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Sunday, February 15, 2015

What Makes Men Happy?



http://images.fastcompany.com/upload/happiness_bulldogdrummond.jpg
COURTESY: FASTCOMPANY.COM

Seventy-five years in the making, costing over $20m Harvard study concludes: "Happiness is love. Full stop."

In 1938 Harvard University began following 268 male undergraduate students and kicked off the longest-running longitudinal studies of human development in history.  The study's goal was to determine as best as possible what factors contribute most strongly to human flourishing. 

"At a time when many people around the world are living into their tenth decade, the longest longitudinal study of human development ever undertaken offers some welcome news for the new old age: our lives continue to evolve in our later years, and often become more fulfilling than before.  Begun in 1938, the Grant Study of Adult Development charted the physical and emotional health of over 200 men, starting with their undergraduate days.  The now-classic 'Adaptation to Life' reported on the men's lives up to age 55 and helped us understand adult maturation.  Now George Vaillant follows the men into their nineties, documenting for the first time what it is like to flourish far beyond conventional retirement.  Reporting on all aspects of male life, including relationships, politics and religion, coping strategies, and alcohol use (its abuse being by far the greatest disruptor of health and happiness for the study's subjects), 'Triumphs of Experience' shares a number of surprising findings.  For example, the people who do well in old age did not necessarily do so well in midlife, and vice versa.  While the study confirms that recovery from a lousy childhood is possible, memories of a happy childhood are a lifelong source of strength.  Marriages bring much more contentment after age 70, and physical aging after 80 is determined less by heredity than by habits formed prior to age 50.  The credit for growing old with grace and vitality, it seems, goes more to ourselves than to our stellar genetic makeup."

In Triumphs of Experience, Vaillant raises a number of factors more often than others, but the one he refers to most often is the powerful correlation between the warmth of your relationships and your health and happiness in your later years.

Vallant notes that the 58 men who scored highest on the measurements of "warm relationships" (WR) earned an average of $141,000 a year more during their peak salaries (between ages 55-60) than the 31 men who scored the lowest in WR.  The high WR scorers were also 3-times more likely to have professional success worthy of inclusion in Who's Who.

One of the most intriguing discoveries of the Grant Study was how significant men's relationships with their mothers are in determining their well-being in life.  For instance, Business Insider writes: "Men who had 'warm' childhood relationships with their mothers took home $87,000 more per year than men whose mothers were uncaring.

On the other hand, warm childhood relations with fathers correlated with lower rates of adult anxiety, greater enjoyment on vacations, and increased 'life satisfaction' at age 75

In Vallant's own words, the #1 most important finding from the Grant Study is this: "The seventy-five years and twenty million dollars expended on the Grant Study points to a straightforward five-word conclusion: Happiness is love.  Full stop."

Monday, February 09, 2015

Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee




Another book from Harper Lee? Is it the biggest literary coup the world has ever witnessed?

No one can tell for sure. No one is certain what it means. What, however, is undeniable is the fact that fifty-five years ago in 1960 Harper Lee became a worldwide phenomenon with the publication of her novel, "To Kill a Mockingbird."

That's it! As the world went wild, she became a recluse of sort and no other book ever followed. Period. The world goes crazy with the announcement that another book from Harper Lee is set to come out this July, titled Go Set a Watchman. The striking similarity between the two titles can't be missed!

Nothing much is known about her new book except the blurbs available on retail sites. For the benefit of Huithiang readers, here's a brief biography of Harper Lee:

The woman who wrote To Kill a Mockingbird is 88 years old and uses a wheelchair, after a stroke. She is profoundly deaf, almost blind, and lives in a care home on the outskirts of the small town in Alabama where she was born. She has become the recluse people always thought she was, when actually she was just avoiding the extreme fame that goes with writing one of the best-loved novels of all time.

American writer, famous for her race relations novel To Kill a Mockingbird, which was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1961. The book became an international bestseller and was adapted into screen in 1962. Lee was 34 when the work was published, and it has remained her only novel.


"Mockingbirds don't do one thing but make music for us to enjoy. They don't eat up people's gardens, don't nest in corncribs, they don't do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That's why it's a sin to kill a mockingbird."
     
Descendent from Robert E. Lee, the Southern Civil War general, Harper Lee was born in Monroeville, Alabama. Her father was a former newspaper editor and proprietor, who had served as a state senator and practiced as a lawyer in Monroeville. Lee studied law at the University of Alabama from 1945 to 1949, and spent a year as an exchange student in Oxford University, Wellington Square. Six months before finishing her studies, she went to New York to pursue a literary career. She worked as an Airline reservation clerk with Eastern Air Lines and British Overseas Airways during the 1950s. In 1959 Lee accompanied Truman Capote to Holcombe, Kansas, as a research assistant for Capote's classic 'non-fiction' novel In Cold Blood (1966).
     
To Kill a Mockingbird was Lee's first novel. The book is set in Maycomb, Alabama, in the 1930s. Atticus Finch, a lawyer and a father, defends a black man, Tom Robinson, who is accused of raping a poor white girl, Mayella Ewell. The setting and several of the characters are drawn from life - Finch was the maiden name of Lee's mother and the character of Dill was drawn from Capote, Lee's childhood friend.

"But there is one way in this country in which all men are created equal - there is one human institution that makes a pauper the equal of a Rockefeller, the stupid man the equal of an Einstein, and the ignorant man the equal of any college president. That institution, gentlemen, is a court. It can be the Supreme Court of the United States of the humblest J.P. court in the land, or this honorable court which you serve. Our courts have their faults, as does any human institution, but in this country our courts are the great levelers, and in our courts all men are created equal." (Finch defending Tom Robinson)
     
The narrator is Finch's daughter, nicknamed Scout, an immensely intelligent and observant child. She starts the story when she is six and relates many of her experiences, usual interests of a child and collisions with the reality which intrudes into the sheltered world of childhood. Her mother is dead and she tries to keep pace with her older brother Jem. He breaks his arm so badly that it heals shorter than the other. During the humorous and sad events Scout and Jem learn a lesson in good and evil and justice. As Scout's narrative goes on, the reader realize that one watches a personality in the making. Scout tells her story in her own language which is obviously that of a child, but she also analyzes the events from the viewpoint of an already grown-up, mature person. We know that she will not grow to become a stiff society lady and she will never kill a mockingbird or wrong a weak person.
     
The first plot tells the story of Boo Radley, who is generally considered deranged, and the second concerns Tom Robinson. A jury of twelve white men refuse to look past the color of man's skin and convict Robinson of a crime he did not commit. Atticus, assigned to defend Tom, loses is court. Bob Ewell, Mayella's father, is obviously guilty of beating her for making sexual advances toward Tom. Bob attacks Jem and Scout because Atticus has exposed his daughter and him as liars. The children are saved by Boo Radley. Atticus and Calpurnia, the black cook, slowly became the moral centre of the book. They are portrayed as pillars of society who do not share society's prejudices. The story emphasizes that the children are born with an instinct for justice and absorb prejudices in the socialization process. Tom becomes a scapegoat of society's prejudice and violence. - "Mr. Finch, there's just some kind of men you have to shoot before you can say hidy to 'em. Even then, they ain't worth the bullet it takes to shoot 'em. Ewell 'as one of 'em."
     
Although her first novel gained a huge success, Lee did not continue her career as a writer. She returned from New York to Monroeville, where she has lived avoiding interviews. To Kill a Mockingbird has been translated into several languages. An illustrated English edition appeared in Moscow in 1977 for propaganda reasons. In the foreword Nadiya Matuzova, Dr.Philol., wrongly stated that "Harper Lee did not live to see her fiftieth birthday," and added perhaps rightly: "But her only, remarkable novel which continued the best traditions of the American authors who wrote about America's South - Mark Twain, William Faulkner, Erskine Caldwell and many others - will forever belong in the treasure of progressive American literature."

COURTESY: Harper Lee's Website

Saturday, December 06, 2014

Fun Facts About Christmas!

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With Christmas just round the corner, it's time to be in a festive mood and think things the Christmas-way. It is that time of the year, again, when everything turns sweet and nostalgic, a time to remember loved ones, a time when wishes could come true, and yes, a time that holds something special for everyone.
 
I was pleasantly surprised to find these cool Christmas facts from author Margaret Brownley's December newsletter and I'd love to share it with you guys and hope you enjoy it.
Oh no!  Scientists think that Rudolph's red nose might be caused by a parasitic infection of the respiratory system.

Speaking of Rudolph:The story of Santa's 9th reindeer was created by Robert L. May in 1939 as a giveaway coloring booklet for Montgomery Ward.

Some historians say that the new trend of hanging Christmas trees upside-down is really more traditional.  In the 1500s trees were hung upside-down to represent the Holy Trinity.
 
During World War II, the Bicycle playing card company secretly made  special decks for the U.S. government.  The decks were sent to American POWs in German camps as Christmas gifts. When the cards were moistened, they peeled apart revealing a map of escape routes. 
 
For a "green" Christmas put up a real tree. A fake tree would have to be reused for 20 years to be "greener" than a real tree.   Even then, there's all that plastic or metal ending up in landfills.   Oh, my... 
 
When Denny's decided to close its restaurants for the first time ever during the Christmas of 1986 they ran across some unexpected problems.  Designed to stay open twenty-four hours a day, some restaurants were built without  locks.  Others couldn't find the keys. 

The tradition of writing to Santa started in 1871 when Harper's Weekly published a cartoon by Thomas Nest showing Santa sitting at his desk reading letters. 

The most requested gift last year was an Apple iPad.  One of the most requested items during the 1800s was an....apple.

Jingle Bells was the first song to be performed in outer space.

Blame it on the war: The long shopping spree before Christmas began when relatives of soldiers posted overseas during the Second World War were encouraged to mail gifts early.


The 3 stages of man
He believes in Santa Claus.  
He doesn't believe in Santa Claus.
He IS Santa Claus!

Monday, November 24, 2014

Pain as a Starting Point



PHOTO CREDIT: UNKNOWN

My last day of work before Christmas vacation had been a busy one. With the car full of groceries, I pulled into my driveway and let out a sigh of relief. All that was left for me to do was put away the items I had bought and make dinner. As I turned off the ignition, I looked up to see my 12-year-old son racing out of the house. “Zoe’s been hit! Zoe’s been hit by a car!” he screamed.

Rushing into the house, I found my dog lying limp on the backroom floor. Blood oozed with each rattling breath. She seemed lifeless, near death. Her back leg was crooked and floppy, obviously broken.

All three of my boys moved into action and helped to unload the bags of groceries while I called the Emergency Animal Hospital. My eldest son and I lifted Zoe’s fifty-pound body into the back seat while the other two boys jumped into the car.

“What happened?” I asked as we headed to the vet’s office.Devon spoke up. “I was taking the garbage can out to the curb, and I let Zoe come with me.” “Without a leash?”

He looked guilty as tears fell down his cheeks. “Yes,” he said. “I didn’t know she would run into the road. I yelled and told her to come back but she ran right in front of a car!”

I looked back at Zoe. Her breaths were getting louder and now had a rattily, raspy quality.

“Listen guys, this is really bad. She may not make it. And if she dies, we will be turning around and going home.”

The tension and fear grew palpable in the car. At each stoplight Devon began to chant under his breath, “Please be green! Please be green!” His face was tight with tension as we waited at each red light.

I knew Devon adored Zoe. Recently he had been helping me train her. Images of him witnessing our family dog being struck by a car flashed through my head; I felt sick to my stomach. “How will this impact him if Zoe dies?” I wondered.

Glancing at him, I saw that his shoulders were stooped over and shaking with his sobs.

I joined my children’s quiet chant. Instead of repeating “please be green!” as we drove up to each stop light, I silently prayed, “Please don’t let Zoe die. The guilt and blame will deeply wound my son if our dog dies. Please, God, please don’t let Zoe die!”

Zoe came home a few days later, just in time to be with our family on Christmas Eve. It was the best Christmas gift I received that year because I knew both my dog and my son would recover.

God answered my prayer that day, but there have been plenty of times when I haven’t gotten the response I wanted. Sometimes God says no. As a psychologist, I have come to the realization through my counseling experiences that suffering is an inescapable part of our lives. Pain can come in many forms. Sometimes it is subtle and chronic, and other times it tears us apart with its cruelty and finality.

When we suffer, we often struggle to understand God. He might seem distant or unavailable. We begin to wonder if God has left us on our own.

We question whether or not God sees our problem and pain. And, we wonder if he knows about our situation. We ask, “Does he care?”

God, however, promises never to leave nor forsake us. Instead, he longs to equip us with the confidence and faith to face life’s uncertainties. Like Job, we may find life’s trials offer us an opportunity to rediscover and renew our faith. It can provide an opportunity to challenge our assumptions about what we believe. We may wonder: does life or God owe us anything? Can we really trust in God and his promises when we face challenges? How will we react emotionally to pain? Pain can act as a starting point in our search for a deeper relationship with God.

Kerry Kerr McAvoy | Taken from the introduction to Pain as a Starting Point | Kindle Edition