Posts Tagged ‘wisdom’

We Can’t Read Minds

I had a thought.

No, it’s not the first time that has happened. Shut up. 🙂

I was angry at someone this morning because she said something that I thought “was meant to hurt me.”

But then I realized: Apart from what she actually said, I don’t know what she meant. It might have been just a careless remark. I have no way of knowing what was in her mind.

A lot of times we get upset because of what we assume about what other people are thinking, what they intend, or how they feel about us. But we have no first-hand way to know any of that.

Here’s what I think. When someone says or does something that we could interpret in a bad way — but which we could also interpret in a good way — then we should interpret it in the good way until and unless that’s proven wrong.

We will be happier and have more peace of mind. It’s also fairer to the other people.

And one other note: This is my 193rd blog post. I’d like to make it to 200 posts by graduation. If I can, I’ll post some graduation photos and thoughts for my 200th blog post.

Copyright 2011 by Rinth de Shadley.


What I Am Thankful For

This Thanksgiving, I am thankful for:

The wisdom of parents and grandparents

That includes wisdom about life and the world, how to behave, and what kind of person to be.

My Dad inspired me to love science, which is leading me to a medical or research career that will help people.

My Mom showed me how to believe in myself, to work hard, and to follow my dreams even when the world says “no.”

My grandmothers taught me to treat other people with respect and generosity. Their two most memorable pieces of advice are:

  • We show what kind of people we are by how we treat other people, especially those who are less fortunate or (in my grandmother’s words) “our social inferiors.” We should treat all people with kindness, consideration, and respect.
  • A good deed only counts if nobody knows you did it.

My grandfathers taught me that the world didn’t begin in 1989: It’s important to know what happened before and where we came from.

Wonderful teachers

I have wonderful teachers who not only share knowledge, but share the joy of learning and discovery. They inspire me to explore new ideas and look at the world in new ways.

That applies not just to college, but to high school and earlier. I know that I’m very lucky and that most people don’t have such good teachers.

Good friends

Life without friends wouldn’t be much of a life. I not only have lots of friends, but I have a smaller number of very good, very intimate friends.

In addition to my BFF Sarah, who I’ve known since preschool, I am thankful for all my friends at college. Even when we fight, we all still love each other.

And especially there’s Mark, but I’m not sure where it’s going so I have to wait and see about it.

Miscellaneously …

I’m thankful to live in a country where women have freedom and opportunities to achieve their dreams. America isn’t perfect; in fact we have a lot of problems. But I know how much better my life is than it would be if I lived in an unfree or desperately-poor country.

I’m thankful that I lost seven pounds since the start of the semester and now almost fit into my high school jeans as long as I don’t sit down or take a breath. 🙂

And I’m thankful for all the wonderful readers of this blog! Some of you were already my friends, some of you have become my friends, and all of you have great insights that make me think! You make the world a better place.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Copyright 2010 by Rinth de Shadley.

I Talk Too Much

Yes, I know it. I talk too much.

I can’t help myself. I have all these thoughts and I want to share them with people. So I talk. And I write. And I almost always learn something from what people say in response.

Hopefully, some of the thoughts are good. Some of the best ones aren’t mine, but at least I know about them.

One of the best sayings that I usually ignore comes from the Chinese philosopher Confucius:

Silence is a friend who never betrays.

I’ve gotten pretty good at following that advice about things that might hurt people’s feelings. For almost anything else, though, I open my mouth and words come out. I just keep my fingers crossed that the words won’t be totally insane.

The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis also advises me to keep my mouth shut. Kempis was a German monk who lived from 1380 to 1471. In Book I, Chapter 10 “On the Danger of Superfluity of Words,” he says:

We like talking so much because we hope by our conversations to gain some mutual comfort, and because we seek to refresh our wearied spirits by a variety of thoughts.

I think that’s true. It’s one of the reasons I blog. I like to say what I think and hear what other people think: a variety of thoughts. But Kempis warns:

Talk concerning worldly things, though it be innocently undertaken, is a hindrance, so quickly are we led captive and defiled by vanity.

Of course, he was a monk, probably writing for other monks and Church officials because they were pretty much the only people who could read. So maybe his advice goes a little too far for regular people living regular lives, especially in the 21st century. I definitely don’t want to give up talking about “Gossip Girl.” 🙂

But he has a good point. We can get so entranced by all the shiny things and loud noises around us that we forget about what’s really important. He also says:

Devout conversation on spiritual things helpeth … to spiritual progress, most of all where those of kindred mind and spirit find their ground of fellowship in God.

Although I’m a Catholic, I see that as applying to everyone. My Dad’s side of the family is Jewish. I also have friends and classmates who are Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, and who follow many other paths. It seems to me that we are all searching for the same thing, the same kind of spiritual answer and fulfillment. Even atheists, though they deny it, want to find some kind of meaning in the world.

Truth, to me, is less a destination than a journey. Just as we seek spiritual improvement without imagining that we will ever be perfect, we seek spiritual truth without imagining that we will ever completely understand the truth that we seek. There will always be a part that we have to take on faith. Loving each other is one way we can live by that faith.

One other thing in which I have faith is that if I don’t do my studying and homework, I won’t do well in my classes! So I’d better get to that.


Copyright 2010 by Rinth de Shadley.

Finding a Wise Quote Before Bed

I wanted to blog something really wise before going to bed, but there’s a problem. I don’t say that many wise things.

Probably the wisest thing I’ve said lately was “no” to a party at Amherst last night. I later heard that it was fun but got wild and went pretty late. Instead, I just stayed around campus, danced, and had fun with friends.

So, something wise … I found a good quote from Friedrich von Schiller, in his play about Joan of Arc: “Against stupidity, the gods themselves fight in vain.” Probably true, but not very inspirational.

Of course, Joan herself is supposed to have said as her last words, “Yes, my voices were of God. My voices have not deceived me.” Kind of inspirational, I guess, but what else are you going to say when you’re about to be burned at the stake?

In the TV series “Joan of Arcadia,” the worst thing that Joan had to face was being committed to a “crazy camp” for the summer. Well, that and being accosted by God in various guises during every episode. Though I guess that being accosted by God is a good thing. Even so, it would still change your plans for the day.

OK, here’s a really good one from Helen Keller, the blind and deaf woman who became a famous author: “Many persons have a wrong idea of what constitutes true happiness. It is not attained through self-gratification but through fidelity to a worthy purpose.”

I like that. Now I can go to bed. 🙂

Copyright 2010 by Rinth de Shadley.

Five Things That I’ve Learned

I’d like to share a few things that I’ve learned. Some of the ideas are related to each other:

1. Life isn’t just about me.

Sometimes, I get to be the star and other people support me. Sometimes, other people get to be the star and my job is to support them. The same applies to all of us. Sometimes we’re the star, sometimes the supporting actor. We should play either role with grace and gratitude.

Sometimes, things go the way we want and other people are disappointed. Sometimes, things go the way other people want and we get disappointed. When the latter happens, share the happiness of the people who “won” this time, learn whatever you can from the situation, and then move on to the next goal without looking back.

2. If something isn’t in our control, don’t stress over it.

Sometimes, we and the people we love will get sick. Sometimes, we won’t get the jobs or the social situations we want. Sometimes, we will get dumped. By the time we’re 30, the Arctic ice pack will probably be history (not that we were ever going to go there, anyway). Someday, the sun will explode. Someday, each of us will almost certainly die.

We can’t do a thing about any of those events. Don’t worry about them. Try to invest emotional energy only in things we can control.

3. People do whatever they do. Get over it.

People always think they have good reasons for doing what they do. We usually don’t know what their reasons are. Even when someone makes a hurtful remark, she’s doing it for a reason. Maybe she misinterpreted something we said or did, and that hurt her. In her mind, we were the ones who started it. She might think that she’s just striking back.

People very rarely do mean things just from pure meanness. Instead, they have reasons that make sense to them. In addition, they often have subconscious motivations of which they aren’t even aware.

The best thing we can do is try to be as fair and as nice as we can to everyone. If they don’t act that way toward us, remember that we don’t know their reasons. They see the situation differently from the way we see it.

We are only in charge of our own behavior. We should only worry about making sure that our own actions are fair and loving. How other people act is their choice, between them and their conscience. We have no control over that, so we shouldn’t worry about it.

4. This, too, is for the good.

Our viewpoint is very limited. We don’t see the big picture and we are biased by our own desires. When something happens that frustrates us, we need to remember fact #1: “Life isn’t just about me.”

If we can improve a “bad” situation without hurting people, then we should do it. Otherwise, we should trust in the essential goodness of the universe and not worry about it. Things will work out for the best.

5. Happiness and fulfillment are the goals of life.

For you, for me, and for everyone. Things that help people achieve happiness and fulfillment are good. Things that frustrate the process are bad.

In our personal actions, we should seek happiness and fulfillment for ourselves in a way that supports other people’s pursuit of them. In our countries’ social policies, we should do the same. Policies that help the most people achieve the most happiness and fulfillment are good as long as they don’t violate people’s rights or cause excessive harm.

Copyright 2009 by Rinth de Shadley.