Tara's Thoughts

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words-matter

 

I have long been a fan of the short story form.  In fact, the short story form is far harder than longer forms of writing. Making your intention clear in a limited amount of words is not an easy task. There is a long line of authors whose work I enjoy but top of the list in this regard has always been Harlan Ellison.  There are many reasons I am a life-long, die-hard Ellison fan, but chiefly, my admiration is for his ability to select just exactly the right word for every moment in his stories with never a word wasted.

 Here’s a favorite example: 

 “A foot was planted between my shoulder blades and the fist let go of my shirt, and I was booted forward onto my suitcase, which slid a few feet, carrying me as on a raft.

I fell off, rolled over and tried to sit up. Conquest, Slaughter, Famine and Death were staring down at me.”

Quoted from All the Lies That Are My Life by Harlan Ellison

 There is no need to give the reader any more detailed description of the four guys who are about to beat up our protagonist. The phrase “Conquest, Slaughter, Famine and Death” tells you everything you need to know.

 Another master at choosing just the right words is Theodor Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss, who sums up this thought beautifully:

 “So the writer who breeds more words than he needs is making a chore for the reader who reads.”

 

And another famous author offers clarity on the subject. When asked his opinion on cursing Mark Twain had this to say:

“The English language is a poor enough means of communication as it is. I figure we ought to use all the words we got.”

 Notice here that he did not advise using MORE words than needed at one time but choosing the RIGHT words for what you are trying to convey at that moment.

 

 Words matter.  They can offer great kindness but also great sorrow. They can build relationships or tear down entire communities. Words have weight and meaning and sometimes great consequences. 

When you are attempting to evaluate someone’s character listen very closely to the word they choose to use.  Their choices are not casual. They are a result of a lifetime of attitudes and perceptions and are evidence of the state of their inner psychology. 

 The speaker is telling you something about who he is and how he chooses to participate in this thing called Life.  

 Words matter.  Listen closely.

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The Sitser Siblings at 6, 9 & 10 years old

    “We don’t see the world the way it is. We see it the way we are.

Talmud

As small children we decide what is real based on what we learn from our parents, teachers and from the circumstances in which we find ourselves.  Those lessons transform in our minds to become what we perceive to be facts. Those “facts” become a map in our consciousness that guides us through future decisions.

The problems begin when circumstances change and the map in our head remains the same.  We begin to act on our assumptions about reality rather than on what actually exists.

When results don’t match our expectations it’s time to re-evaluate the map.

If you find yourself bumping into walls stop and take a fresh look around.  You may find the route you’ve been traveling is no longer there.  You might also find new doors in what use to be solid walls.

Don’t go through life with an outdated map.  You’ll miss a lot of great scenery.

“The ultimate weakness of violence is that it begets more violence. With violence, you can murder the hater but you just increase the hate.  Hate cannot drive out hate. Darkness cannot drive out darkness. Only light can do that; only love can drive out hate.”

                                      – The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

With the unprecedented emergence of civil unrest around the world  images of massive, coordinated efforts by diverse populations gathering in the streets to make themselves heard by the powers-that-be have been presented to us by the media as never before.   These efforts have been met by governmental violence and suppression of civilian rights in shocking ways.

I chanced upon the following story this morning and was stunned by the simple beauty and courage of this response to violence and hate.

 

In 1992 an artillery shell killed twenty-two innocent civilians standing in a bread line in Sarajevo, Bosnia. Vedran Smailovic, a former principal cellist for the Sarajevo Opera, responded by donning his tuxedo, bringing his instrument to the bomb site and performing alone for the next twenty-two days as the shelling continued. Twenty two days, amid shrapnel and sniper fire, Smailovic played; one day for each of the twenty-two friends and neighbors who had been killed.

http://myhero.com/go/hero.asp?hero=vedrans

In 1997, after hearing this story, 10-year-old Jason Crowe, was moved to action. He is working to create a tribute to the spirit of the Bosnian people in the form of the Children’s International Peace & Harmony Statue, to be shipped to Bosnia as a gift from peace-loving people around the world, especially children.

“We will inherit the new millennium and we must voice our desire for peace and show the world we are willing to work for it. The statue itself will be our voice giving us a way to shout, ‘Never again must mean never again’.

The Children’s International Peace and Harmony Statue will depict and honor: 1. The spirit of all Bosnians who have lived through or died in the madness of ethnic cleansing; 2. The spirit of harmony that cries on like a lone cello in a world full of violence which refuses to listen; and 3. The spirit of children around the world who want peace and harmony, not war and genocide, as their legacy in the new millennium.

 For more information or to support Jason’s project go to: 

http://myhero.com/go/hero.asp?hero=jasoncrowe

“Everyone is entitled to their own opinion.”

Actually – not true.  This one phrase has been said so many times by so many people for so long that most people accept it without thinking.

Here’s the thing:  YOU ARE NOT ENTITLED TO AN OPINION ON A SUBJECT ABOUT WHICH YOU KNOW NOTHING !!

If a patient is about to have brain surgery you are NOT entitled to an opinion on which technique ought to be used unless you are a brain surgeon.  If your pet dog is chewing up the furniture you are not entitled to an opinion on why he is behaving this way unless you are well versed in canine behavior.  If the political pundits are arguing the merits of a proposed amendment to the Constitution you are not entitle to an opinion, pro or con, unless you study the facts, learn the history behind the amendment, research the possible consequences of it and understand the legislative process used.

I could come up with six more examples but you get the point.  Here is the corrected version of this all-too-familiar but incomplete phrase:

 Everyone is entitled to his own INFORMED opinion.

So the moral of the story is:  Don’t feel compelled to throw out an opinion just because everybody else is spouting theirs.  It is perfectly valid to say “I am not currently qualified to have an opinion on that subject. Let me do some research and I’ll get back to you.”

(With thanks to Harlan Ellison for the inspiration.)

This is an except from Tara’s upcoming book with co-author John Glass, “Speaking Truth: Words That Matter” which will be published later this year.

One of the most valuable sentences I have ever come across is this:

“Let me see what I can learn.”

When you feel resistance to doing something that you know you must do, say to yourself, “Let me see what I can learn.” If you are feeling bored and think there is nothing going on, look around and try this perspective on for size: “Let me see what I can learn”.  If you find yourself procrastinating because you are afraid to face a task, tell yourself, “Let me see what I can learn.” Maybe there is a reportImage: Fork in the road you need to read that you have been avoiding. Or you find yourself in a conversation with someone you don’t know well. Maybe you have to tackle doing something unfamiliar and are afraid you won’t do it well so you’d rather not try. Tell yourself, “Let me see what I can learn.”

This technique works especially well when other people are involved in the scenario. At a party or gathering of any kind if you find yourself seated next to someone you might not have chosen to speak with or who maybe doesn’t , at first glance, look like someone you wouldn’t find interesting, tell yourself this: “Let me see what I can learn.” (Everybody has a story. Try it. You’ll be surprised at the riches you’ll unearth!)

If someone asks you for information you don’t have just say, “Let me see what I can learn. I’ll get back to you.” Boy, oh boy! Do I wish all customer service personnel were taught to do just that!

This one sentence can help you push past your reluctance and fear. It opens up otherwise unseen avenues for exploration that will motivate you to plunge right in. Now you have a task in mind for yourself that will lead you forward in any situation. “Let me see what I can learn.”

“Learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t possibly live long enough to make them all yourself.”  — Martin Vanbee

 This little story came to mind today as I found myself, for the second time in two days, the lucky beneficiary of someone else’s experience. 

A small village had a system of plumbing pipes that had, for many decades, been maintained by one man.  Yacov had spent his years in the central control room learning the intricacies of the pipes and keeping the system running smoothly.

As is often the case, new technologies come along that interfere with the old ways.

One day the village elders came to Yacov’s house to inform him that they had decided to install a new, computerized system to run the town’s pipes. His services were no longer needed. Yacov smiled at them, accepted their decree and went back into his home to brew a pot of tea and enjoy the view of his garden.

Several days after the new system had been brought online the plumbing in the town failed.  None of the technicians could figure out what was wrong. Nobody knew what to do.  After a few days of listening to the townspeople’s complaints, the elders gathered at Yacov’s front door and begged him to please come fix the pipes.

With a small smile on his face and a glint of something in his eye, Yacov agreed.

Back in the control room the elders stood in silence watching Yacov as he stood very still for many minutes. He looked. He listened. Then he took a wrench in his hand walked over to a junction and tapped twice on the overhead pipe.  Lo and behold! the system began to run again.

Later that day the village elders received a bill from Yacov charging them $2000.12 for his services.  Outraged, they once again assembled at Yacov’s front door, this time shouting at him and asking how dare he charge them this enormous amount when all he did was to tap a couple of times on a pipe!

Yacov’s smile was wider than the village square as he said to them, “The 12 cents is for the tapping. The $2000.00 is for knowing where to tap!”

“People who abandon their dreams will try to crush yours” — Anon

People often shy away from pursuing their dreams because they are afraid of the cost, afraid to fail or because it’s easier to take the safe route. Moving outside your comfort zone is such a daunting challenge that many people never go there.

It is an unfortunate fact of human nature that misery loves company. When those who have abandoned their dreams see someone who seems willing to take on the challenges and risks involved in pursuing a dream a common reaction is to discourage them or scoff at their chances of success.

We call them Dream Crushers.

Beware the Dream Crushers. They will tell you it can’t be done and all the reasons you shouldn’t try. You are the only one who can decide if you are willing to do what it takes to achieve your goals. Some temporary discomfort and instability is often well worth the price.


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As a member of the Americana-Folk/Rock band, John Zipperer & Friends, Tara performs in around Los Angeles, CA (with an occasional out-of-town appearance). Come see for yourself why John Zipperer's CD "Full Circle" has been on the top 25 of the Roots Music Report Album Chart for over a year!

Tara Sitser - Author / Singer/Songwriter

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