Thought for the Day – 7/21a

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The Thought for the Day. 
A quote from history, with commentary from G Marxx


We are going to sing so that they will remember this for the rest of their lives. There is no other reason to do it, folks, none.
Garrison Keillor
Love Me


Garrison Keillor is an American humorist, perhaps best known as the host of the radio show A Prairie Home Companion. He is also an accomplished writer, both critically and commercially. Like all humorists, he’s smart and has a point to make.

Today’s Thought comes from a character who directs a college choir. They are on tour and are about to take the stage.

This resonated with us for a couple of reasons. One, we got kicked out of the choir at the Lutheran school we attended in sixth grade. We had been in choir for the previous five grades, but sixth grade, apparently, was when you needed to actually be able to sing. 

Two, it is applicable to anything us humans choose to do: we can do our very best, or we can choose to submit a lesser effort. We can choose to let people remember it the rest of their lives, or cause them to forget it after a few minutes.

We are going to sing so that they will remember this for the rest of their lives…

Sing, write, build a chair, it doesn’t matter, everything we do must be our very best. Sometimes when we sit down to write the first thing we do is type today’s Thought at the top of the page. Because if we are not aiming to write something you will never forget, then why bother? We should probably be doing something else. Now, we may or may not hit that mark, but we must try because if we don’t aim high, we certainly aren’t going to write anything worthwhile, much less memorable.

There is no other reason to do it, folks, none.

We all have a purpose for our time on this planet and the most satisfying lives are spent by those who make the most out of the talents and ambitions they are issued. Whatever they choose to do, they do it so well that no one who experiences it will ever forget it. They don’t fight the natural order, they take what they were given and get the most out of it. When their time comes to die, they are looking back on a life well spent.

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Thought for the Day – 7/20

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The Thought for the Day. 
A quote from history, with commentary from G Marxx


…his life seemed to prove that the valorous were the favorites of fortune. He was simply inviting the [Constitutional] Convention to do what he had done repeatedly – to aim as high as possible and to strain every nerve to attain the goal.
John C Miller
Alexander Hamilton: Profile in Paradox


John C Miller (1907-1991) was an American historian and writer, focusing mainly on the key figures of the American Revolution. Alexander Hamilton, of course, was the first secretary of the treasury for the United States and took a nation without money or credit and deeply in debt and made it prosperous and creditworthy. Killed in a duel with Aaron Burr, Hamilton remains the only person shot to death by a sitting vice president of the United States.

…his life seemed to prove that the valorous were the favorites of fortune.

There’s an old military saying in this same vein that fortune favors the brave and, indeed, it does…Not the foolhardy, but the brave. Bravery, of course,  is not always rewarded and, in fact, comes up short again and again, but the valorous succeed much more often than the timid. As we like to say, no one climbs Mount Everest wandering around the Gobi Desert.

…to aim as high as possible and to strain every nerve to attain the goal.

Hamilton had a definite and certain vision for the government of the United States (not to mention a vision for his social and political status) a vision so bold and audacious – a word that comes up from time to time with Hamilton – it drew the opposition of other great thinkers of the day, like Thomas Jefferson.

We should be aiming high, too, and this is easier than it may sound. Merely dispensing with the cacophony of outside influences and following our inner calling is sufficient. All of us – you, me, your aunt in Leadville – have things we were meant to do with our lives and the happiest lives are spent by those who do them. These things could cause us to live down the ages or merely be fondly remembered by those whose lives we touched, but this is of no consequence. A life spent on our Path is all we need in this life. 

All we need is the wisdom to know the life we are meant to live, the courage to go and live that life, and the patience to do it every day. When we do that, we withdraw every possible benefit from our lives because our Paths take us exactly where we are meant to go.

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The Thought for the Day – 7/1922

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The Thought for the Day. 
A quote from history, with commentary from G Marxx


Talent is nothing but long patience.
Gustave Flaubert


Gustave Flaubert (1821-1880) was a French novelist, known as a writer who avoided cliches, preferring to take whatever time was necessary to find the exact word he was looking for. This didn’t always work and Flaubert is rumored to have never been completely satisfied with anything he wrote. Flaubert wrote from an early age and, knowing this was what he was about, he couldn’t be bothered with the cacophony that attends married and family life, with a biographer claiming he only had one serious romantic relationship, in his 20s and 30s with the poet Louise Colet, who was married at the time. That out of his system, he was free to pursue his life’s work. His exacting temperament ensured that it required five years to produce his first novel Madame Bovary, a groundbreaking work that depicted life as it actually was, a rather new concept at the time and Flaubert remains one of the more influential literary realists.

Regular readers of this feature know we talk about there being three elements to success: wisdom, courage and patience. We must have the wisdom to know the life we were meant to live and the courage to go and live that life, but all the wisdom and courage, not to mention talent, will do us some zero good if we do not have the patience to see our journey through to the very end.

The work of being on our path simply does not stop. If we are going to make our time serve us instead of merely marking time while on this planet we must be on our path every day. Not some days and not others, not some weeks and not others, every day of every week of every year. It will not always be a bed of roses and there will be attainments – life’s great prize – and failures – life’s great lesson. 

Talent is nothing but long patience…

We must find what we are meant to do and do it. It doesn’t matter what this is, either. All that matters is that it comes from deep inside you, that you are answering to your heart instead of merely chasing the proverbial windmills offered by outside influences. When we do this, we are living the life we are meant to live. When we have the patience to do it every day – life’s great challenge – we will look back on a life well-lived. 

Flaubert wrote. The guy who fixes my car grew up wanting to be a mechanic, so that’s what he does. What do you do?

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The Thought for the Day – 7/18/22

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The Thought for the Day. 
A quote from history, with commentary from G Marxx


He had real intelligence…a working, persistent mind…
Saul Bellow


Saul Bellow (1915-2005) was a Canadian/American writer, born in Quebec to Russian emigres, and the family moved to Chicago when Saul was nine. In 1976 he won both the Nobel Prize for Literature and the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and we discovered Bellow by chance when a book of his we saw at a library sale in a rather small town seemed interesting. We were right. Ravelstein is a very wealthy and prominent man, and the story is told from the point of view of a long-time friend who admires Ravelstein but doesn’t always like him.

Intelligence isn’t the ability to use big words few understand or the ability to rattle off mindless facts or impressive figures. It is not retaining knowledge force-fed you by an ancient text or an enlightened master or a famous school. Intelligence is nothing more than the ability to learn, something all of us have.

Sure, some learning is in a formal setting, but most of what we know comes from outside a classroom, from how and if we heed the lessons life teaches us. We learn every day when we put our experiences to work for us, withdrawing every possible lesson –  both good and bad – from what nature and circumstance put in front of us. It’s using these lessons to build a foundation for knowing ourselves, by living the life we were meant to live, instead of merely conforming to what others expect from us.

…a working, persistent mind…

To paraphrase the current Dali Lama, our minds are like parachutes: they don’t do us any good closed. And it doesn’t matter what we choose to learn, either. All of us were issued assorted and different talents at birth and what interests me might well, probably will, bore you to tears. 

What matters is that we put our minds to work for us and for this we need diligence and persistence. We must follow our hearts to what interests us and be prepared to learn the lessons presented to us. We must do this every day, too: we can’t accept life’s lessons one day and ignore them the next. Every day we must put the work required into knowing what we want to know and what we should know. When we do this, we will know ourselves, life’s great prize.

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Thought for the Day/Goethe

The Thought for the Day. 
A quote from history, with commentary from G Marxx

Only when we begin to trust ourselves do we begin to live.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) was a German writer, scientist, lawyer, and statesman. He was a prolific writer who enjoyed critical acclaim from his mid-20’s on. Goethe wrote novels, poems, plays, and scientific treatises, his play Faust remains one of the most famous in human letters, and Germans still quote him extensively. His influence on both science and literature remains enormous.

Life is not lived on the sidelines. Us humans are meant to do things. We get up in the morning, look ourselves in the mirror, and determine what we should be doing with our lives that day. Those that get on in this world go out and do those things and when they go to bed they are looking back at 24 hours – the only commodity each of us is issued in equal measure – well spent. This succession of good days provides the foundation for good years and enough good years and the next thing you know you are looking back at, and forward to, a well-lived life.

Those that ignore the plan for their life that nature is offering sometimes end up looking back at a day spent marking time instead of being put to advantage. Enough days like this and the next thing someone knows is they have passed from youth to middle age looking back at time wasted and talents squandered.

Only when we begin to trust ourselves…

Trusting ourselves is not easy because the task of following the path laid out for us by nature – by definition a path no one else can possibly take – is difficult. It means deviating from the status quo and the expectations others, and perhaps ourselves, have for us. It means leaving the comfort of the familiar for the uncertainties of the unknown.

It’s a journey we must take, though. When we do, when we are following our hearts and trusting our instincts instead of ignoring them, we are living the life we were meant to live – life’s great prize.

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The Thought for the Day/Thomas Edison

Thomas Edison was an American inventor and businessman. A holder of over 1,000 patents in the US alone, Edison invented, among other things, the phonograph, the motion picture camera, and a practical, long-lasting light bulb. His work significantly impacted – indeed, was the start of – the power, recorded sound and motion picture industries. Edison began his working life as a telegraph operator.

Edison, like some others – Michelangelo and Benjamin Franklin come immediately to mind – is an excellent example of someone who spent his life doing what he was meant to be doing with it. Now, Edison had some advantage others do not. One, he was a genius, talented like few others and he had an immense capacity for work. Two, he had the great good fortune of being in the right place at the right time. He also had his share of good luck, but you tend to make your own good luck in this life.

But he also shared some traits with us mortals. One, he had the same 24 hours every day that everyone else throughout human history has had. Two, he was issued assorted talents and ambitions at birth like we were. And, like we can be, Edison was committed to getting the most out of those talents. He knew success was nothing more than having the wisdom to know the life you are meant to live, the courage to go and live that life and the patience to see it through to the desired end.

We’ve wondered from time to time if Edison ever astounded himself. His impact and influence on his fellow humans is, after all, lasting and profound and he had to have been aware of that he would be living down the ages. Based on our experience with some modest attainments, he may very well not have astounded himself. He may well have thought his contributions and excellences were his do for the diligence and skill he put into his work.

We may not – or we may – live down the ages like Edison, but there is no reason we cannot get the most out of our talents like he did. When we do that, what’s meant to happen in our life usually does.



Perseverance must finish its work
James 1:4


While talents and interests differ, we all have 24 hours every day, the only commodity every one of us is issued in equal measure. What we get out of this life depends on the work we put into those 24 hours. Those that get on in this life maximize their time and talents. Those that are left wondering might have been generally squandered their time and talents. 

The Way liberates us from fretting about the usefulness of our lives. Whether we are exerting concerted effort or resting, whether we are being of service to ourselves or others, Taoists are committed to making every one of their 24 hours yield a dividend. They started their Path and they will finish it. 


The difference between looking back on time well spent and looking back at time squandered is mainly hard work. Not the type of work that builds pyramids or fortunes, but the work that goes into determining the life you are going to lead and whether or not you have the patience to do that work every day. 

All of us have things we must do in this life. Most ignore them or, perhaps, try them and quit at the first reverses or challenges. Taoists go and do them every day, without apology or compromise. Their minds are focused on doing their work every day. 


Tao is not something that can be done in our spare time. Those that only spend part of their time on any spiritual quest generally end up disillusioned because their part-time results did not produce full-time benefits. 

Any spiritual endeavor must completely consume its adherents, be they novitiates or long-time practitioners. Those new to The Way quickly learn the quest for their Path must take complete hold over them; that wisdom, courage and patience must all be equally present. The wisdom to know what we are about will do us some zero good if we don’t have the courage to go where our inner self tells us to go and courage won’t do us any good if we don’t know where we are going and patience is useless without its two partners. Only when we have completely immersed ourselves in The Way will the life we are meant to live unfold.




…if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live that life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours…If you have built your castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.
Henry David Thoreau


There are joys to life, of course, but getting on is mainly getting up every morning and putting some work in. Work at spiritual self-cultivation, work at being you, work at transcending the pettiness and bickering that occupy others. This takes courage because so few people do it. 

Taoists quickly become adept at bucking the norm. They refuse to settle for anything less than the life they are meant to live. Taoists do things they have a knack for – things their hearts are telling them to do – and this is enjoyable, but it is also solemn because they recognize their duty to be on their Path every day. They recognize their duty to not to squander their time on this planet. It’s a duty to themselves and the universe. 


The only time we have is now. What are we doing with it? Are we squandering it in mindless pursuits that yield no other dividend than having been entertained, or are we putting it to work for us? Even one second ago is a memory and tomorrow only awaits us, time that is unable to be utilized now. And us humans are experts at procrastinating. The diet will start tomorrow. That chair will be built tomorrow. The stone steps will be climbed tomorrow.

Those that get on in this life start today. Those following The Way know there is no better time than right now to show the courage to do what needs to be done. 


There is always the commotion of outside influences demanding our attention. Those we know say this and want us to do that, some of it worthy of our attention while some of it are merely attempts to get us to fit into the slots they’ve assigned us. These are challenging to ignore and difficult to refuse.

Followers of The Way, though, regularly ignore and dismiss the regulations others try to impose on them because they know the only truth is spoken by the heart. When it’s time to act, it’s time to act, even if that action is merely standing by and letting matters go on without our interference. Our hearts and our Paths will reaffirm us daily if we let them.




This is the moment of embarking. All auspicious signs are in place.
Deng Ming-Dao
365 Tao


There are a variety of dawns in the world. There’s the personal dawn of our birth. There’s the dawn always waiting for us tomorrow and then there is the dawn that attends a spiritual awakening. This is the dawn you are experiencing today. You had a choice today: you could easily have done something else, what you have been doing for years, perhaps decades. By choosing your Path, you are choosing to know and to maximize your inner self. You are choosing to get in tune with the life you are meant to live.

Every dawn brings a choice: are we going to conquer doubt and weakness or are we going to surrender to those two imposters? Are we going to follow the dictates of our inner self or are we going to ignore them? Are we going to utilize our time and talents or are we going to squander them? Are we going to mark time, or is time going to serve us? 

It is not possible for a life spent on one’s Path to be futile. A person fully absorbed in The Way, by definition, lives the life they are meant to live – life’s great prize. At every new dawn, a Taoist signs up for their Path. It’s their way of announcing to themselves that their time on this planet is serving them.


The end of the day is the respite from the day’s labors and cares. Like every other hour of the day, it is time The Way allows us to put to use.

Did we accomplish today what needed to be accomplished? Were we focused or did we allow outside distractions to take precedence? What did we comply with the commands of our inner self or the dictates and whims of others? Did we put nature and circumstance to work for us or did we fit into the slots assigned by others?

Night is a good time to answer these questions. If we did well, it lays the foundation for tomorrow’s triumphs. If we could have done better, it provides the inspiration to conquer tomorrow’s 24 hours instead of squandering them. When we’ve faced ourselves honestly, we are poised for a good rest. We awake prepared for the sun’s rising and the new day.


While Taoists respect all spiritual paths, they remain certain the only way to achieve oneness with all things is to achieve oneness with themselves. They long ago decided they could not do this by producing knee-jerk reactions to outside influences or trying to fit into slots assigned by others. All living from the outside in got them was frustration because their inner self was being ignored, their time and talents squandered. They were out of touch with themselves, with others and with the rest of the world.

When The Way presented itself they decided they’d had enough with being out of touch with themselves. The road to oneness begins with the wisdom to know what you are about. This involves self-examination, a journey to the center of your soul to determine the talents you were born with and how best to put them to use, a journey not everyone is willing to take.


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