Sunday, 31 October 2010

Your most precious treasure: an active mind (Part 1 of 3)


People become discouraged and despondent in relationships because, at a certain moment, they believe that they have no options. This is not true, unless you suffer from terminal illness and you have no time left. Wherever you live, whatever your occupation, alternatives exist to bad relationships.

An active mind is a precious treasure that is given to every human. If you doubt this, look at children. Their curiosity and excitement are irrepressible. An entrepreneurial spirit is not something you have to acquire, but your natural due. If later in life, you find that missing, you just need to reclaim it.

There are plenty of unexplored possibilities when it comes to meeting new friends and lovers. In each case, you might need to exert effort, look around, and experience some rejection. That's part of the price you pay for growing as a human being.

Once we are equipped with an entrepreneurial attitude, we should actually love it when someone calls our dreams unrealistic. In particular, when that person adds some trite remark, such as "in life, we cannot always get what we want." That's a sign for us to take action.

To be continued in Part 2

[Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com]

[Image by Paul Keleher under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]

Your most precious treasure: an active mind
(Part 1 of 3)


People become discouraged and despondent in relationships because, at a certain moment, they believe that they have no options. This is not true, unless you suffer from terminal illness and you have no time left. Wherever you live, whatever your occupation, alternatives exist to bad relationships.

An active mind is a precious treasure that is given to every human. If you doubt this, look at children. Their curiosity and excitement are irrepressible. An entrepreneurial spirit is not something you have to acquire, but your natural due. If later in life, you find that missing, you just need to reclaim it.

There are plenty of unexplored possibilities when it comes to meeting new friends and lovers. In each case, you might need to exert effort, look around, and experience some rejection. That's part of the price you pay for growing as a human being.

Once we are equipped with an entrepreneurial attitude, we should actually love it when someone calls our dreams unrealistic. In particular, when that person adds some trite remark, such as "in life, we cannot always get what we want." That's a sign for us to take action.

To be continued in Part 2

[Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com]

[Image by Paul Keleher under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Reclaim your good health and personal safety (Part 3 of 3)


Insomnia, when it happens, should be counteracted with natural means. On many occasions, the underlying cause of sleep difficulties are psychological. Peaceful nights frequently return after measures have been adopted to reduce stress, overcommitment, and relationship problems.

We should remind ourselves from time to time that people suffer illness equally for their actions as for their omissions. It is as important to identify what we should eat as what we should refrain from eating. There are countless books on the market about the elements of good nutrition and, if you have not done so already, I encourage you to read a few of them.

For the purpose of enhancing our well-being, exercise does not need to be complicated or costly. Do visit a sauna or swimming pool if that is your choice, but inexpensive habits, such as cycling and walking, are also effective means to keep in shape. If you make the effort to acquire healthy routines, maintaining a good condition will become automatic and you will spare yourself plenty of trouble down the road.

[Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com]

[Image by biologyfishman under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]

Reclaim your good health and personal safety
(Part 3 of 3)


Insomnia, when it happens, should be counteracted with natural means. On many occasions, the underlying cause of sleep difficulties are psychological. Peaceful nights frequently return after measures have been adopted to reduce stress, overcommitment, and relationship problems.

We should remind ourselves from time to time that people suffer illness equally for their actions as for their omissions. It is as important to identify what we should eat as what we should refrain from eating. There are countless books on the market about the elements of good nutrition and, if you have not done so already, I encourage you to read a few of them.

For the purpose of enhancing our well-being, exercise does not need to be complicated or costly. Do visit a sauna or swimming pool if that is your choice, but inexpensive habits, such as cycling and walking, are also effective means to keep in shape. If you make the effort to acquire healthy routines, maintaining a good condition will become automatic and you will spare yourself plenty of trouble down the road.

[Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com]

[Image by biologyfishman under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]

Friday, 29 October 2010

Reclaim your good health and personal safety (Part 2 of 3)


1. Avoid situations of serious physical danger.
2. Sleep long enough for your needs.
3. Do not eat or drink harmful substances.
4. Choose a sound diet that you can easily follow.
5. Make sure that you do a minimum of exercise everyday.

The first aspect is frequently overlooked by wellness experts, but it plays a crucial role in allowing individuals to reach an advanced age in good condition. Combat sports and exotic vacations draw crowds in search of excitement, but they entail risks that cannot be easily averted.

To be continued in Part 3

[Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com]

[Image by Ted Van Pelt under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]

Reclaim your good health and personal safety
(Part 2 of 3)


1. Avoid situations of serious physical danger.
2. Sleep long enough for your needs.
3. Do not eat or drink harmful substances.
4. Choose a sound diet that you can easily follow.
5. Make sure that you do a minimum of exercise everyday.

The first aspect is frequently overlooked by wellness experts, but it plays a crucial role in allowing individuals to reach an advanced age in good condition. Combat sports and exotic vacations draw crowds in search of excitement, but they entail risks that cannot be easily averted.

To be continued in Part 3

[Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com]

[Image by Ted Van Pelt under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Reclaim your good health and personal safety (Part 1 of 3)


For the individual, no other asset is as valuable as his health. Money, friendships, and business connections won't help much if your body exceeds the limits of what it can reasonably withstand. Medical services can be purchased, often at a great expense, but they cannot always help.

Maintaining an optimal level of vitality should be one of the main priorities in life, but unfortunately, for many people, it is not. Too much is taken for granted and, after irreversible damage has occurred, little can be done beyond reducing the pain. Prevention is better than cure, in particular, low-cost prevention.

The principles of staying in good shape have been known for centuries, although in the last decades, details have been worked out in many areas. Barring inherited illness and extreme bad luck, the way to an excellent health depends on the following five factors.

To be continued in Part 2

[Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com]

[Image by dalbera under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]

Reclaim your good health and personal safety
(Part 1 of 3)


For the individual, no other asset is as valuable as his health. Money, friendships, and business connections won't help much if your body exceeds the limits of what it can reasonably withstand. Medical services can be purchased, often at a great expense, but they cannot always help.

Maintaining an optimal level of vitality should be one of the main priorities in life, but unfortunately, for many people, it is not. Too much is taken for granted and, after irreversible damage has occurred, little can be done beyond reducing the pain. Prevention is better than cure, in particular, low-cost prevention.

The principles of staying in good shape have been known for centuries, although in the last decades, details have been worked out in many areas. Barring inherited illness and extreme bad luck, the way to an excellent health depends on the following five factors.

To be continued in Part 2

[Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com]

[Image by dalbera under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

The human tendency to exaggerate problems and difficulties (Part 3 of 3)


Lack of trust in the future is originated by the conviction that nothing can be done to improve one's situation. The size of problems and obstacles is exaggerated. Opportunities are overlooked. Alternatives are not explored. The impact of external forces is magnified beyond measurement.

The opposite process takes place when we acquire a healthy, rational view of the world. We become conscious of the fact that, primarily, our actions will define how our life turns out. We learn to deal with the undesirable aspects of reality by taking appropriate steps. We focus on steadfast activity rather than on elements that we cannot control.

Uninterrupted focus on one area allows accelerated learning. Incessant alertness permits to discover opportunities that remain invisible to most. Self-reliance is the result of implementing rational thinking through long-term undertakings. If you pursue worthy goals through consistent action, self-confidence is your natural due. Claim it.

[Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com]

[Image by chimothy27 under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

The human tendency to exaggerate problems and difficulties (Part 2 of 3)


  1. What happens in the world is determined by the law of cause and effect.
  2. Human beings possess the unique characteristic of being able to set their own goals.
  3. Consistent purposeful action is the decisive factor that shapes the future of an individual.
  4. Ambitious long-term goals can be achieved by means of relentless activity in the chosen field.
  5. Progress is a natural process driven by persistence, mistakes, learning, and refocusing.
Despite the impression that one might gain from watching films, self-assurance is not a supernatural quality that chance bestows on certain people. It is not an innate talent or physical capacity that only a few inherit, but the result of continuous personal growth. It takes substantial effort to develop and maintain self-reliance.

To be continued in Part 3

[Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com]

[Image by xal under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]

The human tendency to exaggerate problems and difficulties (Part 2 of 3)


  1. What happens in the world is determined by the law of cause and effect.
  2. Human beings possess the unique characteristic of being able to set their own goals.
  3. Consistent purposeful action is the decisive factor that shapes the future of an individual.
  4. Ambitious long-term goals can be achieved by means of relentless activity in the chosen field.
  5. Progress is a natural process driven by persistence, mistakes, learning, and refocusing.
Despite the impression that one might gain from watching films, self-assurance is not a supernatural quality that chance bestows on certain people. It is not an innate talent or physical capacity that only a few inherit, but the result of continuous personal growth. It takes substantial effort to develop and maintain self-reliance.

To be continued in Part 3

[Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com]

[Image by xal under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]

Monday, 25 October 2010

The human tendency to exaggerate problems and difficulties (Part 1 of 3)


Self-confidence is the most admired character trait that actors play in movies. For most people, it dwarfs any other psychological or physical attribute in terms of desirability. What is the key to attaining self-assurance? Does it come from internal sources or from external validation?

Most advice given on the subject consists of isolated prescriptions without logic or context. Telling people to repeat in their head that they are capable and positive does not help much. Focusing on external aspects, such as clothing, might lead individuals to think that they lack fundamental value.

For two thousand years, the writings of philosophers have linked personal happiness to a feeling of certainty. The serenity that comes from trusting the future cannot be replaced by artificial beliefs. Self-reliance is the consequence of the essential principles of reality, namely:

To be continued in Part 2

[Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com]

[Image by sektordua under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]

The human tendency to exaggerate problems and difficulties (Part 1 of 3)


Self-confidence is the most admired character trait that actors play in movies. For most people, it dwarfs any other psychological or physical attribute in terms of desirability. What is the key to attaining self-assurance? Does it come from internal sources or from external validation?

Most advice given on the subject consists of isolated prescriptions without logic or context. Telling people to repeat in their head that they are capable and positive does not help much. Focusing on external aspects, such as clothing, might lead individuals to think that they lack fundamental value.

For two thousand years, the writings of philosophers have linked personal happiness to a feeling of certainty. The serenity that comes from trusting the future cannot be replaced by artificial beliefs. Self-reliance is the consequence of the essential principles of reality, namely:

To be continued in Part 2

[Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com]

[Image by sektordua under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Why frugal people enjoy life more (Part 3 of 3)


3.- RISK REDUCTION. A judicious man should protect himself when at risk, but is it not wiser to avoid danger in the first place? The tension of making daily complex choices can wear out the most balanced mind. Adopting simple ways of doing things reduces errors of oversight. Shunning unnecessary costs keeps exposure to chaos low.

4.- MORE ENJOYMENT OF LIFE. Ignoring the noise of the world liberates time and other resources. Priorities lose their meaning in overgrown agendas. Frugality enables man to breathe free of encumbrances and focus his efforts on the basics. Happiness is not the result of cumulating random tasks, but of concentration on projects that make a difference.

Leading a simple life allows man to accumulate wealth and the peace of mind that comes with it. The material advantages of frugality go hand in hand with its psychological benefits. Discarding the unnecessary lets individuals pay attention to the crucial elements of a good life. Making wise choices starts with the realization that most things don't count.

[Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com]

[Image by the yes man under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]

Why frugal people enjoy life more (Part 3 of 3)


3.- RISK REDUCTION. A judicious man should protect himself when at risk, but is it not wiser to avoid danger in the first place? The tension of making daily complex choices can wear out the most balanced mind. Adopting simple ways of doing things reduces errors of oversight. Shunning unnecessary costs keeps exposure to chaos low.

4.- MORE ENJOYMENT OF LIFE. Ignoring the noise of the world liberates time and other resources. Priorities lose their meaning in overgrown agendas. Frugality enables man to breathe free of encumbrances and focus his efforts on the basics. Happiness is not the result of cumulating random tasks, but of concentration on projects that make a difference.

Leading a simple life allows man to accumulate wealth and the peace of mind that comes with it. The material advantages of frugality go hand in hand with its psychological benefits. Discarding the unnecessary lets individuals pay attention to the crucial elements of a good life. Making wise choices starts with the realization that most things don't count.

[Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com]

[Image by the yes man under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Why frugal people enjoy life more (Part 2 of 3)


In addition to economic returns, frugality brings about substantial psychological advantages to the individual. Stress and anxiety remain foreign to the parsimonious. Discouragement and fear stay away from the house of the austere. If you live this way, these are some blessings to expect:

1.- PEACE OF MIND. Worries do not keep awake at night those who live their days with measure. Leading a simple life spares man the effort of following the latest fashions. By quickly dismissing artificial alternatives as inappropriate, we are left with the fundamental. Serenity is the result of simplification.

2.- FAST AND CONSISTENT DECISIONS. Trusting your own judgement more than external opinion allows your skills to grow through success and mistakes. Stable values and sharp priorities are the prerequisite of frugality. Decisiveness is the will to recognize and reject the drawbacks of inconsistency.

To be continued in Part 3

[Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com]

[Image by jackol under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]

Why frugal people enjoy life more (Part 2 of 3)


In addition to economic returns, frugality brings about substantial psychological advantages to the individual. Stress and anxiety remain foreign to the parsimonious. Discouragement and fear stay away from the house of the austere. If you live this way, these are some blessings to expect:

1.- PEACE OF MIND. Worries do not keep awake at night those who live their days with measure. Leading a simple life spares man the effort of following the latest fashions. By quickly dismissing artificial alternatives as inappropriate, we are left with the fundamental. Serenity is the result of simplification.

2.- FAST AND CONSISTENT DECISIONS. Trusting your own judgement more than external opinion allows your skills to grow through success and mistakes. Stable values and sharp priorities are the prerequisite of frugality. Decisiveness is the will to recognize and reject the drawbacks of inconsistency.

To be continued in Part 3

[Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com]

[Image by jackol under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]

Friday, 22 October 2010

Why frugal people enjoy life more (Part 1 of 3)


Poverty has few benefits other than awakening personal ambitions and making people realistic about how the world works. Those are things, of course, that can be learned in many different ways without having to experience deprivation.

On the other hand, whatever your level of income, frugality constitutes a choice of permanent value. Contemporary society does not promote temperance and thrift. The story is seldom told of how present prosperity is the consequence of previous savings and investment.

The law of cause and effect governs supreme the affairs of the world. Nothing escapes its reach, no one circumvents its application. The same principle that brings perspective to centuries shapes the microcosm of daily life. What you do today builds tomorrow's structure and level of pay.

To be continued in Part 2

[Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com]

[Image by obbino under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]

Why frugal people enjoy life more (Part 1 of 3)


Poverty has few benefits other than awakening personal ambitions and making people realistic about how the world works. Those are things, of course, that can be learned in many different ways without having to experience deprivation.

On the other hand, whatever your level of income, frugality constitutes a choice of permanent value. Contemporary society does not promote temperance and thrift. The story is seldom told of how present prosperity is the consequence of previous savings and investment.

The law of cause and effect governs supreme the affairs of the world. Nothing escapes its reach, no one circumvents its application. The same principle that brings perspective to centuries shapes the microcosm of daily life. What you do today builds tomorrow's structure and level of pay.

To be continued in Part 2

[Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com]

[Image by obbino under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Never forget to ask the price (Part 3 of 3)


What is proper for youth looks ridiculous as men age. Acquiring consciousness of prices is part of becoming an adult. Irrationality makes people despondent, leading them to sell their property at reduced prices. Obsession deprives men of understanding, inducing them to pay too much for fashion.

Fear cannot justify foolishness. Conformity cannot excuse willingness to delude ourselves or the world. Ignorance is unacceptable when knowledge is freely available. Wisdom begins with consciousness of our environment. For products, services, or convictions, there cannot be valid advice without reference to price.

[Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com]

[Image by Reinante aka Benquerencia under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]

Never forget to ask the price (Part 3 of 3)


What is proper for youth looks ridiculous as men age. Acquiring consciousness of prices is part of becoming an adult. Irrationality makes people despondent, leading them to sell their property at reduced prices. Obsession deprives men of understanding, inducing them to pay too much for fashion.

Fear cannot justify foolishness. Conformity cannot excuse willingness to delude ourselves or the world. Ignorance is unacceptable when knowledge is freely available. Wisdom begins with consciousness of our environment. For products, services, or convictions, there cannot be valid advice without reference to price.

[Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com]

[Image by Reinante aka Benquerencia under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Never forget to ask the price (Part 2 of 3)


How long is your list of those who look around and compare offers? What percentage of men and women carefully assess cost before making decisions? If you write down names, chances are that they will be few, since whole segments of the population prefer to ignore price information:

* CHILDREN are foreign to cost considerations, since their priority is to have everything right now, irrespective of the price. Instilling sound economic judgement should be one of the objectives of a good education. Psychological growth demands perception of the bond between effort and reward.

* SMOKERS must be also excluded from any list of cost-conscious individuals. How many of them are unaware of their increased health risks? Anyone who watches television or reads newspapers can hardly claim ignorance of the massive cost of cancer treatment.

* COMPLAINERS spend their days deploring problems which, on closer examination, could have been easily avoided by looking at the market. Depressed prices or exaggerated valuations do not prompt rational men to lamentation, but to cautious action.

To be continued in Part 3

[Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com]

[Image by markus941 under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]

Never forget to ask the price (Part 2 of 3)


How long is your list of those who look around and compare offers? What percentage of men and women carefully assess cost before making decisions? If you write down names, chances are that they will be few, since whole segments of the population prefer to ignore price information:

* CHILDREN are foreign to cost considerations, since their priority is to have everything right now, irrespective of the price. Instilling sound economic judgement should be one of the objectives of a good education. Psychological growth demands perception of the bond between effort and reward.

* SMOKERS must be also excluded from any list of cost-conscious individuals. How many of them are unaware of their increased health risks? Anyone who watches television or reads newspapers can hardly claim ignorance of the massive cost of cancer treatment.

* COMPLAINERS spend their days deploring problems which, on closer examination, could have been easily avoided by looking at the market. Depressed prices or exaggerated valuations do not prompt rational men to lamentation, but to cautious action.

To be continued in Part 3

[Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com]

[Image by markus941 under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Towards zero stress: How to remain amazingly cool in very hot situations


There is a cure for stress. It is not a drug and it is not a fantasy. It won't cost you money, but it is not for free. Many people who try it out feel born again, others rejuvenated. The remedy is known under many different names. You may call it simplification or streamlining, reduction or selection, focus or elimination, logic or rationality.

An efficient approach to living is easier to name than to implement. Minimizing stress requires man to concentrate his energies on the essential areas of his life. This is a goal that can only be achieved by establishing priorities. Eliminating stress results from making choices and embracing simplification.

Why are so many people reluctant to set priorities in their lives? Why do they prefer to run in circles rather than follow a straightforward path towards their objectives? Individuals affected by stress frequently lack consistent criteria to make decisions. Men and women who live in anxiety often fear standing still for a minute and questioning their own contradictions.

Overloading one's days with senseless activities is a psychological defence mechanism against the fear of taking responsibility. Rational decisions are impossible for people who lack a sense of direction. On many occasions, having too much to do is an excuse to avoid facing indecision. Small talk with one hundred acquaintances cannot replace a deep conversation with one close friend.

Stress is to the human soul what indebtedness is for a business. Both are problems that compound with time unless a workable strategy is adopted. Intelligent choices enhance professional and private results. Efficiency begins with clarity.

[Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com]

[Image by Shiny Things under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]

Towards zero stress: How to remain amazingly cool in very hot situations


There is a cure for stress. It is not a drug and it is not a fantasy. It won't cost you money, but it is not for free. Many people who try it out feel born again, others rejuvenated. The remedy is known under many different names. You may call it simplification or streamlining, reduction or selection, focus or elimination, logic or rationality.

An efficient approach to living is easier to name than to implement. Minimizing stress requires man to concentrate his energies on the essential areas of his life. This is a goal that can only be achieved by establishing priorities. Eliminating stress results from making choices and embracing simplification.

Why are so many people reluctant to set priorities in their lives? Why do they prefer to run in circles rather than follow a straightforward path towards their objectives? Individuals affected by stress frequently lack consistent criteria to make decisions. Men and women who live in anxiety often fear standing still for a minute and questioning their own contradictions.

Overloading one's days with senseless activities is a psychological defence mechanism against the fear of taking responsibility. Rational decisions are impossible for people who lack a sense of direction. On many occasions, having too much to do is an excuse to avoid facing indecision. Small talk with one hundred acquaintances cannot replace a deep conversation with one close friend.

Stress is to the human soul what indebtedness is for a business. Both are problems that compound with time unless a workable strategy is adopted. Intelligent choices enhance professional and private results. Efficiency begins with clarity.

[Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com]

[Image by Shiny Things under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]

Monday, 18 October 2010

Never forget to ask the price (Part 1 of 3)


"Inquiring about prices is sinful," wrote scholar Hugh of St. Victor in the year 1130 C.E., "since it only serves to aid the vice of avarice." The medieval mind saw the world as immobile and human beings as passive spectators. Life was something that happened to you. Silent acceptance was regarded as a virtue.

Nine centuries have gone by. The universe has not changed, but we have erred and learned. In our age, looking up prices occupies a good part of our time. We cut off coupons from newspapers and compare discounts from car dealers. We listen to commercials on the radio and participate in auction sales.

Our activities have taken a new course, but to a certain extent, our thinking remains anchored in the Middle Ages. Reflect for a minute and count the people you know who actively pursue price information in their endeavours and act consistently on that knowledge.

To be continued in Part 2

[Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com]

[Image by icelight under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]

Never forget to ask the price (Part 1 of 3)


"Inquiring about prices is sinful," wrote scholar Hugh of St. Victor in the year 1130 C.E., "since it only serves to aid the vice of avarice." The medieval mind saw the world as immobile and human beings as passive spectators. Life was something that happened to you. Silent acceptance was regarded as a virtue.

Nine centuries have gone by. The universe has not changed, but we have erred and learned. In our age, looking up prices occupies a good part of our time. We cut off coupons from newspapers and compare discounts from car dealers. We listen to commercials on the radio and participate in auction sales.

Our activities have taken a new course, but to a certain extent, our thinking remains anchored in the Middle Ages. Reflect for a minute and count the people you know who actively pursue price information in their endeavours and act consistently on that knowledge.

To be continued in Part 2

[Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com]

[Image by icelight under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]

Sunday, 17 October 2010

The situation is much better than you think (Part 3 of 3)


8.- BENEFIT FROM ENORMOUS BARGAINS. For a short while, we are living in an environment of decreasing prices and this is something that we all can profit from. Things that used to be hardly affordable have become cheaper for millions of people around the world.

9.- IMMIGRATION CONTINUES TO CREATE JOBS. Frontiers are opening in many countries and millions of people move every year in search of a better life. Immigration continues to create opportunities for many. A promising future in a new environment. Immigrants bring ambition, knowledge, and tolerance to society. Immigration creates wealth for open economies and its positive effect can be felt in many areas around the world.

10.- LOW-COST COMMUNICATIONS ENHANCE TRANSPARENCY. With television cameras and internet access everywhere, it has become increasingly difficult to be evil. Problems are immediately reported and people take action to improve things. When transparency increases, people become more ethical.

Do not let daily news get you down. Instead, look at the world with rational optimism. Some currencies are losing value and others are appreciating, but opportunities are being created everywhere. Two thousand years ago, Roman philosopher Epictetus said that a wise man focuses his effort on things he can control. That's something that we should keep in mind everyday.


[Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com]

[Image by Marcus Schmahl under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]

The situation is much better than you think
(Part 3 of 3)


8.- BENEFIT FROM ENORMOUS BARGAINS. For a short while, we are living in an environment of decreasing prices and this is something that we all can profit from. Things that used to be hardly affordable have become cheaper for millions of people around the world.

9.- IMMIGRATION CONTINUES TO CREATE JOBS. Frontiers are opening in many countries and millions of people move every year in search of a better life. Immigration continues to create opportunities for many. A promising future in a new environment. Immigrants bring ambition, knowledge, and tolerance to society. Immigration creates wealth for open economies and its positive effect can be felt in many areas around the world.

10.- LOW-COST COMMUNICATIONS ENHANCE TRANSPARENCY. With television cameras and internet access everywhere, it has become increasingly difficult to be evil. Problems are immediately reported and people take action to improve things. When transparency increases, people become more ethical.

Do not let daily news get you down. Instead, look at the world with rational optimism. Some currencies are losing value and others are appreciating, but opportunities are being created everywhere. Two thousand years ago, Roman philosopher Epictetus said that a wise man focuses his effort on things he can control. That's something that we should keep in mind everyday.


[Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com]

[Image by Marcus Schmahl under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]

Saturday, 16 October 2010

The situation is much better than you think (Part 2 of 3)


4.- MANY ASSETS WILL APPRECIATE. While some businesses and currencies are losing value, other assets are appreciating. Instability creates opportunity. Although it might be uncomfortable and risky, remember that only dead matter is stable. Human beings thrive in change. Look for currencies and assets that are appreciating, invest your savings wisely, and you will be rewarded. Life flows in the direction of opportunity.

5.- TOLERANCE AND GOODWILL ARE INCREASING. There are many different opinions around the world. Some are foolish and unrealistic, but they hardly justify heated debates. Live and let live, people say. Tolerance is carrying the day amongst thinking individuals. As people travel and see the world, tolerance and goodwill increase.

6.- FLEXIBILITY ALLOWS NEW EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITIES. If your industry faces a shrinking market, it is painful to lose your job, but try to look at it from a different perspective. Economic changes shift resources from low-profit to high-opportunity areas. The speed of that process shows the health of an economy. There can be no progress without change. Be flexible and use your creativity to adapt to the new situation.

7.- EDUCATION COSTS ARE DECREASING. Inexpensive internet access and mp3 players have cleared the way for low-cost transmission of knowledge in all fields. Lectures that were accessible only in universities, can now be downloaded for free or for little money. For those who wish to learn, opportunity is continuously expanding.

[Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com]

To be continued in Part 3

[Image by yumyumbubblegum under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]

The situation is much better than you think
(Part 2 of 3)


4.- MANY ASSETS WILL APPRECIATE. While some businesses and currencies are losing value, other assets are appreciating. Instability creates opportunity. Although it might be uncomfortable and risky, remember that only dead matter is stable. Human beings thrive in change. Look for currencies and assets that are appreciating, invest your savings wisely, and you will be rewarded. Life flows in the direction of opportunity.

5.- TOLERANCE AND GOODWILL ARE INCREASING. There are many different opinions around the world. Some are foolish and unrealistic, but they hardly justify heated debates. Live and let live, people say. Tolerance is carrying the day amongst thinking individuals. As people travel and see the world, tolerance and goodwill increase.

6.- FLEXIBILITY ALLOWS NEW EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITIES. If your industry faces a shrinking market, it is painful to lose your job, but try to look at it from a different perspective. Economic changes shift resources from low-profit to high-opportunity areas. The speed of that process shows the health of an economy. There can be no progress without change. Be flexible and use your creativity to adapt to the new situation.

7.- EDUCATION COSTS ARE DECREASING. Inexpensive internet access and mp3 players have cleared the way for low-cost transmission of knowledge in all fields. Lectures that were accessible only in universities, can now be downloaded for free or for little money. For those who wish to learn, opportunity is continuously expanding.

[Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com]

To be continued in Part 3

[Image by yumyumbubblegum under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]

Friday, 15 October 2010

The situation is much better than you think (Part 1 of 3)


Please turn off the radio and TV for a while and let me give you some realistic opinions. Despite all the gloom and doom, there are solid reasons for being optimistic in our times. If we keep our head cool and assess facts objectively, this is what we find:

1.- ECONOMIC RESTRUCTURING IS CREATING WEALTH. As a result of the current crisis, some companies are going bankrupt. In most cases, this means that assets are being taken over by a different management, people with new vision and ambitions. Those companies will stop producing what few want to buy and, instead, focus their efforts on better opportunities. Restructuring can lead to creating new wealth.

2.- MOVING HAS BECOME CHEAPER. It used to be costly to move in order to take a new job, but things are changing. The cost of housing has been reduced in many areas of the world. If you want to move in order to pursue new opportunities, there has never been a better time. Even if you decide to change cities only for a while, you can now rent furnished apartments cheaply in many areas. The cost of moving can hardly prevent anyone from pursuing his dream.

3.- VIOLENCE IS DECREASING. Despite grim news in the media, violence is decreasing around the world. There are still many unresolved problems and dangerous places, but overall, the situation is improving. The reason for this is purely practical: violence is bad for business. Production and commerce get people together. Selling things to each other goes a long a way towards preventing conflict.

To be continued in Part 2

[Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com]

[Image by NCinDC under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]

The situation is much better than you think
(Part 1 of 3)


Please turn off the radio and TV for a while and let me give you some realistic opinions. Despite all the gloom and doom, there are solid reasons for being optimistic in our times. If we keep our head cool and assess facts objectively, this is what we find:

1.- ECONOMIC RESTRUCTURING IS CREATING WEALTH. As a result of the current crisis, some companies are going bankrupt. In most cases, this means that assets are being taken over by a different management, people with new vision and ambitions. Those companies will stop producing what few want to buy and, instead, focus their efforts on better opportunities. Restructuring can lead to creating new wealth.

2.- MOVING HAS BECOME CHEAPER. It used to be costly to move in order to take a new job, but things are changing. The cost of housing has been reduced in many areas of the world. If you want to move in order to pursue new opportunities, there has never been a better time. Even if you decide to change cities only for a while, you can now rent furnished apartments cheaply in many areas. The cost of moving can hardly prevent anyone from pursuing his dream.

3.- VIOLENCE IS DECREASING. Despite grim news in the media, violence is decreasing around the world. There are still many unresolved problems and dangerous places, but overall, the situation is improving. The reason for this is purely practical: violence is bad for business. Production and commerce get people together. Selling things to each other goes a long a way towards preventing conflict.

To be continued in Part 2

[Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com]

[Image by NCinDC under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Great personal victories are always won at the margin (Part 6 of 6)


During a crisis, the best traits of your character become even more valuable. Honesty, frugality, and productivity ensure that you will be able to seize the next opportunity to get back on your feet. Stay alert and do not grow discouraged. Great victories are always won precisely at the moment when everything seems lost.

Linear thinking, so natural to our minds, is rarely accurate in seizing facts. Reality does not change at a steady pace. Prosperity seldom arrives at the moment we expect it. Success is the outcome of relentless, focused action carried out through the years.

Great personal victories are always won at the margin, by hanging on a little longer, by making an extra sale, and by saving an extra dollar. Virtues such as productivity and frugality allow us to enjoy life more intensely because they establish a permanent link between present desires and foreseeable rewards.

[Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com]

[Image by yomi955 under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]

Great personal victories are always won at the margin (Part 6 of 6)


During a crisis, the best traits of your character become even more valuable. Honesty, frugality, and productivity ensure that you will be able to seize the next opportunity to get back on your feet. Stay alert and do not grow discouraged. Great victories are always won precisely at the moment when everything seems lost.

Linear thinking, so natural to our minds, is rarely accurate in seizing facts. Reality does not change at a steady pace. Prosperity seldom arrives at the moment we expect it. Success is the outcome of relentless, focused action carried out through the years.

Great personal victories are always won at the margin, by hanging on a little longer, by making an extra sale, and by saving an extra dollar. Virtues such as productivity and frugality allow us to enjoy life more intensely because they establish a permanent link between present desires and foreseeable rewards.

[Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com]

[Image by yomi955 under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Great personal victories are always won at the margin (Part 5 of 6)


In the face of catastrophe, the only way to overcome doubt is to extend our range of vision. The law of cause and effect always works, even though its results may be slower than we wish. Great victories are always won at the margin, through consistent application of fundamental principles. Do not desert your convictions when short-term events turn against them.

No human story is exempt from trouble. This is why, given enough time, a sensible lifestyle always wins. Your long-term investment plans may suffer a setback, but their value shall be restored as soon as economic conditions return to normality. Your job may be lost in the business disruption caused by a recession, but you were right in trying to perform your best every day.

Do not question your good habits during bad times. Remain calm in the face of adversity and reaffirm your rational values. Recovery might be around the corner. Now it is no time to throw away your virtues. Learn to look beyond present disaster and figure out how to regain ground.

To be continued in Part 6

[Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com]

[Image by Mara1 under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]

Great personal victories are always won at the margin (Part 5 of 6)


In the face of catastrophe, the only way to overcome doubt is to extend our range of vision. The law of cause and effect always works, even though its results may be slower than we wish. Great victories are always won at the margin, through consistent application of fundamental principles. Do not desert your convictions when short-term events turn against them.

No human story is exempt from trouble. This is why, given enough time, a sensible lifestyle always wins. Your long-term investment plans may suffer a setback, but their value shall be restored as soon as economic conditions return to normality. Your job may be lost in the business disruption caused by a recession, but you were right in trying to perform your best every day.

Do not question your good habits during bad times. Remain calm in the face of adversity and reaffirm your rational values. Recovery might be around the corner. Now it is no time to throw away your virtues. Learn to look beyond present disaster and figure out how to regain ground.

To be continued in Part 6

[Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com]

[Image by Mara1 under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Great personal victories are always won at the margin (Part 4 of 6)


(c) A loving wife who has dedicated her best years to care for his family is suddenly confronted with her husband's infidelity. Was she too naïve in trusting him? Should she become sceptical of truth in human relationships?

(d) A couple who lives frugally for decades in order to pay off their mortgage sees their home damaged by a flood. Instead of saving money every month, should they have spent as much as they earned?

No wonder that people feel overwhelmed, physically and psychologically, when they go through such circumstances. Unmitigated disaster can demolish our most cherished principles together with our hopes, savings, home, possessions, and social and family connections.

To be continued in Part 5

[Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com]

[Image by Fr Antunes under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]

Great personal victories are always won at the margin (Part 4 of 6)


(c) A loving wife who has dedicated her best years to care for his family is suddenly confronted with her husband's infidelity. Was she too naïve in trusting him? Should she become sceptical of truth in human relationships?

(d) A couple who lives frugally for decades in order to pay off their mortgage sees their home damaged by a flood. Instead of saving money every month, should they have spent as much as they earned?

No wonder that people feel overwhelmed, physically and psychologically, when they go through such circumstances. Unmitigated disaster can demolish our most cherished principles together with our hopes, savings, home, possessions, and social and family connections.

To be continued in Part 5

[Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com]

[Image by Fr Antunes under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]

Monday, 11 October 2010

Great personal victories are always won at the margin (Part 3 of 6)


The law of causality, however, does not prevent connections between facts from working according to their own calendar. Consequences from past events can be wide-ranging. Sometimes, effects are only felt several years after their cause was initiated. The timing of History is seldom designed to fit our linking:

(a) An employee who has worked loyally for a company during several decades loses his job due to the economic recession and finds himself on the street. Was he wrong in devoting so much effort to his work? Instead of performing excellently, should he have done as little as possible in his job?

(b) A middle-aged manager who has been saving laboriously all his life now witnesses a stock market crash that devalues his assets in half. Was he mistaken in trying to secure his retirement? Rather than investing, should he have spent his income on frivolities?

To be continued in Part 4

[Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com]

[Image by Daquella manera under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]

Great personal victories are always won at the margin (Part 3 of 6)


The law of causality, however, does not prevent connections between facts from working according to their own calendar. Consequences from past events can be wide-ranging. Sometimes, effects are only felt several years after their cause was initiated. The timing of History is seldom designed to fit our linking:

(a) An employee who has worked loyally for a company during several decades loses his job due to the economic recession and finds himself on the street. Was he wrong in devoting so much effort to his work? Instead of performing excellently, should he have done as little as possible in his job?

(b) A middle-aged manager who has been saving laboriously all his life now witnesses a stock market crash that devalues his assets in half. Was he mistaken in trying to secure his retirement? Rather than investing, should he have spent his income on frivolities?

To be continued in Part 4

[Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com]

[Image by Daquella manera under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]

Sunday, 10 October 2010

The philosophy of builders, third book by John Vespasian


The factors that lead to prosperity and happiness have changed little through the ages. From the lives of accomplished men and women, we can extract the three principles that they have used to build a better future: self-reliance, tolerance and entrepreneurship.

This essay presents how individuals can use these principles to overcome adversity and improve their lives. Through the analysis of situations in the areas of relationships, career, health and investments, it shows how to:
  • overcome pessimism and discouragement
  • walk the path of least resistance
  • simplify your life and reduce costs
  • focus on real opportunities.
The ideas are illustrated with examples from the lives of Paracelsus, Jane Austen, Thomas of Aquinas, Gutenberg, Jules Verne and many other historical figures, showing how they overcame obstacles and built a better future for themselves.

[Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com]

The philosophy of builders, third book by John Vespasian


The factors that lead to prosperity and happiness have changed little through the ages. From the lives of accomplished men and women, we can extract the three principles that they have used to build a better future: self-reliance, tolerance and entrepreneurship.

This essay presents how individuals can use these principles to overcome adversity and improve their lives. Through the analysis of situations in the areas of relationships, career, health and investments, it shows how to:
  • overcome pessimism and discouragement
  • walk the path of least resistance
  • simplify your life and reduce costs
  • focus on real opportunities.
The ideas are illustrated with examples from the lives of Paracelsus, Jane Austen, Thomas of Aquinas, Gutenberg, Jules Verne and many other historical figures, showing how they overcame obstacles and built a better future for themselves.

[Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com]

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Great personal victories are always won at the margin (Part 2 of 6)


Adversity and misfortune prompt victims to question their beliefs. The spectacle of great financial losses incurred by conservative businessmen is not edifying. In this context, it is perfectly fair to doubt your convictions. In a world that seems to reward chance rather than constancy, should one remain faithful to ethical rules?

Take heart and do not give up. Current events offer an incomplete picture of the story. Superficial and nonsensical ideas can only enjoy ephemeral popularity. The balance of time will soon regain its accuracy. Rational measurements will be restored.

Short-term defeat is just a temporary disturbance of the universal rule that links cause and effect. The principle of causality alone governs reality. None of us can escape it, ignore it, or contradict it. Correct principles remain uncontested through the ages. Essential ethical guidelines are meant to show us the way especially during difficult periods.

To be continued in Part 3

[Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com]

[Image by Len Blumin under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]

Great personal victories are always won at the margin (Part 2 of 6)


Adversity and misfortune prompt victims to question their beliefs. The spectacle of great financial losses incurred by conservative businessmen is not edifying. In this context, it is perfectly fair to doubt your convictions. In a world that seems to reward chance rather than constancy, should one remain faithful to ethical rules?

Take heart and do not give up. Current events offer an incomplete picture of the story. Superficial and nonsensical ideas can only enjoy ephemeral popularity. The balance of time will soon regain its accuracy. Rational measurements will be restored.

Short-term defeat is just a temporary disturbance of the universal rule that links cause and effect. The principle of causality alone governs reality. None of us can escape it, ignore it, or contradict it. Correct principles remain uncontested through the ages. Essential ethical guidelines are meant to show us the way especially during difficult periods.

To be continued in Part 3

[Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com]

[Image by Len Blumin under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]

Friday, 8 October 2010

Great personal victories are always won at the margin (Part 1 of 6)


There is no deeper disappointment in life than seeing your fundamental convictions contradicted by unexpected events. When facts turn upside down what you have believed all your life, disorientation ensues. In those situation, doubts spread like wildfire across your philosophy, leading you to wonder if your other ideas are equally false.

How is it possible that you have been wrong all this time? Have you perhaps misunderstood the teachings of antiquity? Does modern life require giving up all traditions, values, and principles of previous eras? To whom can you turn to seek confirmation, or at the very least, consolation?

Nowadays, millions of people are asking these and similar questions. The last decades have been particularly hard on those who had placed their trust on prudence and loyalty. The issue is whether thrift and careful investment have lost their sense and purpose.

To be continued in Part 2

[Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com]

[Image by sashafatcat under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]

Great personal victories are always won at the margin (Part 1 of 6)


There is no deeper disappointment in life than seeing your fundamental convictions contradicted by unexpected events. When facts turn upside down what you have believed all your life, disorientation ensues. In those situation, doubts spread like wildfire across your philosophy, leading you to wonder if your other ideas are equally false.

How is it possible that you have been wrong all this time? Have you perhaps misunderstood the teachings of antiquity? Does modern life require giving up all traditions, values, and principles of previous eras? To whom can you turn to seek confirmation, or at the very least, consolation?

Nowadays, millions of people are asking these and similar questions. The last decades have been particularly hard on those who had placed their trust on prudence and loyalty. The issue is whether thrift and careful investment have lost their sense and purpose.

To be continued in Part 2

[Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com]

[Image by sashafatcat under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]

Thursday, 7 October 2010

What makes self-development possible


“The human mind is designed for exercising memory and imagination,” wrote Baruch Spinoza in his Ethics in 1662. The book would be published only fifteen years later, but Spinoza didn't care, since he was recording his thoughts mainly for himself.

In the history of ideas, or for that matter, of entrepreneurship, few men have shown such extraordinary courage as Spinoza. His daring dismissal of safety and comfort in favour of an uncertain future estranged him from his family and made a pariah out of him, socially and financially.

Born into a wealthy family of Jewish merchants and destined to a life of economic comfort, Spinoza's free spirit began to outgrow the narrow traditions of his community already when he was a school kid in Amsterdam.

In July 1656, the rabbi of the synagogue, after having consulted the elders, gave Spinoza an ultimatum. He was to stop asking questions during lectures. He was to stop talking to other youth about tolerance and individual freedom. In a word, he was to stop being different and, instead, he was to become like everybody else in the community.

Although the rabbi uttered his threat in a soft voice, he painted clearly what consequences non-compliance would bring. Expulsion from the synagogue would be tantamount to lifelong ostracism. If Spinoza refused to conform to social conventions, all doors would be closed to him.

“We expect your answer on the last Sabbath this month,” concluded the rabbi, already anticipating his victory. At that time, Spinoza was 23 years old and the rabbi felt sure that no one would be foolish enough to throw away a bright professional future in an established community for the sake of some intellectual nonsense about truth.

On July 27th, Spinoza returned to the synagogue. The rabbi and the elders were awaiting him. “What have you decided?” he was asked. “Are you with us or are you on your own?”

“A man must be guided by reason, if he is to remain fully a man,” answered Spinoza. “Without the urge to understand and the freedom to search for answers, neither truth nor happiness are possible.”

After leaving Amsterdam, Spinoza moved thirty kilometres south and created a new community from scratch: a group of free-thinking intellectuals who would spread around the world his ideas about tolerance and change the course of History.

What would have happened if Spinoza had remained in his traditional community instead of starting a new tribe? As he wrote himself in his Ethics: “The essence of human thinking is to identify true ideas.” May you always have the courage and determination to follow them through.

[Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com]

[Image by Wolfgang Staudt under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]

What makes self-development possible


“The human mind is designed for exercising memory and imagination,” wrote Baruch Spinoza in his Ethics in 1662. The book would be published only fifteen years later, but Spinoza didn't care, since he was recording his thoughts mainly for himself.

In the history of ideas, or for that matter, of entrepreneurship, few men have shown such extraordinary courage as Spinoza. His daring dismissal of safety and comfort in favour of an uncertain future estranged him from his family and made a pariah out of him, socially and financially.

Born into a wealthy family of Jewish merchants and destined to a life of economic comfort, Spinoza's free spirit began to outgrow the narrow traditions of his community already when he was a school kid in Amsterdam.

In July 1656, the rabbi of the synagogue, after having consulted the elders, gave Spinoza an ultimatum. He was to stop asking questions during lectures. He was to stop talking to other youth about tolerance and individual freedom. In a word, he was to stop being different and, instead, he was to become like everybody else in the community.

Although the rabbi uttered his threat in a soft voice, he painted clearly what consequences non-compliance would bring. Expulsion from the synagogue would be tantamount to lifelong ostracism. If Spinoza refused to conform to social conventions, all doors would be closed to him.

“We expect your answer on the last Sabbath this month,” concluded the rabbi, already anticipating his victory. At that time, Spinoza was 23 years old and the rabbi felt sure that no one would be foolish enough to throw away a bright professional future in an established community for the sake of some intellectual nonsense about truth.

On July 27th, Spinoza returned to the synagogue. The rabbi and the elders were awaiting him. “What have you decided?” he was asked. “Are you with us or are you on your own?”

“A man must be guided by reason, if he is to remain fully a man,” answered Spinoza. “Without the urge to understand and the freedom to search for answers, neither truth nor happiness are possible.”

After leaving Amsterdam, Spinoza moved thirty kilometres south and created a new community from scratch: a group of free-thinking intellectuals who would spread around the world his ideas about tolerance and change the course of History.

What would have happened if Spinoza had remained in his traditional community instead of starting a new tribe? As he wrote himself in his Ethics: “The essence of human thinking is to identify true ideas.” May you always have the courage and determination to follow them through.

[Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com]

[Image by Wolfgang Staudt under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

There were no roses in the times of Moses


I

Joshua woke up in the dark with his heart beating wildly. The nightmare had returned to haunt him, as it had done every night for as long as he could remember. It was always the same anxiety and terror. Why did he dream night after night of being stoned by his own people?

He took in a deep breath and tried to slow down his heart, when he heard a noise outside the tent. Was a desert lion roaming the camp? He listened attentively and perceived the sound of steps. The first light of dawn was visible through the seams of the tent. Who was walking outside that early? Joshua rolled out of his camp bed, put on his sandals, and walked silently out of the tent.

There was nobody to be seen, but the silent fields around the camp confirmed Joshua's suspicion. He sharpened his ears, but heard no cry of owls and no sound of crickets. He knew that nature grants total quietness only out the fear caused by human presence.

When Joshua saw a man's silhouette moving up the slope of Mount Sinai, he could not believe his eyes. It was Moses, one of the tribe's elders. Joshua was baffled. Why on earth was Moses climbing the mountain?

He is just an old fool, reflected Joshua. He hesitated for a moment whether to shout at Moses that he should come back, but that would have woken up everybody in the camp. Irritated by Moses' folly, Joshua began to climb the mountain himself, in pursuit of the old man.

The slope was steep and Joshua was soon out of breath. No matter how fast he climbed, Moses seemed to move even faster. Three hours later, when the sun was high in the sky, Joshua stood still and inspected the bushes around him. He was fed up. Where was the old man?

Joshua had lost trace of Moses, but now he was perceiving an intermittent noise, as though someone was trying to light a fire using flint. That had to be Moses, but what on earth was he doing? Joshua advanced towards the noise and found the old man sitting on the ground, holding chisel and hammer in his hands, with a stone tablet between his legs.

II

“We have to go back,” said Joshua immediately. He was so exhausted by the climb that he had forgotten all politeness. Moses shook his head. “I am not ready yet,” he replied. He set the chisel blade on the stone tablet and hit the chisel head softly with the hammer.

Joshua looked over Moses' shoulder and saw that the old man was carving words on the tablet. “What are you writing?” he inquired. “The law,” answered Moses calmly without stopping his work. “The laws of our tribe.”

Moses' answer did not make any sense to Joshua, who grew even more impatient. “Which laws?” he retorted. Moses shrugged his shoulders as he continued carving letters. “God's laws,” he explained. “I have already told you about them, but you never listen to me.” Despite the reproachful words, Moses' voice was devoid of bitterness.

A cold wind coming from the bushes made Joshua shiver. The situation was making him uncomfortable. The truth was that Joshua had no right to criticize Moses, no authority to tell him what to do or where to go. Embarrassment filled Joshua's heart and he sat down on the ground next to Moses.

“You have worked a lot,” he commented with admiration, looking at the five sentences carved on the stone. “These five laws won't be enough,” countered Moses. “I still have to write another six on a second tablet.” Then he took in a deep breath. “I am tired, Joshua, will you help me? This is why God has sent you here.”

The quicker we get it done, reasoned Joshua, the sooner we can return to the camp. “What do you want me to do?” he asked. Moses finished the last word on the first tablet, handed over chisel and hammer to Joshua, and produced a papyrus from his tunic.

“This is the text of the laws that God has dictated to me,” instructed Moses, giving the papyrus to Joshua. “You will find a second tablet behind those bushes. Carve the six remaining laws on that stone and make sure that you don't forget anything.”

Joshua walked to the nearby bushes, looked behind, and saw that a stone tablet was indeed lying on the ground. He sat down, set one leg to each side of the tablet, and read attentively the text on the papyrus. Was Moses telling the truth? Were those God's eleven commandments to their tribe?

III

When Joshua lifted chisel and hammer to start carving, he realized that something was wrong with the stone tablet. Surprised, he stood still, set his tools aside, and inspected the problem. A red flower had grown through an interstice in the stone and was opening its petals over the tablet.

It was a long time ago since Joshua had seen flowers, but he was certain that he had never seen one so beautiful. “It has the colour of fire,” he remarked. Should he ask Moses about it? After a brief reflection, Joshua concluded that asking Moses would be of little use and would just delay their descent from the mountain.

During the whole day, Joshua worked under the sun, carving word by word, until he had copied on the tablet the last six commandments from the papyrus. He set his tools on the ground, contemplated his work satisfied, and bent over to smell the flower's perfume. It was a pity that lifting the stone tablet was going to cut off the flower from the ground.

“There are no other flowers in the mountain,” observed Joshua. “This one is unique. If I destroy it, such flowers might never grow again.” At that moment, Moses' voice came through the bushes and brought Joshua back to reality. “I am almost ready!” he shouted back. The sun had begun to close the circle and Joshua had to make a decision.

He retook chisel and hammer and, with extreme care, he enlarged the interstice around the flower's stem. When the opening became wide enough, he lifted the stone tablet and smiled. He had managed to save the red flower. “The effort has been worth it,” said Joshua as he stood up.

Suddenly, the stone tablet broke in two and the smaller piece fell down. It had not resisted the hole that Joshua had made to liberate the flower. Moses called again, urging Joshua to go back. The sun was already low in the horizon. Soon, there would be no light.

“What have I done?” lamented Joshua staring at the piece of tablet on the ground. He bent over and saw that the fragment contained the eleventh commandment: “You shall be tolerant and seek to understand other men.”

He hesitated until he heard Moses shout once more. It was time to go. “I'll leave the broken piece here and throw away the papyrus,” decided Joshua. “For Moses, one law more or less won't make any difference. Besides, nobody is going to pay attention to the other ten commandments anyway.”

The two men descended Mount Sinai in silence, walking side by side. When they arrived at the camp, darkness was complete. Before retiring to his tent with the tablets under his arm, Moses embraced Joshua. “What you have done today lays out the path of the future,” said Moses. “Our people will remember.”

That night, for the first time in his life, Joshua enjoyed a quiet sleep. Instead of having a nightmare, he dreamed of a beautiful red flower. During the next days, he felt remorse about the broken piece of tablet that he had left behind, but he told himself that it was not worth it to climb the mountain again to pick it up. “Since Moses himself has not realized that the eleventh commandment is missing,” concluded Joshua, “it cannot be that important.”

[Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com]

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