My current emphasis: how to make good habits and break bad ones (really)

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Story: It’s a Sign of Maturity Not To Be Scandalized.

For the weekly videos, I now tell a story. I’ve realized that for me, and I think for many people, a story is what holds my attention and makes a point most powerfully.

This week’s story: It’s a sign of maturity not to be scandalized.

 

Here’s the complete quotation from Flannery O’Connor:

“From 15 to 18 is an age at which one is very sensitive to the sins of others, as I know from recollections of myself. At that age you don’t look for what is hidden. It is a sign of maturity not to be scandalized and to try to find explanations in charity.”

–Letter of August 19, 1959

I love the work of Flannery O’Connor. Her fiction is so mind-blowing that I can hardly bear to read it, and I also love her non-fiction. I ‘ve read that collection of letters, The Habit of Being, three times. And here’s my latest Flannery O’Connor quote, from an interview she gave: “I’m interested in the old Adam. He just talks southern because I do.”

I wouldn’t describe it the same way, but that’s what I’m interested, too. The old Adam.

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A Few Questions Aimed at Real Esate Brokers.

sold-signSorry, this post is of limited interest.

First question: are a real estate broker, a real estate agent, and a realtor the same thing (for practical purposes)? I realize that I’m not exactly sure.

Second question: if you’re a member of that profession, would you be interested in a sticker to put on Happier at Home?

Since Happier at Home was published, I’ve had many requests from real estate brokers (etc.) who want copies of the personalized Tips for Happiness in Your New Home card to give to their clients, paired with copies of the book. (If you’d like to request some of those cards for yourself, or for friends, email me here to request them. Alas, I can mail to U.S. and Canada only. Mailing costs!)

I’m wondering, then, if such folks would find it useful to have a sticker that said something like, “With best wishes for much happiness in your new home, from your real estate broker ______” Or “Courtesy of your realtor _____” where a person could add his or her name. Or maybe it would better not to have a space for a hand-written name.

Third and fourth questions: Would you be interested in getting stickers like that? If so, what should the stickers say?

There’s no bad time to think about how to be happier at home, but I do think we give it special consideration when we’ve just moved. The new surroundings make us more aware of our choices–and how we might do things differently, in order to boost our happiness.

Let me know what you think.

“…and How They Might Have Been Yet If What Happened Had Not Happened.”

Warren_Robert_Penn“I just lay there in the hammock. I lay there and watched the undersides of the oak leaves, dry and grayish and dusty-green, and some of them I saw had rusty-corroded-looking spots on them. Those were the ones which would turn loose their grip on the branch before long–not in any breeze, the fibers would just relax, in the middle of the day maybe with the sunshine bright and the air so still it aches like the place where the tooth was on the morning after you’ve been to the dentist or aches like your heart in the bosom when you stand on the street corner waiting for the light to change and happen to recollect how thing once were and how they might have been yet if what happened had not happened.”

–Robert Penn Warren, All the King’s Men

I’m re-reading this book for the fourth time now. I always remember certain passages very clearly, but forget what actually happens.

Creative Writing 101, or, Kurt Vonnegut’s 8 Rules for Writing Fiction.

vonnegut_kurt0412Every Wednesday is Tip Day, or List Day.

This Wednesday: 8 tips for writing fiction from Kurt Vonnegut.

I’ve recently become a fan of reading collections of letters (a form which is disappearing, now that we don’t write letters much anymore), and I read a recommendation somewhere to read Kurt Vonnegut’s letters.

From there, I was drawn to a collection of his short fiction, named–paradoxically–Bagombo Snuff Box: Uncollected Short Fiction.

In the Introduction, Vonnegut provides his rules for “Creative Writing 101“:

  1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.
  2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.
  3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.
  4. Every sentence must do one of two things—reveal character or advance the action.
  5. Start as close to the end as possible.
  6. Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them—in order that the reader may see what they are made of.
  7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.
  8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To hell with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.

However, Vonnegut notes, “The greatest American short story writer of my generation was Flannery O’Connor…She broke practically every one of my rules but the first. Great writers tend to do that.”

I’m a Flannery O’Connor freak, so I was very happy to see that Vonnegut loved her work, too. In fact, in a weird synchronicity, it was my admiration for O’Connor’s collection of letters, The Habit of Being, that got me reading letters in the first place.

What do you think of these rules?

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Story: Focus on the Growing Heap, Not the One Coin. (One of My Favorite Stories!)

For the weekly videos, I now tell a story. I’ve realized that for me, and I think for many people, a story is what holds my attention and makes a point most powerfully.

This week’s story: Focus on the growing heap, not the one coin.

 

Can’t see the video? Click here.

Here are the exact words of this teaching story, known as “the argument of the growing heap,” as described in the footnote in my college-era edition of Erasmus’s classic work, The Praise of Folly:

If ten coins are not enough to make a man rich, what if you add one coin? What if you add another? Finally, you will have to say that no one can be rich unless one coin can make him so.”

This story is one of my favorites, because it so perfectly captures a paradox that I grapple with in my own life, and which is very significant to happiness: Often, when we consider our actions, it’s clear that any one instance of an action is almost meaningless, yet at the same time,  a sum of those actions is very meaningful. Whether we focus on the single coin, or the growing heap, will shape our behavior.

Go here to read more about this story.

Find the archives of videos here.  More than 1.6 MILLION views. Don’t forget to subscribe!

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