The New Year: When Does It Really Begin? I’m thinking it’s around Ground Hog Day this year…

It took me years of feeling overwhelmed in January and feeling like I was failing miserably in the New Year before I realized what I was doing it all wrong.

We celebrate the new year on January 1st and we rush into the month with resolutions and fuzzy plans for the new year. But after spending most of the month of December preparing for and celebrating the holidays, does it truly make sense that, like switching on and off a light, we try to face an entire new year in a space of 24 hours?

I have enjoyed many New Year celebrations and, over the years, I have tried all sorts of ways to deal with the emotional roller coaster that follows during the first month of the year. What I have found is that it is better to think of this time as a season of sweeping out the previous year, rather than the beginning of a new one. Now, of course, you have things to do in January that are part of the new year and that you can’t avoid. You still have to put the correct year on your checks and, if you work for pay, your job is in its first quarter of the New Year. But, psychologically – especially for your personal life – it is best to think of this time as a season of reflection and preparation.

Continue reading “The New Year: When Does It Really Begin? I’m thinking it’s around Ground Hog Day this year…”

Struggle: I’ve Got A Strong Will To Survive

“People let me tell you I work hard every day
I get up out of bed, I put on my clothes
‘Cause I’ve got bills to pay
Now it ain’t easy, but I don’t need no help
I’ve got a strong will to survive
I’ve got a deeper love, deeper love inside.”

Tinush feat, Arethra Franklin

We are now deep in the winter doldrums, when some mornings it is tough to just get out of bed in the morning, let alone get to work. Even without the political turmoil of our times and uncertainty of our future, it is a difficult time of year to find motivation to get moving.

I noticed that there was little talk of New Year’s resolutions and I think that is because we would all just like things to go back to “normal.” I am not sure that we can go back, but I do know we can move forward. It will, however, take more courage and perseverance than “normal.”

The next few posts I am working on will drop some of the “heavy” science and philosophy stuff I have been talking about lately and focus more on practical and mental health issues that we face at the beginning of a new year. I, myself, have lived through times that only a strong desire to overcome my situation was the only thing that got me up in it the morning. I would not stop fighting for a life of my own.

Your life is worth fighting for – now – this moment, this day. Don’t let these difficult times let you forget that.

You Don’t Have to be French to Enjoy Life, But…

… you do have to make room in a busy life for it.

Food for Thought

When I first left the workforce to be home with my children over thirty years ago, it was because I believed that our culture was missing something. Maybe it was something I found in my reading or from another kind of awareness of life around me, but it seemed to me that the everyday mundane things we do for each other are more important than financial wealth. Our family took a huge hit financially, but I have never regretted it. What we gained in family cohesion and mental health was worth it. I understand that what I did is difficult to achieve today, but I believe it is still possible to improve our daily lives in little ways.

I came across this book this morning and ordered it. It looks interesting because it seems to share that same view from a different perspective. And well – since life is an art, not a science – we can always use pointers. The French don’t really live this way anymore – just like the rest of us, but that should not deter us from trying. And also, I bought if for the recipes and for some encouragement to drop snacking – a very bad American habit I am guilty of. One can never have too many good recipes in life.

Below the book link, I have included a realistic review that I found in the Amazon reviews which is worth reading. Enjoy!

Joie de Vivre: Simple French Style for Everyday by Robert Arbor

Pleasure in Life

Reviewed in the United States on April 23, 2005

Arbor’s book is an evocation of a way of life that only a few French people today achieve (especially in Paris, which is now about 65% wealthy executives and a lesser assortment of truly poor people). But social reality is not the point of the book. Arbor does really capture what many French people imagine their lives to be, despite the messy reality that includes: infuriating customer service and poor availability of products and services (even French people often get angry, when they are not stuffing it inside), open social conflicts and overt racism that many “apolitical” Americans would find exhausting or shocking, and extreme cultivation of privacy and disregard for others in public. Actual French people are as varied as we are–and the stories they tell to themselves (and Arbor translates one important one here for us) are interesting to hear and we can learn from them–both as a clue to French ideals of the pleasure-filled, simple life and as a restorative from our own excesses.

It is, I believe, true that many French executives have a much more relaxed life than the American bourgeoisie, although many are also nervous, stressed and unpleasant. There are wonderful food choices (if you can afford them, something increasingly difficult for working French people). “Low-fat” IS under 20% for many foods. I actually found many French people to be too skinny and to look unhealthy and washed out–and of course some are fat but not normally as obese as we are used to seeing here. More importantly, the ideal that Arbor describes circulates widely in France and accounts for some of the different choices in life that the French make and the different emphasis that many place on their experiences.

I read Arbor’s book before living in Paris for six months and, indeed, my consumption of his evocations and internalization of his values caused a few French people to remark on how well socialized I was (until they knew me and my heathen ways, of course). I realized that France is as far from Paradise as here, but in a slightly different direction. The ideals that Arbor sets out here in a lovely, idealized style have something to do with this: Arbor’s “France” and his suggestions are healthy and even wholesome–why shouldn’t we all live a ‘beautiful’ and slower-paced life? Why not incorporate a sense of beauty and the love of pleasure as a fundamental? And, as Arbor suggests, this has more to do with emphasis and choices already available than with running to France to smell the lavender (although that would be nice!). A “really good fried egg” tastes as good in Kentucky as it does in Paris. One should also remember that not all aspects of American life are worthless–our cultural struggles for convenience and accessibility has led to much better services and access for handicapped people than will ever be possible in Paris. If you are wheel-chair bound, or have a hard-time walking (or anything), you can pretty much write France off the map; French handicapped people look to the US as a Mecca for such services as we make available here.

While “plaisir” is overused in France as a marketing theme for everything from cheap sandwiches to toilet tissue in the same way that images of home and reconstructed families are overused in the US, “plaisir” and “joie de vivre” points to something that many Americans could really learn from–the cultivation of pleasure, individual and shared, as an everyday ethic, if not always an easy reality. One could go further as an American and notice the areas of our lives that ARE similar and full of pleasure–such as the Thanksgiving meal, which is an important ritual of pleasure, togetherness, sharing and abundance, and extend those values into everyday life. In Joie de Vivre, Arbor highlights the contrasts between a life focused on pleasure (not indulgence) and the sour Puritan, production and “necessity”-driven life we overvalue here. As Voltaire suggested, “let us cultivate our garden,” a garden that is always in front of us. In “Joie de Vivre,” Arbor translates that ethic for his American readers, who are so obviously looking for a moment of respite. If you are looking for a reminder to cultivate the good things in life, this book is a charming choice for a relaxing read.

JFT – amazon review

Amazed At Existence: Celebrate Life

This morning, on a Facebook philosophy page, I saw the following post: “The concept of Death makes the entire human existence meaningless.”

I believe our culture’s loss of life’s meaning comes from the Existence vs. Essence debate we have covered earlier, but I wanted to add another thought about our physical existence that might lift some spirits.

When one thinks of the odds of life happening for anyone it is truly amazing. From the size of the universe, the distance between the stars, the odds of a planet forming that can support life, the eons of evolution, the DNA that managed to form us out of countless combinations, and then surviving the birth process when so many pregnancies end in the womb. The odds against us existing at all are astronomical. Yet, here we are.

Life is always an extraordinary event in the Universe. Celebrate your life.

Why Is There Something Rather Than Nothing? (Part 2)

This is Part 2 in the series: God is Not a Unicorn: The Myth and Physics of Creation

In Part 1 we looked at the reason why the question of God ‘s existence cannot be satisfied by an appeal to the imagination alone.


The question of why is there something rather than nothing has been with us for as long as man first acquired language and began to ask questions about the world around him. It is not a simple question and it does not belong to one branch of knowledge. The discussion of it can get complicated quickly, as you can see from the quotation below. In this post I will try to break the question down into simpler language so that we can understand the various approaches to answering it more fully.

Continue reading “Why Is There Something Rather Than Nothing? (Part 2)”