A couple of years ago, a grandfather clock my wife inherited was set up and made operational in our home. Not having ever been in the presence of a grandfather clock for any great length of time, I was afraid that I would be caught in a Tell-Tale Heart scenario, being driven mad on a daily basis by the incessant tick, tick, tick. In addition, the clock chimes every quarter hour. It took less than two full days to realize that my fears were completely unfounded. Not only do I not hear the clock ticking, there are times when I do not even hear the clock chime. That was the case this morning. I was less than twenty five feet from the clock, engaging in my morning routine of reading in the absolute dead silence of the early morning hours. I sat down at the top of the hour and fifty minutes later it occurred to me that I had not heard the clock chime on the fifteen minute intervals. I glanced over to ensure the pendulum was swinging and it was. I know the clock had to have chimed but could not believe that I was not consciously aware of it; not once, not twice, but three times. At the top of the next hour, with my attention fixed on the clock, I indeed heard the chimes.
I am fully aware that the human brain takes in a tremendous amount of information on the unconscious level and far less on the conscious level, but what really struck me this morning was that I could get so accustomed to something, in this case a noise, that my conscious brain no longer finds it important enough to register. In relation to a clock chiming this is no big deal, but then I started thinking about other things I am missing because I have grown so accustomed to them. How I interact with my wife and kids; am I so accustomed that I miss their chimes, such as needs, desires and hurts? Am I so accustomed to my drive to work that I pay so little attention that I could put myself and others in danger? Do I "sleepwalk" through the day (daily routine) because everything is so familiar that I can do most things without thinking too deeply at all?
There is so much going on around us, but we can only focus on one things at a time. Be purposeful about what you focus on. Rather than just floating through each day on auto-pilot, be purposeful about what you think. Ephesians chapter 4 talks about putting off the old self and being renewed in the spirit of your mind. This means to consciously think about what you think about. Don't just let garbage float into your mind unchecked. Only watch, listen to and read things that add value to you, get rid of everything that does not add value.
Remember to "Set Your Mind" each morning by deciding what you will allow to enter your mind. And remember, we are what we continually think about.
I have always been a person prone to daydreaming. Before the proliferation of gray hair upon my head and chin, my daydreams often took the form of what my future would look like. Who I would be, where I would live, what I would do and anything else that could have anything to do with me. Now, my time of daydreaming can more accurately be described as time of reflection, though the practices look identical. Like most people, I have had the extreme good fortune of knowing and spending time with some incredible people, and it is those people and more importantly, their character, that I reflect on now. I often point to four men in my early years who were the biggest influences in my life; my dad, my Uncle Bob, my Uncle Hod and Charles "Pat" Maska, who along with his wife April, were the Skippers (leaders) of the Sea Explorer ship in town. Mr. Maska and both of my uncles have passed away and though no longer here in body, their spirits continue to speak to and guide me.
Mr. Maska was one of the really special people that every ten-ager should have the opportunity to know. He dedicated his life to not only raising his own six kids, but also being a mentor to hundreds of teen-age boys and girls through Sea Exploring. Mr. Maska worked at Texaco refinery, later Coastal, and only had a set number of vacation days per year. He, along with April, used his vacation time to take us on incredible adventures. We sailed on the Coast Guard's tall ship Eagle as part of the crew. Fifteen and sixteen year old boys and girls climbing the mast, walking the yardarms to unfurl the sails, standing watch, steering the ship, working in the galley round the clock on a seven day cruise. We took week long trips to the Adirondack Mountains and traveled to weekend competitions from New England to Virginia to compete against other ships in a variety of nautical skills and physical contests. Although I spent countless hours with April and Mr. Maska, the most vivid memory I have of him is from a day in July at Cooper River. Mr. Maska had dropped us and two sailboats for an afternoon of sailing. He told us what time he would be back and to have the boats ready to be loaded up at that time. Well,,,he arrived and I was on the other side of the lake. I did not want to keep him and the others waiting so I tried in vain to sail directly from one side of the lake to the other, which with the wind against you is not possible. So I struggled and struggled and when I go close enough that I thought I could jump out and walk the sailboat to the ramp, I sank down to my eyeballs and struggled even more to get the boat in. Mr. Maska stood on the shore patiently waiting for me to present my soaking self to him. I stood before him looking like a drowned rat and offered some ridiculously feeble excuse for not being where I was supposed to be on time. He looked at me and said, "The shortest distance between two points is a straight line...unless you are in a sailboat." He then calmly explained the need to tack when the wind is against you. He could have been upset, frustrated, angry...but he was calm, controlled and deliberate...as he always was and did not let a chance slip by to teach a young man with not only his words, but more importantly, his character. Those words have echoed in my ears for almost forty years and I have applied them over and over again in a variety of situations; but the words would not have stuck had it not been the amazing character of the man who spoke them.