“We make a living by what we get; we make a life by what we give”.
1. beyond what is normal or natural.
Guess what November 30th (tomorrow) is?! It’s the birth date of the great Winston Churchill, born November 30th, 1874 in Woodstock, UK.
For some reason around 8 or 9 years ago, I chose this man to be my hero. He was little more than a name to me after spending a year living in Scotland and learning about the Prime Ministers, and then studying the two World Wars in school.
I can only assume that at the time I was attracted to the idea of having a hero, and I took a fancy to the regal name “Winston Churchill” and the fact that not many people know much about him. I like to be different, it’s one of my favorite things in life.
It is a common practice to learn about a hero and his or her moral standings and then adopt him or her as a life hero, not the other way around. Again, I like to be different.
Since choosing Winston Churchill, I have read a good amount of his biographies, personal accounts, diary entries, speeches, letters to Clementine, documentaries, and blog posts. And let me tell you…I could not have chosen a better hero.
This man inspires me beyond all imagination.
When people ask me why I love Winston Churchill so much–why my phone background is Winston, why I have a massive poster of Winston Churchill front and center in my room, why his name finds a way in every meaningful conversation I ever have, why he is the subject of my phone case, why I blush when people bring him up–I get so flustered because it’s such a hard question to answer these days. I want to reply:
How many hours do you have?
I wanted him to be the feature of my post for this Sunday first because his birthday is tomorrow and this is me “pre-gaming” for the great day, and also because he has added so much to the quality of my life that I want others to be inspired by him as well.
Why do I love and respect and revere Winston?
1. Winston Churchill was a hard worker.
Winston was born into the wealthy Duke of Marlbourough family to Lord Randolph and Lady Jennie Jerome Churchill. His father, Randolph, was a politician, and his mother was the daughter of an American millionaire. Although he could be considered by some as “lucky” to have such a “stellar family”,
Winston was far from fortunate in childhood. He was sent to a boarding school early on, and did not have a good relationship with either his father or his mother, or really a relationship at all. He repeatedly wrote to his mother, imploring her to come visit him in school. She never reciprocated. His mother. Bless his heart.
Winston was independent and rebellious growing up. More accurately, he was exceedingly stubborn. If he couldn’t see the benefit in doing something, he wouldn’t do it. School was a bit rough for him with this attitude, made even more difficult by his childhood speech impediment.
Winston learned early that no one was going to come and save him or protect him from the cruelty of humanity; he learned how to stick up for his beliefs despite the consequences, and he learned that if he wanted to be someone than he would have to work hard. So he did.
One of his most notable accreditations is his reputation as being one of the greatest orators of all time. He wrote all of his own beautiful crafted speeches, yielding quotes from “You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life” to “to improve is to change. To be perfect is to change often”. He did this by putting in an extraordinary amount of practice working through his speech impediment.
2. Winston Churchill was adventurous.
He had a great interest in the wonders of the world, and traveled often by joining the British military. He participated in a number of fascinating military adventures which lead to his career in newspaper reporting, launching his success as a writer.
He never liked vacationing, which he considered to be “a pointless waste of time”; instead he preferred exploring, being productive in travel and not wasting time deciding where to go next. He wanted to go places, not to just visit them.
3. Winston Churchill never gave up.
His love for his country caused him to arrange meetings at all hours of the night and morning, to be found constantly working and composing great speeches, and to even write a 6-volume history of Britain.
This lead to him winning the Nobel Prize for Literature. Even though he was immensly successful as a Prime Minister during the second World War –resulting in allied victory–, Winston lost the election for Prime Minister in 1945 because Britain needed a change from a wartime minister.
But did this failure result in Churchill giving up? Absolutely not. He stayed on as the leader of the opposition party and became Prime Minister again in 1950.
4. Winston Churchill was the same person all the time.
This is a quality that truly is lacking in contemporary society. If you are able to meet two people in your entire lifetime that you can genuinely describe as “the same person all the time”, then you, my friend, can count yourself lucky.
There are all kinds of excuses for why it isn’t beneficial to be the same person all the time; one wants to be respectful around the elderly, seemingly powerful around employees, or perceivably intelligent around professors.
We smile like we pretend we always smile, we use big words to which we do not know the definition, we hold ourselves erect in a postures we all know aren’t present when watching Netflix.
What would happen if we were the same people all the time? It would take a lot of self-confidence, that’s for sure. And humility. Pride can easily eat away at friendships if one is not careful.
Winston was the same person all the time. He possessed enormous levels of self-confidence and self-assurance. He wasn’t afraid to show the qualities that people choose to attack.
He was very interested in painting, fine spirits, smoking, gambling, and lounging around Downing Street (the Prime Minister headquarters) in the half-nude and he wasn’t interested in hiding any of these quirks.
Indeed, when visiting President Roosevelt in America, Winston actually flashed the President claiming that “he had nothing to hide”.
After World War 1, when the people of Britain wanted nothing but the absence of more war, Winston Churchill held his ground and urged his people to not appease Hitler. Even though it turned public opinion against him, he held true to his belief that Britain should not accept peace with the dictator.
After World War 2, when the people of the world wanted nothing but the absence of war, Winston Churchill held his ground and urged his people not to appease Stalin, not to accept communism to spread.
He was the one who coined the term “The Iron Curtain” and spent his post-Prime Minister days enlightening the people of the world against the horrors of communism.
We owe Winston Churchill potentially the success of World War 2.
If Winston Churchill had not been Prime Minister during World War 2, Halifax would have been and the Liberal Party of Britain would have reigned in Parliament. Halifax, like Neville Chamberlain, was very very much for appeasing Hitler. Most likely, without Churchill’s voice in Parliament, Britain would have given in to Hitler’s demand; they would have lost control of the powerful navy and a sizable chunk of British forces.
America would not have been drawn into the war until much later, when Hitler eventually moved to attack America, and probably would have been defeated by a British-German alliance of forces.
“What General Weygand called the Battle of France is over. I expect that the Battle of Britain is about to begin. Upon this battle depends the survival of Christian civilization. Upon it depends our own British life, and the long continuity of our institutions and our Empire. The whole fury and might of the enemy must very soon be turned on us. Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this Island or lose the war. If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be free and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands. But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science. Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, ‘This was their finest hour.'”
Peace and Blessings, and a happy birthday, Winston Churchill.
I often quote myself. It adds spice to my conversation.
George Bernard Shaw
Being a Resident Assistant this year at my University has been an immense blessing in my life, and one of the greatest opportunities afforded to me thus far. I have never appreciated how valuable the art of a good conversation was until I was handed 21 residents with whom to converse.
Although I consider myself an introvert–disregarding outgoing tendencies–I find myself gratified when ending the day with good conversations tucked snuggly in my mind.
Having a good conversation is like reaching the peak of a high mountain; the view from the top is both immensely humbling and offers vast amounts of perspective. The girls that I have become friends with over this past year humble me daily. They are beautiful, thoughtful Creations who put pressure on my own way of thinking, blessing me with new perspective. This is done through the many good conversations I been fortunate to share.
A good conversation is also one that takes effort to reach.
You and I can agree that there is a great difference between a hill and a mountain, and indeed the summiting of a grand Mountain yields much more satisfaction than the Hill at the end of the street. Climbing the pavement Hill leaves one maybe a tad sore and feeling some way depleted in effort and energy. The summit of the little Hill is neither magnificent nor inspiring, and the energy exerted in order to peak simply was not worth the time.
So if the end goal is to be inspired with either humility or perspective, how does one go about hosting a “good” conversation?
It begins with the foundation; it begins with thought. One must actively decide to make the conversation either a Hill or a Mountain before the conversation ever begins. A Mountain conversation often begins with forethought.
Now, do not limit this analogy. I agree with you that there are cases when good conversations begin as hills and take an unexpected turn up Kilimanjaro. Sometimes the intentionality is more subtle, even subliminal. Perhaps the forethought required in beginning a Mountain conversation is deciding to oneself to not let the conversation be limited to a Hill.
That being said, how can one have the ambiguous good conversation?
I am sure there are many techniques for how converse well and I consider myself in no way a master of any of them. At the heart of it, I am not much of a good conversationist. I am still very much a pupil. This is my musing over a technique that has been successful in beginning good dialogues:
I talk about something that interests me.
I think people are very gifted at discerning authenticity from “fakeness”. They are very adept at pointing to when someone is being genuine and when someone is being fraudulent. Therefore, I have found that the best conversations occur when I am the most genuine. Unfortunately, I am not a good actress. It’s difficult for me to convey authenticity if I’m not truly interested in the conversation topic.
So I begin conversations on topics that interest me.
I intentionally choose to begin a path up a Mountain than a path up a Hill.
I say that a good conversation for me requires forethought. Just as it is difficult for me to have a good conversation with someone if I am uninterested in the topic at hand, it is difficult for someone to participate genuinely on a topic with me that they are uninterested in.
The forethought required is observation.
I want to have a good conversation with you. I want to emerge from this conversation with humility, perspective, and some personal development on my own end. I want you to see that I am genuine and I want you to be authentic with me, as well.
So I am going to observe. I am going to observe what you enjoy, what you would want to talk about. Then I am going to match your passions with mine.
I am going to begin the conversation with a topic that interest me.
I am going to maintain the conversation with a topic that also interests you.
And then we will summit.
A conversation is a dialogue, not a monologue. That’s why there are so few good conversations: due to scarcity, two intelligent talkers seldom meet.
“I was running away from the work that needed to be done to move my business forward. I was waiting for some magical beam of motivational light to come down from the sky. But what I found was that motivation isn’t a feeling…it’s a choice.” Josh Pigford
Running yields no obvious point in the modern society we live. Physically, it creates lactic acid build up in your muscles that disable the potential for optimal bodily comfort. Running wears down on bones and joints, creating unpleasant things like shin splints that take seeming decades to heal. It sucks time to run, and the more one runs the more time it takes for the run to be effective. The activity of it costs us money. We have to buy shoes, we have to buy seasonal running gear, we have to invest in the proper nutrition.
It doesn’t even really benefit us on an evolutionary basis to practice running. Except for rare, dire circumstances, there will not be a need to run away from a predator that is chasing me. Why wake up an hour earlier to the cold, frigid early-November morning to pull on my running shoes and subject myself to sixty minutes that I know will consist of pure, physical movement, when I could just as well utilize that hour to catch up on the sleep I already don’t get enough of? Why spend up to $150 on a quality pair of running shoes that will maybe last me a year at most, when I could just as easily devote that money towards something that matters? Like 10 pairs of actually cute shoes? Why should I ever blow $45 on a 13.1 mile race, when I could just torture themselves through 13.1 miles without spending money, or better yet, not ever run that far to begin with?
I use running as an example, because I am a runner, but these questions apply to almost any form of discipline. Any form of activity that requires intentional and uncomfortable effort. This can be practicing music for band or painting for art class. I hear these questions a lot, and often the source is my own head. Because they are valid. Exercise doesn’t really make sense…not really…
But it only doesn’t make sense if one skims the surface of discipline and never delve into the deeper point of the practice. So what would happen if one took the time to find the point in discipline?
Can’t I see? Exercise, in whatever form, does hold evolutionary value for us as a human species.
Our predator–the large, powerful animal that is chasing us through the woods trying to drink our very life–is still very much present in our society. Only it no longer exists in the form of a physical animal. Our contemporary predator has become instant gratification.
Our society has turned into a hungry culture that demands the pleasantries of life as soon as possible. We are a microwave-loving, Netflix-consuming, delivery-ordering world. I want to be full now. I want to be warm now. I want to be sleeping now. I want to be entertained now.
Honest, I’m not here to dog on microwaves (I cave at the smell of microwave kettle corn), or Netflix (O Glorious Parks and Recreation, when will your last season become available?!), or the blessed Jimmy Johns. I’m not here to insult comfort or say somehow that I am better than the rest of the consumerism world. I love all those things, too, and I want all those wants daily. The problem is not with wanting to be comfortable, because wanting to be comfortable is natural and understandable. The problem is that we as a society has begun to become so consumed with the desire for instant gratification that it has turned us mean. It has turned us rude. It has turned us selfish.
That’s the problem. That’s why this instant gratification is our slow-moving, sneaky, contemporary predator.
I have found myself very willing and ready to serve myself first in food lines or at the dinner table in lieu of serving someone else, because I am hungry and I desire to be full now. I have found myself getting angry and upset when the Netflix browser is “experiencing unexpected technological errors” and snapping rude comments at my family in order to express my frustration. I have found myself asking for someone else’s coat when I am cold, even though it is at the expense of their own warmth.
Do you see a problem?
My desire for instant gratification has overridden my sense of servitude, kindness, and selflessness. Instant gratification has caught up to my slow jog and begun to feast on my moral flesh. Guys, it’s bad. And it’s so subtle. And when so many aspects of society reinforce instant gratification it’s all too easy to buy into the lie;
The lie that true gratification can even come instantly.
And for this very reason do I run.
I run to practice delaying instant gratification, because true satisfaction will never never come instantly.
I have reached the point where I genuinely do enjoy running, even the looming “during” part. I look forward to the times when I get to lace up Paula (my beautiful Pearl Izumi running shoes) and explore my town on foot. I love setting up a No Meat Athlete or NPR: Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me! podcast in my ear, and being alone with my thoughts for a solid, uninterrupted hour. And this feeling that has blossomed, this feeling of getting actual joy out of running…this is so much more satisfying than sleeping in for one more hour that one morning.
Before you dismiss me as some overexercising loon with no concept of what “having fun” actually means, bear with me.
By no means have I won the victory over desiring instant gratification in my life, and that pertains to running, too. There are so many slow run workouts that I want to run fast for, and so many fast running workouts that I would rather run much, much, much slower. Sometimes when I’m wrapping up my scheduled 5 mile run, I feel so good that I want to run two more miles. There are times (a lot of times) that I would rather only run 4×400 speed intervals on the boring, circular track than the 6×400 speed intervals I have scheduled for myself. It’s just two more miles…it’s only two 400’s less…
Yeah, I feel good enough to run two more miles on top of my 5. But tomorrow, when I run 6 miles, I’m going to probably want to run two miles less because suddenly I don’t feel as good. Sure, it’s just two less repeats, but what happens next Wednesday when I go to do 7×400 intervals?
It’s going to be easier to run 6 miles when I haven’t strained myself running an unnecessary and unplanned 7 miles the day prior. It’s going to be easier to add just one more interval than three.
I run to practice delaying instant gratification. And boy, do I really need the practice.
This applies to so many other areas in my life. Doing my homework even though I would rather be watching a movie with my residents; going to that pointless class when I would rather be doing the homework I didn’t do when I watched a movie with my residents. Going to Church service on Sunday mornings. Taking 20 credit hours. Eating a salad. Not eating all the chocolate (definitely working on this one). Heck fire, even doing laundry (which I’ve let build up over the week and am currently suffering through doing 6 loads. Like seriously, Sundays are popular days to do laundry, and who in the name of all that is good and glorious is taking up 6 flipping washing machines?!?! It’s me).
These things, difficult to motivate myself as they are now, would be so infinitely more difficult if I didn’t practice delaying instant gratification.
So instead of letting those “what is the point…” thoughts ruminate in your head and infiltrate your thoughts…instead of resorting to the easy way out for life’s many discomforts….
Why not go for a run?
“Happiness can be defined, in part at least, as the fruit of the desire and the ability to sacrifice what we want now for what we want eventually.” ~Stephan R. Covey
…who sank all night in submarine light of Bickford’s floated out and sat through the stale beer afternoon in desolate Fugazzi’s, listening to the crack of doom on the hydrogen jukebox…
Ginsberg explained that the hydrogen jukebox signifies a state of “hypertrophic high-tech, a psychological state in which people are at the limit of their sensory input with civilization’s military jukebox, a loud industrial roar, or a music that begins to shake the bones and penetrate the nervous system as a hydrogen bomb may do someday.”
“Ultimately the motif, the underpinning, the secret message, secret activity, is to relieve human suffering by communicating some kind of enlightened awareness of various themes, topics, obsessions, neuroses, difficulties, problems, perplexities that we encounter.”
That’s the Hydrogen Jukebox.
Turning the world upside down and shaking out all the pockets. Channeling curiosity, observation, adventure to explore truth and authenticity.
John Steinbeck wrote, “No man knows about other human beings. The best he can do is suppose they are like himself.”
I don’t know much about you. I don’t know your experience, your hopes, your dreams. I don’t know what scares you, or what lights you on fire.
But it is my hope that as I explore the world around me, and the world within, that what comes resonates with you.
This is for those who believe they are ordinary.
May they find that they, too, are mistaken.
Peace and Blessings,