Gabriel

There are three archangels in religious tradition:  Michael, Raphael and Gabriel.  Of the three, Gabriel is the one who curiously keeps popping up — not just in Christianity but in other faiths as well.   Gabriel is a messenger from God.  An uber messenger. . . . .

In the Jewish tradition, Gabriel was a holy messenger who in the Old Testament book of Daniel offers an explanation of Daniel’s visions.  In Christianity, it is Gabriel who foretells the birth of John the Baptist and Jesus.   It was Gabriel who visits Mary to deliver the good news of her new role. 

In the Mormon faith, Gabriel in his earthly life was Noah.  Some say, Gabriel continues to be a divine messenger having visited earth as recently as 1954.

In Islam, it was Gabriel (Jibril) who revealed the Qur’an to Muhammed.   And in the Bahai faith, Gabriel is referenced in their holy texts (“Baha’u’llah’s mystical work Seven Valleys).  

With Gabriel’s positive and influential involvement in so many religious traditions, one has to wonder why religious strife focuses so much on differences.  Perhaps Gabriel, the Messenger, is trying to tell us something. . . . .    

Character

When I tutor for the Chicago Lights Tutoring Program (www.chicagolights.org ; see posts of August 8 and 9), each day I try to give my student a 3″ x 5″ card with a quotation on it.  Usually the quote relates to character, integrity, hard work and achievement.  I’m partial to the wisdom of John Wooden (winningest coach in NCAA). 

Character is doing what’s right – when no one is looking.”           J.C. Watts

Character is higher than intellect.”   Ralph Waldo Emerson

You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him.”  James D. Miles

Nearly all men can stand adversity.  But if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”   Abraham Lincoln

Character is much easier kept than recovered.”   Thomas Paine

The measure of true character is what a man would do if he knew he would never be found out.”  Thomas Babington Macaulay

Ability may get you to the top but it takes character to keep you there.”    John Wooden

In each human heart are a tiger, a pig, an ass and a nightengale.  Diversity of character is due to their unequal activity.”          Ambrose Bierce

Education is not just reading and math.  It’s learning about tenacity, hard work, civility and character.

So this guy. . . .

So this guy goes to the doctor.  He’s nervous and fidgeting.  The doctor says “do you smoke?”   The guy responds “yeah – four packs a day.”  The doctor responds “well, if you don’t quit smoking, you’re going to be dead in five years.”  The guy says “But Doc – I’m nervous.  I gotta have something to keep me calm.”  The doctor thought for a moment “why don’t you chew toothpicks?” 

So the guy quit smoking and started chewing toothpicks.  Three boxes of toothpicks a day.  He died five years later.  Dutch elm disease. . . .

Favorite Radio Stations

I’ve been asked a few times what I listen to on my IPod at the local fitness center (heavy on Blues, Clapton, B.B. King, Magic Slim, Chinese language tapes, Gloria Estefan, Japanese koto music, the Bee Gees, the Beach Boys, etc.).   What I listen to at any given time depends on what I am doing at the fitness center. . . .

But no one has ever asked me “What radio stations do you listen to, Scott?”  So let me volunteer this information.    

When traveling to and from the fitness center or just driving around, I have three stations I listen to:  WMBI 90.1 (the Moody Bible Institute); WBBM News Radio 780 AM; and WFMT 98.7 (classical music station).  Why these stations? 

First, let me say that I can only listen to Bruce Springsteen, Lady Googoo, Kanye West, Ernest Tubb & his Texas Troubadors for so long.   And besides — what benefit do I derive from hearing the same song 300 times during the course of my life?   Zilch.   The thumping and screeching of the “Top 40” will  long be forgotten.   And since life is not a dress rehearsal, I gravitate toward three stations that give me inspiration, knowledge and calm.  For me, I have succeeded.   What do you listen to?       

Malcolm Gladwell

One of the most meaningful non-fiction authors I have ever read is Malcolm Gladwell (born 1963).  Gladwell is a staff writer for The New Yorker and was named by Time magazine in 2005 as one of the 100 most influential people.  He is the author of four books but – oh my – what spectacular books!  All are internationally-acclaimed bestsellers and have sold millions of copies.  They are:  

The Tipping Point – How Little Things can make a Big Difference (2000) – The story of that special moment when an idea, trend or social idea suddenly “tips” and begins spreading like a wildfire.

Blink – The Power of Thinking without Thinking (2005) – Why decisions made on gut reaction happen and why some decision-makers are usually right and others hopelessly inept. 

Outliers – The Story of Success (2008) – A story of what makes high achievers different.  Answer?  Usually long hours and hard work – and being in the right place at the right time. 

What the Dog Saw & Other Adventures (2009) – A pot pourri of fascinating knowledge.  What is the difference between panicking and choking?  What do football players teach us about hiring teachers?

These four works are a must-read for everyone.  That means you.   I’d start with Outliers simply because it’s easy – and nourishing – to read about how ordinary people achieve tremendous levels of success.   They’re all worth a read.  And a re-read. . . .   

“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” — the Remake. . . .

A few weeks ago, I mentioned to some friends at lunch that I was somewhat offended at the remake of the “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” (which I will not see).   My umbrage was Hollywood’s placid explanation for the remake — “Ohhh. . . .Americans have trouble with subtitles.”  Translation “Americans are too unsophisticated” or “too stupid” to comprehend what Europeans, Asians and South Americans have been living with for decades.    Now I understand that there is a strong financial motivation to do the film in English but I’m still miffed at the professed reason for doing so.   

Let me add this — I did see the original (with the subtitles;  or, being American, should I say “duhhhh. . .  with subtitles“) and I’m not sure how you could possibly do it better.  It is a classic.  Kind’ve like – how could they possibly remake “True Grit” when you had John Wayne playing Rooster Cogburn in the original.  Gosh — how about a remake of “The Wizard of Oz” starring Brittany Spears as Dorothy?          

Frames of Mind

Following up my post “Nature vs. Nurture” (Oct.31st), it is heartening to know that individuals are blessed with “multiple intelligences.”    I have reasonable eye/hand coordination which allows me to play a passable game of golf.  I have some verbal/communicative skills and I can play the guitar.  But don’t ask me for directions.  Please.   And don’t ask me about algebra.  I have the mathematical I.Q. of a Tic Tac.

Howard Gardner in his classic book Frames of Mind speaks of seven basic intelligences that all people share:  linguistic; musical; logical/mathematical; spatial; bodily/kinesthetic; interpersonal; and intrapersonal.   We all have a modicum of each of these intelligences but some of us are more heavily dosed with one or more of these intelligences.  It thus becomes all the more imperative for parents to recognize – and nurture – the natural intelligences of their children rather than skew development with subjective expectation — “my boy will play football” “my girl will be a lawyer.”   It is one thing to encourage a natural athlete to study physics or a math whiz to play a musical instrument.  But it is quite another to discourage and thereby defeat a child’s natural gifts. 

“The New Grandfather”

“The New Grandfather”

A play in one act 

(Scott  is talking with a friend.  Scott has just become a grandfather.   He looks bewildered but he has a big smile on his face)

Friend:  Sooooo, Scott, what do you think about being a grandfather?

Scott:  Oh man.  It is awesome!   Lemme show you some pictures (pulls out a thick stack of pictures and begins flipping through them)

Friend:  (Looking at the pictures)  Very nice.  She’s beautiful. . . . . What’s her name again? 

Scott:  (Ignores the question and continues thumbing through pictures)  Here’s her face.  Here she’s looking up.  Here, she’s looking down.  And here’s one of her right foot.  No wait.  That’s her left foot.   (Mumbles)  Big toe right, left foot.  Big toe left, right foot.  Yeah, left foot. . . . . 

Friend:  (Laughing)  That’s a good-looking foot.  

Scott:  (Eyes are glazed.  He continues thumbing through pictures)  Oooh!  Lookit this one!   What a cutie pie. . . .

Friend:  (Rolls his eyes)  Hooookayyyy . . . . Scott, I have got to be on my way.  I am very happy for you (starts to walk away).  

Scott:  (Grabs the friend’s arm)  No wait!  Lemme show you this.  Sweet . . . this is her pinky toe on her left foot. . . .or (looking with brow furrowed) that’s her (brightly) right foot! 

Friend:  Yeah Scott. . . .you’ll do just fine as a grandfather. . . . . (walks away)

Scott:  Come back!  (Waving pictures)  I want to show you her left ear!!

Curtain