Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Meaning of Life

Dear Readers of this Blog.......

"Will you interrupt your work for a moment and play the game of philosophy with me?"

I am attempting to copy an idea from Will Durant's 1931 project.  He sent a letter to certain famous contemporaries for whose intelligence he had high regard and then published their remarks in a book "On the Meaning of Life".  His introductory letter was lengthy and seeded with bias (all be it from a most respected academician of history) and is dated.  However I will quote the final paragraph so as to keep the request near identical to its purpose (as the scientific control would require).

"Spare me a moment to tell me what meaning life has for you, what keeps you going, what help - if any - religion gives you, what are the sources of your inspiration and your energy, what is the goal or motive-force of your toil, where you find your consolations and your happiness, where, in the last resort, your treasure lies."

Sincerely yours, Will Durant

If you feel inclined to participate you can:

(1) Just respond in the blog comments (be anonymous if you choose);
(2) Email me (which would be less anonymous) at
(3) Mail me a response (anonymous if you choose) - 4800 Councilrock Lane   Cincinnati, Ohio USA  45243-4204

PS:  If you intend to respond like the following --- know that this entry is already taken:

June 23, 1931

"Your letter of June 15th seems to me the best answer that can be made to your question: 'What is the meaning or worth of human life?'  If I had the time to undertake such a task as you suggest my answer would really be some such diatribe as this letter of yours" 
                                                Theodore Dreiser

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Michigan Day

Today was consumed with my Treasurer duties for the Indian Hill Boosters.  It was the 31st Antique Fair at Indian Hill High School (9am-4pm).  What a perfect day for the event - partly sunny in the low 60's during the morning only reaching a high of 72 and not much humidity in the air - it felt like Michigan.

As J.W. (Booster Board member) said, "If everyday were like today, we couldn't afford to live here :) "

Seeing over 900 people walk into the event, you could tell how weather affects every one's personality - I don't think I saw any frowns.  Something about a crisp partly (and mainly) sunny day puts everyone in a good mood - each person complimenting the other for bringing the good weather to all.

The day was capped off at our house with our Bible Study group sitting outside on the back patio enjoying an evening discussion and fellowship.

"The weather forecast for tonight? ........ Dark "   George Carlin

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Will... Feelings ... be Free?

I just finished re-reading George Orwell's 1984.  I read the book when I was Ellen's age (pre high school) in 1966.  Of course I thought the book was going to be about science fiction (which was the trend in 1966).  Instead it was a political fiction book (with some science fiction overtones) indicting the ugly outcomes of complete totalitarian rule.  I wonder how Ellen will reminisce in 2057 about the movies and books she reads today - Hunger Games; Unwind; etc. 

"They [the Thought Police] could not alter your feelings: for that matter you could not alter them yourself, even if you wanted to. They could  lay bare in the utmost detail everything that you had done or said or thought; but the inner heart, whose workings were mysterious even to yourself remained impregnable."

Yet at the end of the book we discover Winston's hope of free feelings (impregnably etched on the heart) is a false truth - if feelings could not be properly manipulated they would be reprogrammed with adequate (and unique) torture by the Thought Police. 

Instincts are the genesis of feelings and it is our rational nature and experience that provides some measure of"control" over those instincts (we use the term he has a "strong will").   I've always believed you can modify feelings with attitude (a reprogramming of thought and strengthening your "will").  However there is a "kernel" set of code that in unalterable (and hence not free).  It's only state can be either off or on.

That is the real mystery of "free will".

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Pride and Tribe

Pride is considered the deadliest of the seven deadly sins - utmost of evil.  Collective pride is unrestrained nationalism -  or a better term tribalism.  Certain wars and genocide are the result of  massive pride - the inflated notion of one's race, customs, social status, superiority, traditions, beliefs .......  collective selves. 

C.S. Lewis called pride a spiritual cancer - the wish for power. "Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man."  And so it can be with tribes or nations - the need for having more.  C.S. Lewis would call pride the crown of all vices. 

Aristotle felt pride could be virtuous - when viewed as magnanimity (self worthy of great things) - the crown of the virtues.  He contrasted self pride with hubris (superiority over another).  In national terms self pride could be celebration of traditions and historical respect.  If Aristotle felt there was a place for pride, I think he would agree that temperance, prudence and justice (three of the four cardinal virtues) should interact to regulate pride's application in action.  

Which crown - vice or virtue?  Which impact tribe or tribute?


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Worth Doing Right

I just finished reading ten of the Letters of Interest/Intent submitted to Social Venture Partners Cincinnati for our 2013 Investment cycle.  Our subgroup meets tomorrow evening to evaluate the letters and screen them into the next phase.  Now, as background, our focus area was communicated to any non profit interested in applying as "Transforming Children and Youth at Risk through Education". 

I applaud (and even welcomed) the non-profits whose mission might not exactly fit our focus area but could make the connection and could innovatively describe why their mission and outcomes would make sense for SVP to invest with them.  We asked for no more than three pages (12 point type) of their input. 

Now for confidentiality (and diplomacy), I will not name the non-profit's submission that totally wasted their time (and our time).  It is a classic example of the adage -  "If its worth doing --- Do it right"  or said another way "If it's not worth doing right - don't do it".

The cover letter and three page submission  used the word children (or youth) only twice (once in the cover letter and once in the three page submission).  There was no mention of the word education!!!!  Hmmmmm   that doesn't show much effort in the attempt to connect their mission with our focus area! 

Time is one of the most important commodities we possess (and each of us are given an equal quantity each day).  Being strategic and deliberate about how you use your time (and respect for others) is your choice.  Doing anything consumes that precious resource.  Doing something with a low probability of success is a waste of that resource (and potentially others also). 

If you're going to "Just do it"  -  "Respectfully try to do it right"

Monday, July 22, 2013

Why are you here?

The Sunday evening Fellowship group is almost complete with our discussion about Dinesh D'Souza's book "What's so Great about Christianity".  The book is good at debunking the myths and typical arguments (reason or empirical ) used to argue against Christianity.  I personally like Susan's logic -- it is more difficult (if not impossible) to prove that God does not exist than to accept (empirically I might add) that the evidence points to God's existence.  In my recent study of the great philosophers that wrestled with the purpose and/or meaning of life, I have found that the majority conclude there is some higher order - some designer.

Actually the professed Atheist population is very small (2% of world population and about the same in the U.S.A.).  The non-religious makes up another 9.7%.  Since the stereotype is that most Atheists are intellectual and scientific ("Brights"), their discussions can be intimidating based on deep knowledge of philosophy and/or science. 

Logic provides a partial path to understanding that there is a higher order, but it takes a leap into the transcendental to complete the journey.  Whether you are Atheist or Religious, there will always be the question: Why are we here?; What is the purpose of your life?

When I think about this question - I answer:       "I don't know, but I care".
When the Atheist answers the question he says:  "I don't know, and I don't care".

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Gods Handwriting

Today was movie day for Ellen, Dayna, Dayton (the Hartley's last vacation visit day) and me (the girls went to see a chick flick, and the Dads to see the action flick).  The new scam at the movies is the surcharge for 3D movies.  When I inquired on the IMDb smart phone application there was not distinction noted for the playing times.  We were stuck - only 3D showings were available when we got to the theater. This new format is not worth the $3 surcharge, but for this action film it may have been worth it.

We watched Pacific Rim which is a merger of Aliens, Transformers, and Ironman. The movie (full of battle scenes) is a classic good against evil flick, attempting to save mankind from the Aliens.  When Jenna showed me the preview (it opened on her birthday), I was not real motivated to see it.  I was pleasantly surprised and even the 2 hours of 11 minutes of non stop action (nearly all battle scenes), did not make the movie boring.

The best line of the movie was during the argument between the two scientists - one biology, one physics/math.  "Numbers are the closest thing to God's handwriting" proudly claimed the physics/math scientist.  Naturally the statistician in me agreed.  Logic, theorems, proofs, numerology etc. the beauty of mathematics fits with nature.

For being such a relativist - there is always comfort in absolute and pure numbers  :)

Wednesday, July 17, 2013


What do you call two Philosophy Professors arguing about Kantian Ethics?

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Questions without Answers

I do enjoy the intellectual debate with J.P. on matters of philosophy, religion and politics.  However it is always dangerous to enter a discussion in a field of study with those who have devoted a life to debate.  So talking about social justice with J.P. will yield an infinite reference (the classic legal methodology of discovery) chaining back to the great philosophers, Aristotle, Socrates, Plato etc.  As a mathematician and study of Boolean Logic it is easy to get me motivated to play the debate game.

Since the beginning of intellectual thought, man has pondered virtue and existence - the early bloggers :)  These timeless questions have not been solved and I wonder what amount of progress can be measured on whether mankind is getting closer to the solution.  In mathematics it is the wonder of infinity.  The further along you get the farther infinity looks.

Each discussion with J.P. culminates in a flurry of emails, followed by a plateau of silence awaiting yet another reference and question.   It is the infinity of questions that demonstrate there are no absolute answers.

"A great lawyer is good about asking questions, even better in avoiding questions, and best at not knowing any answers."

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Scheduling Birthdays

Yesterday at around 3pm twenty two years ago, I remember distinctly the phone call from Susan.  It was a Friday afternoon and I was called out of a Partner/Manager meeting in the Accenture office downtown.  Susan voice sounded both scared and excited.  She informed me that Jenna was on the way.  Of course the skeptical side of me and methodical problem solving nature caused me to question the timing (after all this was over a month early).  Susan was not interested in my analysis -  GET MY BUTT HOME!

I jumped in the car and quickly got home loaded Susan in the back seat and drove to the hospital.  That evening was a planned poker night at T.T.'s house and a quick phone call let him know I would not be showing.  Jenna arrived  safely about 5pm that evening.  Susan and I had requested a single room (so that I could stay with her in the room) and were informed that there were none available - at which time Susan said she would be going home!  The hospital staff calmed her down and figured out a way we could be together until a single room vacated (about 1am Saturday morning).

Actually there was no mystery of why Jenna was a month early.  That year we had purchased a Box at the ATP Tennis tournament. Susan, once again, revealed her ability to schedule things perfectly - even birthdays.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

What's Next?

When a seemingly random event (or set of related "random" events) create a pattern or redirects your thinking is it coincidental?  How much should you trust your intuition?  When something or someone "nudges" you how should you respond?

At the Vistage All City meeting, I was re-introduced to M.F. (consultant, speaker, author,....). We shared our "elevator stories" of business, life, and passions and moved on, followed up with some email exchanges.  Last night I reconnected with J.D. (Accenture Colleague) and we updated each other on life's journey.  When someone asks what's new in your life and what have you been doing - it's a quandary of how to answer. M.F. was even more direct (and deeply complex) - "What's next?"

In business, you would answer this with your strategic plan (mission, vision, values, strategies and objectives), followed by the action plans (tasks, milestones, timeframe etc.), projects and annual budget.  Several months ago, I purchased the "Personal Compass" from The Grove Consultants Intl. - a personal workbook for visioning and planning your personal life. Unfortunately the 12x18 spiral bound workbook is too cumbersome to carry around for answering in a casual way What's Next.

Personal planning is one of the last things we do.  Why?  Part of the fear of answering What's Next (especially the short term and tactic activities) is that you might be planting land mines ahead in your field of dreams.  Which is why personal planning and time to reflect is so important. 

But the real complexity of What's Next are the lingering mysterious whispers nudging you toward your purpose and meaning in life.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Virtual Smiling

A phone call to R.R. today created a flurry of smiling synapse explosions in my brain. Playing the initial joke on R.R. pretending I was an IRS agent from Cincinnati, was "dirty pool", but pays him back for the cherry bomb that he lit outside Clifton one evening back in 1979. 

Just hearing his descriptions of his now young adult children, I could see R.R.'s personality reflected.  I couldn't resist the cliché "The Acorn (or in R.R.'s case "NUT") doesn't fall far from the tree".  Yes, R.R. (like me) "marched to a different drummer" which is why when the two of us were together the stories should be on a "need to know basis only" (secrets in the vault).

R.R. gets credit for the reconnection.  He had stopped by the house while the family was away in Kansas - but did the right thing - left a note and his phone number.  I had last connected with R.R. in Atlanta over five years ago on one of Susan's buying trips for The Laurel House. 

So R.R. and I promised that we would physically reconnect in the next 10 years (after all we might only have 30+ remaining).  It was amazing how a 30 minute phone call can efficiently get you reconnected, and flood joyful memories into the mind ....... and how 40 years ago seems like moments ago.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

A Decade of Vistage

Today I attended the All City meeting of Vistage members (  I also paid the annual membership dues for the 10th year (ending July 2014) today so the organization is on my mind.  There are still six of the founding members in our 1107  Trusted Advisor group (seven counting A.S. - our facilitator) - T.A.; T.H.; S.K.; M.L.; S.M.; and myself.  The dues have been going up each year (a 10 year CAGR of 3.79%) but this year was particularly steep - 7.5% increase.

Susan calls my Vistage group 1107 -- my "paid friends" :)    We meet each month (half a day) to share economic, professional, and life issues in a confidential setting.  Our current membership roster is fourteen (of which five have joined in the last year). 

Initially, I used Vistage Group 1107 as a pseudo Board of Directors during the early years of my involvement with LCP Tech Inc.  Now Vistage as become a great outlet for me to reflect on my time, mission, vision and goals (personal, spiritual, and professional).  This year I will be in the "Spotlight" (the meeting where members provide "carefrontation" as you discuss your goals) on December 12, 2013. 

Vistage (and B.E.) was the "cause" of my starting this blog. In fact, I can point to many activities that Vistage germinated  (the good, the bad and the ugly).  Today's speaker Matthew Kelly was superb.  His topic on Work/Life Balance was full of valuable advice. It was a great event to network and reflect.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Valuable Values

Professor J. Rufus Fears ("Books That Have Made History: Books That Can Change Your Life") weighed in on the question of universal values (Lecture # 23  Confucius, The Analects):

For Confucius, the Golden Rule is the path of benevolence, the way of truth and harmony in the world.  The path of good is marked in our character by wisdom, courage and justice.

(1) Justice is doing unto others what you would have them do unto you.
(2) Courage is steadfastness in truth and doing what needs to be done, unafraid of any consequences.
(3) Wisdom - the ultimate goal of the teacher and seeker of truth - is knowing what needs to be done.
(4) Moderation joins justice, courage and wisdom together to ensure that they work in harmony

All four of these "universal values" resonate with what I hope I live and try to pass on each day. 

I had to get a kick out of the Professor's timeline of Confucius life ( since I have my uncompleted "Decade Project still in progress):

A.  At the age of 15, Confucius began his studies
B. At the age of 30, he took his stand and decided to devote his life to the search for truth.
C. At the age of 40, all his doubts were put aside, and he began to understand the way and knew that he must follow it.
D. At the age of 50, Confucius understood what heaven had decreed for him.
        1. Heaven had decreed that his proper place and destiny was to teach.
        2. He believed that people can find their way without invoking the gods (the divine played no role in his teachings).
E. At 60, his "ears were properly attuned." He knew what he should be doing.
F. At 70, he was conscious that he was treading the path of truth.

The mystery would be what would have happened in his 80's?

Confucianism Symbol

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Friend In- Deed

As I watched some of the past episodes of Boston Legal last night (left over from the preview night at K.C.'s), I determined that the attraction I have to the show was entirely the balcony scenes between Alan Shore and Denny Crane and their friendship discussions.  In Season 2 - Alan Shore references Ralph Waldo Emerson's quote - "A friend may well be reckoned the masterpiece of nature". 

This July 4th weekend coincidentally several "dormant" friends have made contact - email, dropped by, called, or popped into my memory.  Holidays remind us (and provide extra time out of busy schedules) of the value of friendship.

I think of friends and your personal network as a series of concentric circles - and inner circle of people connected to you by time, location and frequency of interaction, surrounded with other circles of contact with successive lower levels of interaction.  Then there is a complete population of people that remain entirely outside your circle - awaiting possible touch.

The only problem with the visual of concentric circles is it places the individual at the center of the circle (that boarders on a selfish/narcissistic view of friendship).  The reality is "We talk of choosing our friends, but friends are self elected"  and "the only way to have a friend is to be one".  So the mystery of friendship networks is reaching out to others and hoping they elect to spend more time inside your "circle" or stated differently they "elect" you into their circle.  It is a two way transaction.   

Ralph Waldo Emerson had it correct when he said "Friendship, like immortality of the soul, is too good to be believed." -   Yes a masterpiece!

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Lone Rain---ger Day

This was the first year I can remember a total rain out of the Indian Hill Fourth of July Parade and festivities.  In fact the rain storm started last night and has continued off and on all day today.  So what does one do when it rains continuously on the Fourth of July?   Ellen and I decided (with everyone else) to head to the Movie Theater to see the Lone Ranger.

The movie received some bad reviews but all 1960's boys will want to attend (after all we all had our holsters, gun, hat and of course mask).  I'm sure there were at least two years of Halloween trick or treating that I had in the Lone Ranger outfit.  The trouble with playing the Lone Ranger growing up is that only one person got to be the LONE RANGER and being second in line, I'm sure I was stuck as Tonto.

But Johnny Depp's entertaining performance as Tonto will create a whole new generation of kids playing where the second in line will become the Lone Ranger. The humor between the two partners made the film very enjoyable. Clearly the teasing between the two revealed that they were both "Kemo Sabes" - trusted friends.

The unanswered humorous trivia question at the end of the movie - what does Tonto mean in Spanish? 

The Lone Ranger Unmasked with Tonto on Horseback

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Cost of Speed

It was a great day yesterday celebrating Dad's 88th birthday.  The weather in Kansas couldn't be more delightful - sunny yet cool with a breeze while sitting on the balcony screen.  Each trip back I get to practice my technology skills tuning Dad's computer and network.  This visit - internet access speeds.

I spent time on the phone with ATT to discuss Dad's charge for internet access ($33/mth for up to 1.5mbps) yet I clocked his speed at 0.29mbps (I was reminded the contract states "up to" 1.5mbps).  The technical representative was less than helpful taking nearly three minutes to even find out what plan Dad was subscribed to.  Next was a discussion with the cancellation department (since I felt $33/mth was ridiculous in addition to the rep's smart alec "up to" comment). 

ATT has a new product U-Verse which it fiber to the home and was naturally trying to push that product line.  The complexity of this decision is too much for an 88 year old (and even me at 58 year old).   So I asked what "deal" they would offer on increasing the DSL line to avoid our switching to Cox Communications (Cable). 

The answer was again complicated - the representative suggested their 6mbps speed ($46/mth) with two options - a 6mo promotion of 50% off; or a 12 month promotion of $10/mth off.   I countered asking what promotions they had for their 3mbps plan.  The rep offered the same terms.  I'm still baffled by why they offer the two different discount plans (regardless my higher math caused me to jump at the 50% off plan ---  figure it out!).

So again the lesson learned is -----  annually rebalance your communications subscription portfolio.  First threaten cancellation - then accept the promotional discount.

P.S.  Seems the latest cost of speed is about $5/mth for each 1.5mbps download speed.