more frequently than they do in their New York studios. My advice to the media is this – put down your cameras, shut the hell up, roll up your sleeves and help us do the work that must be done. After a few days, you might even learn something truthful about the country WE ALL LOVE.

James Taylor did an amazing job of writing the lyrics to Fire and Rain. Here’s the verse that best describes what a lot of us are going through today and every day…

Won’t you look down upon me, Jesus
You’ve got to help me make a stand
You’ve just got to see me through another day
My body’s aching and my time is at hand
I won’t make it any other way

Now let’s get to work.

 

©Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com, 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

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“We are drowning in information but starved for knowledge.” (John Naisbitt)

Welcome back class. Today we will discuss the answers to last week’s pop quiz. The best answer to the first four questions is, “I don’t know.” I formulated these questions after searching Google and Wikipedia to make sure there were no good answers to these questions. I only indicated that I used the internet to derive the questions. I never said there were good answers. For the sake of discussion I can give you some answers just to satisfy your curiosity but in no way are they definitively the right answers.

Clark’s First Rule of Motion was given this esteemed moniker after my best friend Clark and I set a speed record getting to Manhattan Kansas one Friday afternoon in 1972. We were in a hurry to get to Mel’s Tavern for Happy Hour and 25 cent fish bowls of beer. Clark clearly stated his first rule of motion when he said, “The faster we go, the sooner we get there.” I thought it was such a profound idea that I gave it his name and made it official.

Krueger’s Formula for achieving critical mass in social gatherings is just another way of saying people should all drink more at a party. In high school, my friend Krueger was always the life of the party because he had a large supply of alcohol at his house thanks to his parents indifference as to how much booze he took from the liquor cabinet. Whenever Krueger showed up, the party we were having always achieved critical mass.

Pascal’s wager is a real thing but it has no winner. Blaise Pascal was a 17th century mathematician who came up with a mathematical formula for why we should believe in God. Atheists and theists have been arguing the validity of his thought process for centuries and no one has ever won the argument because you have to die to find out if God exists. I personally think his wager makes perfect sense but I think the argument over its validity makes no sense. If you have to have a mathematical formula based on probability to have faith that God exists, then you’ve already missed the point entirely.

The Google Effect is also a real thing but finding ancillary extremes would take forever and I’m not even sure what ancillary extremes really means. I found primary, secondary and tertiary effects but the Google Effect hasn’t been around long enough for any ancillary effects to be recognized yet… much less ancillary extremes. I would argue that the most extreme Google effect would be rampant hubris, the nonsensical belief that we have all the answers at our disposal. The other possible extreme effect would be the realization that a huge proportion of Google answers are completely useless and only posted on the internet for the expressed purpose of making money. Lying for profit is the main function of the internet, not truth seeking. When Google finally comes up with an algorithm to discern facts from fiction, then the internet might become a reliable source of knowledge. Until that day comes, it’s just buyer beware.

The fifth question about deductive reasoning was my way of giving a hint to the correct answer of IDK. If you had really been able to go through all the millions of possible Google pages looking for the right answers you would have eventually realized that there were no right answers. Deductive reasoning tells us that when all the other possible answers have been eliminated, whatever remains must be true and in this test the only possible correct answer becomes, “I don’t know the answer.” Admitting this is a fundamental principal of gaining knowledge and eventually wisdom. If we are unwilling to ever admit that we don’t know the answer to every question, then we will never be able to learn new things.

The other clue you had to work with was the title of this test, “Everything’s got a moral, if only you can find it.” The real purpose of the test was to stimulate your intellectual curiosity with a conundrum of impossible proportions and to remind you that Google does not have all the answers. In point of fact, NO ONE has all the answers and NO ONE ever will. Google is not a source of wisdom. Wisdom is the humbling process we go through by actually thinking for ourselves and realizing how much we don’t know. When we face the truth about our cognitive abilities and look for ways to expand our minds, then we will begin the process of becoming wiser. Lewis Carroll was obviously trying to make this point when he said these words. The moral of the story is that we should never settle for Googled facts in favor of reasoned truths. Google is a valuable tool but it’s not the be all, end all of knowledge. The good news for those of us who thrive on seeking the truth is that there will always be more questions than there are answers and I will always have a job as your remedial professor of things that matter.

©Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com, 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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“Everything’s got a moral, if only you can find it.” (Lewis Carroll)

Now that school is back in session, I wanted to exercise my right as Professor of Remedial Philosophy and Stuff that Matters by giving an exam on the first day of class. Don’t worry, it’s only five questions worth 100 points but it is 10% of your semester grade. This is mostly just a simple way for me to determine the philosophical reasoning ability of my students as a starting point for future interactions in this class. The questions were all derived from searching Google and Wikipedia so feel free to utilize those same resources on your phone or tablet. You will be given 30 minutes to complete the test. Please keep your answers brief and to the point. Let’s begin.

Question One: What is Clark’s First Rule of Motion?

 

Question Two: What is The Krueger Formula for achieving critical mass in social gatherings?

 

Question Three: Who won Pascal’s wager?

 

Question Four: What are the ancillary extremes caused by the Google Effect?

 

Question Five: How does deductive reasoning apply to this test?

 

Thanks for participating. That’s all for today. Please check back in a week for the answers and my explanation.

 

©Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com, 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

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