How to earn respect as a voter

 Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choice are prepared to choose wisely. 

~Franklin D. Roosevelt~
A recent opinion in a letter to the editor stated that politicians should respect voters’ intelligence. This seems to be a fairly common theme in political opinion writing these days. I have wondered lately whether we as voters deserve respect for our intelligence.

Complaining about our elected representatives and officials is also quite common these days. A telephone survey in May, 2015 found that just eighteen percent of voters think most members of Congress care what their constituents think. If they are so out of touch, where did these officials come from? We elected them of course. Well, the fifty-five percent of voters who showed up at the polls did.

So what’s the problem here? Why do we keep electing people who don’t care what we think? What are we thinking when we vote for them? Are we thinking about whether they are willing to work together for the common good? Or do we vote based on our fears or self interest? Some of us don’t bother to vote at all.

When you read what goes on in congress and what happens in our society, you might not find a great deal of difference.  Most of the time congress is in deadlock over just about every issue. Congress reflects the conflicting views and interests we see in society. We find ourselves pitted against each other on just about every issue you can think of. It is no wonder that congress reflects our society. Do you like living this way and being led this way?

I don’t either. Our nation started with a common ideal. We wanted a country in which our citizens could pursue their own happiness without restriction on our free speech or religious views. Although this was the goal, our founding fathers were not perfect. They forgot that everyone is human and convinced themselves that slavery was acceptable.

In more recent times, we came to see the pursuit of happiness as a way to get what we want without regard to the implications for our fellow citizens. Everyone for themselves. We have become short-sighted and selfish in many regards.

When we don’t consider others’ needs, getting what we want just makes them envious and leads to class wars as well as individual skirmishes. I don’t suggest that we can all agree on everything we think, say and do. Then we would be robots. But I think there is a way out.

Imagine living in a nation in which we can again see each other as brothers and sisters. Would you let your family starve or struggle or would you help them to the extent you can? That is the choice we have. We can continue growing more selfish or we can take each others’ needs into account as well as our own.

Life Lab Lessons

  • Think about what you need and what you merely want.
  • Use you eyes and ears to discover what others want.
  • What are you willing to sacrifice to help others with their needs?
  • How can you share what you have?
  • Vote and engage your conscience when you do.

Discovering Mindfulness


Joe: Good afternoon Calliope.

Calliope: Good afternoon Joe. What’s new with your writing.

Joe: I am very involved on all fronts. I continue to develop my new tools and work on a new book on stress while I wait for feedback on my teen book.

Calliope:Any new discoveries?

Joe: Yes and no. I have been searching for years for a way to simply describe the focus of my writing. For lack of anything better, I called my theme commonsense wisdom. My goal has always been to help people understand themselves better and be more aware of the implications of their actions.

Calliope: I recall. So what’s new?

Joe: I just came to realize that there is a single word which embodies my goal. The word is mindfulness.

Calliope: Is this something new?

Joe: Mindfulness is not new but it embodies my approach to writing.

Calliope: Tell me more:

Joe: From what I understand, mindfulness means the conscious awareness of yourself and your surroundings at any given moment.

Calliope: And that is the word you have been searching for for years?

Joe: It is. No longer will I have to stammer while trying to put into words the point of what I am trying to do.

Calliope: Congratulations. To what do you owe the honor of this discovery.

Joe: One of my new tools, KindleSpy. In searching for keywords for dealing with stress, I discovered many books with the theme of mindfulness which is where my writing belongs even though I didn’t know it. Let me bask in this discovery for a while.

Calliope: Okay. Happy basking.

The summer of writing tools


Joe: Good afternoon, Calliope.

Calliope: Good afternoon, Joe. I have seen your posts but wonder what you have been up to.

Joe: I thought you might be wondering. I have been working on some new tools, mainly Scrivener and KindleSpy. They have both been around for a while But I just decided to add them to my armamentarium.

Calliope: Do tell. How is that going?

Joe: I added Scrivener first and am still learning it’s intricacies. I plan to use it to reorganize my novel, Marital Property. I have found that it helps to break it down into small parts and to have references such as scene and character descriptions at my finger tips. I tried it today to work on my latest column for publication this Saturday. I am not sure about this use but I think I need some more practice.

Calliope: Indeed. What about KindleSpy?

Joe: I debated about it for some time and did some training. I wondered whether I cold do keyword research on my own and tried it first. The time it would take this way would be prohibitive. Also, I don’t think I could reproduce the results I found. I am using it to develop keywords for my published books and also for my columns. I am happy with it so far.

Calliope: What about your actual writing?

Joe: I am still waiting for feedback from some beta readers but otherwise am ready for a final read-through and publishing hopefully in the not too distant future.

Calliope: Sounds like you have plenty to keep you busy for the moment.

Joe: Indeed I do! I will keep you posted.

What if this is your last day on earth?


The goal of life is to make your heartbeat match the beat of the universe,

to match your nature with Nature.

~Joseph Campbell~

People don’t like to think about death, especially their own. Sometimes life brings it to their attention. Friends and relatives die or develop serious illness. Sometimes illness grabs people so ruthlessly that they don’t know whether they will survive it. Passing a cemetery reminds them that there is a plot waiting for them there too.

Most people don’t know when they will die. With an advanced disease such as cancer, you might know that the end is near but the day of your death is not written on a calendar. It remains a mystery until it happens. The only sure way to know the exact time of you death is suicide, but choosing that course is rare unless life becomes unbearable.

If you knew you would die within the next twenty-four hours, what would that mean to you? I have met people on their deathbeds who reach the point of being at peace with death and are ready for it. I have met others who may never be ready for their final act and would like to go on endlessly. But you don’t have to wait until death knocks at your door.

Maybe you feel guilty about hurting someone and have never apologized even though your heart wanted you to. Maybe you have been estranged from someone with whom you once had an intimate relationship. Maybe there is some place you would like to visit before you die, perhaps the homeland of your ancestors, and your life would feel incomplete unless you did. You know you will die with regrets if you don’t act.

It’s not too late. Other unfinished business besides what I have mentioned might burden your life. Instead of just wishing things were different, it’s time to do something about it.

If you have offended or hurt someone, it’s not too late to apologize. It would be best to do so in person. If this is not possible, a phone call or letter might substitute for a personal appearance. Be careful of email, texts or other electronic communication as a substitute. Your emotions will most not likely come through clearly.

If you are estranged from someone you once loved dearly, reach out and try to reconnect. Mostly likely you both have hard feelings about whatever happened. Ask for forgiveness for your part in the standoff, and say you would like another chance.

Your ancestral homeland is most likely still there. Perhaps you can arrange a trip even if this means making sacrifices in other areas. Maybe you could ask your relatives with the same roots to accompany you.

These are just some examples. Perhaps you have other unfinished business to which you could attend if you made the effort. Unfinished business adds stress to your life. Having it resolved might well make your life more peaceful. Releasing this stress might also allow you to live longer.

Life Lab Lessons       

  • What unfinished business in your life plagues you?
  • How long do you want to live with it?
  • Are you willing to resolve it?
  • Make a plan to face it.
  • Get on with it.

(Published by Joseph Langen as Sliding Otter News and available by free subscription.)

How to Write Your Own Life Script


Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending

 ~Maria Robinson~

I have met many people over the years who think their lives are in the toilet. They feel, discouraged, beat down and sometimes hopeless about the situation they find themselves in. Perhaps they blame their parents, the neighborhood they grew up in or just plain bad luck.

They feel stuck where they are in life and see no way to improve their situation. Given this level of despair, they complain about their lot, become angry about it and sometimes are given to violence arising from their frustration.

I recently attended a workshop on inflammation. In case you have not heard much about this, inflammation is the body’s response to alien bacteria invading our systems, leading to a variety of diseases such as heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis, high blood pressure and diabetes among others. Some think that most diseases stem from inflammation.

I was following along placidly until the presenter reached the causes of inflammation. In addition to unhealthy bacteria, pesticides in our crops, hormones in our meat, industrial pollutants in the air and of course chronic stress weaken our immune systems which are busy working full time to protect us from assault on our bodies.

At first it seemed like the only way to stay healthy was to live in a glass bubble and have your air and water scrubbed clean as well as eating only foods carefully protected from pollutants and genetic changes. It also did not sound like a very enjoyable way to live.

Fortunately reasonable approaches followed. They include moving toward organic, unprocessed, unmodified food. More exercise, better sleep and stress reduction also help. Since it is hard to avoid the environment we live in, nutrients and supplements can help strengthen our immune systems until we as citizens of the world decide that a healthy earth is a higher priority than it is now.

The pessimists I mentioned might just continue to rage about their doomed lives or give up and indulge their whims at the moment, sure that they will soon die whatever they do. Yet, as with inflammation, you can make changes to better your life. Of course you can’t change your past, whether your misfortunes were your own doing or not. Perhaps the first hurdle is to realize that you do have choices. It might not feel like it sometimes but you don’t have to keep doing what you are doing.

Maybe you can’t become brilliant or incredibly wealthy unless you have the right genes or family fortune. You do have some talents however. You can find out what they are, develop them and use them to your best advantage to improve your life. What are you waiting for?

Life Lab Lessons

  • Make a list of what you are good at.
  • Ask your friends or family what they see as your strong points.
  • Consider how you can use these to improve your life.
  • See if what you view as your weaknesses can be of use to you.
  • Look at your health in a new way.