Poem: Stars

One morning you awaken,

Earlier than usual, and

All the stars in the sky are burning, and

On fire.

You freak out. This changes everything about your day, your life, your world.

Until the day you realize they have always been burning, and

On fire.

Nothing has changed.

Poem: Sometimes Something

Sometimes I wake up while awake, 
     to a pain in my stomach.

— Something I ate, or hopelessness & despair.

Sometimes I reach and stop,
     from a soreness in my arm.

— Something I tore, or frustration & anger.

Sometimes I step, 
     then stumble.

— Something I twisted, or ego & guilt.

Sometimes I breathe,
     and cannot.

— Something is tight, or sad & betrayed.

Unbelievable, Untranslatable Words

Here is a short list of non-English words which carry such specific meanings that they “cannot be translated” into English. Enjoy!


Language: Japanese

Here is another great Japanese word with no English equivalent (though I am sure someone can come up with one in the comments). Bakku-shan is the word for a girl who looks pretty from behind but ugly in front. I can’t find out whether they have a word for the reverse situation, or for that other frighteningly common problem these days, where you think a girl looks good from behind only to discover that she is a he! Modern fashion has a lot to answer for!


Language: Kiriwani (Papa New Guinea)

It is the act of comparing yams (potato-like vegetable) to settle a dispute.


Language: Portuguese

The act of tenderly running one’s fingers through someone’s hair. (Altalang.com)


Language: French

The feeling that comes from not being in one’s home country.


Language: Spanish

While originally used to describe a mythical, sprite-like entity that possesses humans and creates the feeling of awe of one’s surroundings in nature, its meaning has transitioned into referring to the mysterious power that a work of art has to deeply move a person. (Altalang.com)

Esprit d’Escalier

Language: French

That witty comeback that you think of moments after leaving the situation in which you might have been able to use it. The staircase is a reference to your departure from the scene. This is a dreadful thing to experience, and most of the time we don’t get a chance to say the clever thing we come up with. Now, someone just needs to coin a term for the person who is so clever that he always says the right thing, without fail.


Language: Norwegian

The euphoria you experience when you’re first falling in love.

This is a wonderful term for that blissful state, when all your senses are acute for the beloved, the pins and needles thrill of the novelty. There’s a phrase in English for this, but it’s clunky. It’s New Relationship Energy, or NRE.


Language: Danish

The complete absence of anything annoying, irritating or emotionally overwhelming, and the presence of and pleasure from comforting, gentle and soothing things. It is especially associated with Christmas time, grilling Danish sausage on long summer evenings and sitting around lit candles on a rainy night.


Language: Tshiluba / Bantu (Southwest Congo)

A word famous for its untranslatability, most professional translators pinpoint it as the stature of a person who is ready to forgive and forget any first abuse, tolerate it the second time, but never forgive nor tolerate on the third offense. (Altalang.com) It’s the “three strikes and you’re out” policy. In 2004, it had the sole distinction of being chosen as the world’s most difficult word to translate.


Language: Inuit

To go outside to check if anyone is coming. (Altalang.com)


Language: Indonesian

A joke so poorly told and so unfunny that one cannot help but laugh. (Altalang.com)


Language: Swedish

Somewhere between “just the right amount” and “enough.” It expresses a sense of balance and satisfaction with having your needs met without needing excess.

Koi No Yokan

Language: Japanese

The sense upon first meeting a person that the two of you are going to fall into love. This is different than love at first sight, since it implies that you might have a sense of imminent love, somewhere down the road, without yet feeling it. The term captures the intimation of inevitable love in the future, rather than the instant attraction implied by love at first sight.


Language: Japanese

A mother who relentlessly pushes her children toward academic achievement. (Altalang.com) No doubt we are all familiar with the stereotype of Japanese mothers who push their children far too hard when it comes to schoolwork. Literally translated this means “education mother”.

La Douleur Exquise

Language: French

The heart-wrenching pain of wanting someone you can’t have.

When I came across this word I thought of unrequited love. It’s not quite the same, though. Unrequited love describes a relationship state, but not a state of mind. Unrequited love encompasses the lover who isn’t reciprocating, as well as the lover who desires. This phrase gets at the emotional heartache, specifically, of being the one whose love is unreciprocated.

L’Appel Du Vide

Language: French

‘The call of the void’ is this French expression’s literal translation, but more significantly it’s used to describe the instinctive urge to jump from high places.


Language: Czech

Milan Kundera, author of ‘The Unbearable Lightness of Being’, said about this word ‘I have looked in vain in other languages for an equivalent, though I find it difficult to imagine how anyone can understand the human soul without it’. The closest definition is a state of agony and torment created by the sudden sight of one’s own misery.


Language: Yagan (Tierra del Fuego)

The wordless, yet meaningful look shared by two people who both desire to initiate something but are both reluctant to start. (Altalang.com) Oh yes, this is an exquisite word, compressing a thrilling and scary relationship moment. It’s that delicious, “on the edge” moment of imminent seduction. Neither of you has mustered the courage to make a move, yet. Hands haven’t been placed on knees; you’ve not kissed. But you’ve both conveyed enough to know that it will happen soon very soon.


Language: Czech

This word means to call a mobile phone and let it ring once so that the other person will call back, saving the first caller money. (Altalang.com)


Language: Italian

Are you one of those people who really don’t care all that much about politics and issues in society? Then this word applies to you. The term came from a political party in Italy, in 1944, which promoted anti-political feelings and a mistrust of public organizations. The party was called the “Fronte dell’Uomo Qualunque” or the front of the ordinary man. Rather appropriate considering how many people obviously feel this way about politics as is evidenced by the low voter turnouts that we often see in elections.


Language: French

The happiness of meeting someone again after a long time. This is such a basic concept, and so familiar to the growing ranks of commuter relationships, or to a relationship of lovers, who see each other only periodically for intense bursts of pleasure. I’m surprised we don’t have any equivalent word for this subset of relationship bliss. It’s a handy one for modern life.


Language: Portuguese

One of the most beautiful of all words, translatable or not, this word refers to the feeling of painful longing for something or someone that you love and which is lost. Fado music, a type of mournful singing, relates to this word. (Altalang.com) Another linguist describes it as a “vague and constant desire for something that does not and probably cannot exist.”


Language: German

Quite famous for its meaning that somehow other languages neglected to recognize, this refers to the feeling of pleasure derived by seeing another’s misfortune.


Language: Scottish

The act of hesitating while introducing someone because you’ve forgotten his or her name. (Altalang.com)


Language: Pascuense (Easter Island)

The act of slowly taking all of the objects you desire from the house of a friend by gradually borrowing all of them. (Altalang.com)


Language: German

Translated literally, this word means gate-closing panic, but its contextual meaning refers to the fear of diminishing opportunities as one ages. (Altalang.com)


Language: Russian

Vladmir Nabokov describes it best: No single word in English renders all the shades of toska. At its deepest and most painful, it is a sensation of great spiritual anguish, often without any specific cause. At less morbid levels it is a dull ache of the soul, a longing with nothing to long for, a sick pining, a vague restlessness, mental throes, yearning. In particular cases, it may be the desire for somebody of something specific, nostalgia, love-sickness. At the lowest level it grades into ennui, boredom.


Language: Dutch

It means to walk in the wind, but in the more figurative (and commonly used) sense, it means to take a brief break in the countryside to clear one’s head. It is amazing that one word needs so many in English to make the same sense.


Language: Japanese

Much has been written on this Japanese concept, but in a sentence, one might be able to understand it as a way of living that focuses on finding beauty within the imperfections of life and accepting peacefully the natural cycle of growth and decay.(Altalang.com)

Ya ‘Aburnee

Language: Arabic

Both morbid and beautiful at once, this incantatory word means ‘You bury me’. It is a declaration of one’s hope that they’ll die before another person because of how difficult it would be to live without them. It’s the sickly sincere “How Could I Live Without You?” in Arabic.

Yoko Meshi

Language: Japanese

Taken literally, yoko means ‘horizontal,’ and meshi means ‘boiled rice.’ Combined, the sense is one of ‘a meal eaten sideways.’ This is how the Japanese define the peculiar stress induced by speaking a foreign language: yoko is a humorous reference to the fact that Japanese is normally written vertically, whereas most foreign languages are written horizontally.


Language: Chinese

A relationship by fate or destiny. This is a complex concept. It draws on principles of predetermination in Chinese culture, which dictate relationships, encounters and affinities, mostly among lovers and friends. From what I glean, in common usage this word means the “binding force” that links two people together in any relationship. But interestingly, fate isn’t the same thing as destiny. Even if lovers are fated to find each other they may not end up together. The proverb, have fate without destiny, describes couples who meet, but who don’t stay together, for whatever reason. It’s interesting, to distinguish in love between the fated and the destined. Romantic comedies, of course, confound the two.


Language: Polish

It is the use of friends, bribes, personal charm or connections to get something done. This was particularly useful in the days of communism, as it was easier to get something you wanted through guile as opposed to official means.


The source for all of this post comes from these great sources.

The Meaning Of Joy

When we pose the question “What is the meaning of happiness?” we are often referring to the esoteric search for happiness. We are looking for something bigger – starting a discussion more profound – like the discussion regarding our collective purpose in life. My question here is more simple. Quite literally, what is the dictionary definition of joy?

Perhaps you’ve heard the (trite) anthropological/linguistic example that Inuits of the coldest regions of Canada have “30 words for ‘snow’ ” in their native tongue. The idea that the more our life experience exposes us to something the more appreciation we have for its subtleties — an appreciate that comes with vocabulary. Conversely, one of the first insults purists will give insult and marginalize is a lack of distinction. Such as ‘rap music all sounds the same’ or ‘they all look identical. This lack of specificity is related to a lack of exposure.

Recognizing subtlety is part of appreciating something, part of respecting something, regardless if you agree with it or not.

Tangentially related to this stream of consciousness, I’m curious at the subtle differences between words like ‘joy’, ‘pleasure’, and ‘happiness’ and curious about how learning more will influence my relationship with the concepts behind the words.

‘Joy’… And other words…

The New Oxford American Dictionary has the following definitions.

Bliss –Perfect happiness. A state of spiritual blessedness, typically that reached after death.
Cheerfulness –Noticeably happy and optimistic
Contentment –A state of happiness and satisfaction
Delight –Feeling extremely pleased
Ecstasy –An overwhelming feeling of great happiness or joyful excitement
Ebullience –The quality of being cheerful and full of energy
Elation –Great happiness and exhilaration
Enjoyment –The state or process of taking pleasure in something
Euphoria –A feeling or state of intense excitement and happiness
Exhilaration –A feeling of happiness, animation, or elation
Exuberance –The quality of being full of energy, excitement, and cheerfulness;
Exultation –A feeling of triumphant elation or jubilation
Felicity –Intense happiness
Gladness –Emotion of being pleased / delighted
Glee –Great delight
Happiness –The state of feeling or showing pleasure or contentment
Joy –A feeling of great pleasure and happiness
Jubilation –A feeling of great happiness and triumph.
Pleasure –A feeling of happy satisfaction and enjoyment
Rapture –A feeling of intense pleasure or joy
Satisfaction –Fulfillment of one’s wishes, expectations, or needs, or the pleasure derived from this

So What Does All That Mean?

Many of these words seem to be interchangeable. I’ll think for a bit about this and revisit this post soon. Soon I’ll examine a few of the core differences.

Are We Lost Without Goals?

At the end of 2010 I set aside time to review my accomplishments for the year and to look ahead at 2011. As an avid reader of self-help books and personal management I leanred that goal-setting is a basic, essential ingredient to success. Or is it? I recently read this post on ZenHabits called Living Without Goals.

I believe the author is genuine in his recommendation toward a life of achievement without the over-burdened ‘structure’ and ‘limitation’ of strict goals. However, for me it reads a bit like satire.
I’m goal oriented. The links above illustrate that.

But I really enjoyed the article and it reminded me of a balance issue I think about often. If executing on my goals occupies 100% of my time, when do I improvise? How do I enjoy the subtleties of the moment at hand? What if I’m ‘wrong’ in my goals? What if my goals don’t capture everything and what if my goals change? I guess I have some answers for each of those, but more abstractly I think “How much of my week should be pre-planned and how much should be improvisation”.

“80 percent of success is just showing up” — Woody Allen

I love that quote. Not that success is easy, because ‘showing up’ is not easy. Fear often prevents it. But success is ‘natural’. Its automatic, given the right recipe of conditions. Maybe not all successes, but most. For me, setting goals is ‘showing up’.

The Importance of Goals

Goals are important. But first a bit on the meaning of life. I think the fundamental problem with most people’s lives is solely that they don’t know what they want, and they don’t go after it. In the the west, the latter part is more common – the ambition. But like a headless chicken – still running energetically around the farm, what good is this ambition if it has no direction and purpose. How to decide the direction and purpose is more complex. But in general, if it feels right to you, in a genuine fashion, then you are on the right track.

Finding out exactly what you want is something I think that almost noone seeks. More on that another time…
Now, the gap between knowing what we want…. and getting it, is goals. Goals help us get from a to b. Goals help us measure our progress. Is the progress to fast? Slow down, or more likely is it too slow? Speed up! Measurement helps you analyze (or simply ‘know’) how you are doing.

Personal goal setting also provides us with motivation to achieve what we want to achieve.

The important trick would be to make our goals as detailed as possible. Trying to vividly imagine or describe every thinkable aspect of it so that it becomes clearer in our mind. Then it becomes relatively easier to pursue it. If you don’t have goals then you are just wandering in the wild without any clear idea of where you want to go. That is why goal setting is so important.

What about improvisation?

Do you know what is one of the most important point in goal setting? It is to take action right now, however small. This helps maintain focus.
What is we change our mind? Think about it, honestly, and change your goals. Be careful to change your goals for the right reasons (not out of fear). Goals should be completely fixed, until you care to change them. Ha.


I have a long list of places in the world I’d like to visit. Generally to meet professional goals, I allow myself to be flexible to take a new contract job anywhere. Flexibility is a goal. I may plan to visit C. America, but get invited to the Caribbean. I check the new thoughts and new opportunities against my goals, and the larger plan. If I feel like a change is in my best interest – I go for it.

What about now?

But if we are always acting now on our future goals, how does that leave time for ‘now’. Good question. We know that living in the present moment (without the baggage of the past and the distractions of the future) is liberating and leads to a fruitful life. Improvisation is more of a perspective. It can easily work in concert with goal setting. So one of your primary guidelines should be to set goals that fit with the personality you have (or that you want to have).

Here are some ways you know you are living in the present moment;

  1. You feel fully ‘there’ and alive. Like after 2 cups of coffee, but without the coffee.
  2. There is a complete absence of fear or guilt.
  3. What you do feel is a sense of calm and focus.
  4. You can see the trees, but feel connected to the forest.
  5. You are conscious of each choice you make as you go through your day, and recognize that life is created through these ‘little’ choices, or non-choices, for that matter.
  6. There are no awkward relationships. I love the book The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom, A Toltec Wisdom Book (See all Self-Help Books), by Don Miguel Ruiz . Basically it says, put the ‘real’ you out there in the world and it will minimize the B.S. in life.


After much experience working while traveling, I settled on the quota of ’20 billable hours per week’ as the perfect blend. I add another 10-20 hours of non-billable hours (pre-sales with new clients, maintaining expertise by learning, maintaining internal projects, etc…) and I have a full ‘work week’. This leaves ample time to explore my surroundings and enjoy leisure time. 20 hours is an ideal. To meet other financial goals, I must offer 40 hours a week to my clients. This makes my impact more significant and makes me a competitive option against full-time employees or other contractors (where 40 hours is the assumed hourage). So my goal is to offer my services at 40 hours per week to capture the clients I want. I had to flex here from my original ’20 billable hours’. This is a compromise. Its a balance between the ideals and the practical realities needed to meet my larger goals.


  • Pretend your heart is the size of your head. – Declare your dreams.
  • Pretend you are fearless – Set your goals.
  • ‘Show Up’, Reach for your goals while living in the ‘now’.

Book Review: Conversations With God

While traveling in Cappadocia, Turkey in Fall 2011 I stayed at a hotel built into an old cave. The Cappadocia region is known for the early christian culture that made refuge from non-christian leadership by making their hidden homes inside carved rooms in the mountains. The landscape looks like a cross between drippy-sandcastles and the surface of the moon. Over breakfast in this scenic location, I found a book of interest in the book-swap shelf. Actually, I found 2. Conversations With God Books 1 and 2 by Neal Donald Walsch. I had heard of the books before, but wanted to know more. I swapped a few books of mine to pick them up and started reading.

The books are meant to be a ‘real’ conversations between the author and god. A conversation the author claims happened between 1993 and the few years that followed. He considered himself a christian, but the books cover a perspective that is decidedly non-traditionally christian, or not christian at all, depending on your point of view. The original 3 books covered here sold very well, as have some follow-up books by the author. More about the author can be found at his website nealedonaldwalsch.com.

I found CWG, particularly book 1, to be a refreshing take on religion. It is seductively easy to read, because it tells the reader what he wants to hear. That we are empowered to be anything we want, that heaven and hell do not exist, and that there is no sin and no judgement process.

Summary of CWG

Here is Sylvain Poirier‘s summary of Neale Donald Walsch’s doctrine as expressed in the Conversations with God book 1:

The goal of your life is to seek what is Truth and Love (according to God’s messages of feelings (and I do not remember what)) and to recognize, re-member, find, choose, create, become and make the experience of Who You Are and Who You Want To Be. You do not have to seek knowledge (because you  already have knowledge, as a spirit connected to the Whole), but you have to act to express Who You Are without worrying about the result, because the result is assured: nothing is bad, nothing matters, nothing does oppose the will of God or escapes Him, because God is all, accepts all and will be always there to recover us.

Nothing comes by chance, all is the expression of a will by oneself, others, or the totality of the spirits of the universe. One does not have to want something from outside (as to want it is the assertion of a lack, a negative thought which has the spiritual power to be realized as a lack thus pushing away its satisfaction) but if something that we undergo does not reflect our Highest Idea of the life, one must endorse one’s responsibility by recognizing our unity of spiritual nature with those who caused it, and change our choices in order to bring us closer this Idea that we want to reflect.

Decision Making

I created this diagram to outline the CWG perspective on decision making.

God’s motive for creation – In Walsch’s first dialogue, God notes that “knowing” and “experiencing” oneself are different things. Before creation there was only That-Which-Is, which cannot know or experience itself fully, without something it is not. It cannot know itself as love, since nothing exists but love. It cannot know itself as giving since nothing else exists to give to. It cannot experience itself in myriad ways because everything is one.

Some parallels we see between Walsch’s god’s perspective and other religions are;

  • Souls reincarnate to experience God- ([Hinduism]/’ ‘Bhagavad-Gita/Sikhism).
  • Feelings are more important as a source of guidance than intellect (Rousseau).
  • We are not here to learn anything new but to remember what we already know (Hinduism/Plato).
  • Physical reality is an illusion (Hinduism/ Sikhism/Buddhism‘s concept of maya).
  • One cannot understand one thing unless he or she understands its opposite (Tao Te Ching).
  • God is everything. (Hinduism / Spinoza / Brahman)
  • God is self-experiential, in that it is the nature of the Universe to experience itself. (Hinduism/Hegel, and process theology as first outlined by Alfred North Whitehead)
  • God is not fear-inducing or vengeful, only our parental projections onto God are. Fear or love are the two basic alternative perspectives on life (Drewermann)
  • Good and evil do not exist (as absolutes, but can exist in a different context and for different reasons as Nietzsche).
  • Reality is a representation created by will. (Schopenhauer)
  • Nobody knowingly desires evil. (Socrates)
  • It’s just a ride. (Bill Hicks)

In Favor of CWG

Evita Ochel of EvolvingBeings celebrates the book. She says, “I personally consider this one book, and it is “the book” that has helped me remember who I really am, why I am here and the greater purpose of it all. This is the book that changed my life, and began a huge spiritual shift within me, as well as marked the start of a very special journey of awakening for me.

Aaron says, “I don’t know if Mr. Walsh is talking to God or not. I don’t really care. What I have read in these books has caused me to ask questions about my own belief system and ask questions about my understanding of me, God, and the Universe. The real treasure with this book and this trilogy, is that we are asked to question our understanding of our Self. We are asked to do the unthinkable and question the validity of organized religions. We are asked to question the direction of our life and determine if that direction will define Who We Really Are.”

Against CWG

Professor Donald Mitchell says, “The main thing I would like to say in the beginning is that this book shares some elements with Christianity, but is certainly not Christianity of the sort that most people will recognize. So if you do not like to read books that are at odds with your version of Christianity, avoid this one. It will be a one star book for you.”

The most unexpected part of the book for me was that the voice of God (as described in the book) is a very colloquial and humorous one. It is hard for me to equate this God with the God of Moses and Jesus Christ. But that may just be my limitation. To give you a flavor, the language is much like that in the George Burns movie of many years ago, Oh God.

Blogger, JPH found poor Biblical exegesis here and there, but nothing solid or worth reporting.

Here are some highlights from each book

Book One

From Amazon – Conversations with God Book 1 began a series that has been changing millions of lives for more than ten years. Finally, the bestselling series is now a movie, starring Henry Czerny (The Pink Panther and Clear and Present Danger) and Ingrid Boulting (The Last Tycoon). Produced and directed by Stephen Simon (producer of Somewhere in Time and What Dreams May Come) and distributed by Samuel Goldwyn Films and Fox Home Entertainment, the theatrical release is set for October 27, 2006. The movie is the true account of Walsch (played by Cierny), who went from an unemployed homeless man to an “accidental spiritual messenger” and author of the bestselling book


Here are some quotes;

  1. So-do you want your life to ‘take off?’ Begin at once to imagine it the way you want it to be–and move into that. Check every thought, word, and action that does not fall into harmony with that. Move away from those.”
  2. “When you catch yourself thinking negative thoughts–thoughts that negate your highest idea about a thing–think again! I want you to do this, literally. If you think you are in a doldrum, in a pickle, and no good can come of this, think again. If you think the world is a bad place, filled with negative events, think again. If you think your life is falling apart, and it looks as if you’ll never get it back together again, think again.”
  3. There is nothing scary about life if you are not attached to the results.”
  4. “Choose, but don’t want. Think ‘I choose success,’ not ‘I want success.’”
  5. “There is nothing you cannot be, there is nothing you cannot do. There is nothing you cannot have.”
  6. “The most rapid way to change a root thought, or sponsoring idea, is to reverse the thought-word-deed process. Do the deed that you want to have the new thought about. Then say the words that you want to have your new thought about. Do this often enough and you’ll train the mind to think a new way.”

Book Two

From Amazon – In Conversations with God: Book II, Neale Walsch and God resume their discussion and move on to larger topics than the personal issues addressed in their previous dialogue in Volume 1. For an “unedited transcript” of a conversation, Book II is remarkably well organized and articulate, as if Walsch anticipatd our “but what about” questions before we asked them. The peculiar pair discuss time, space, politics, and even kinky sex, but Conversations with God: Book II isn’t here for just shock value. It is an honest look at some of the broad issues important to all of us on the planet, and a suggestion of how things might go if we are all willing to open our minds and have our own conversations with divinity.

Book Three

From Amazon – The dialogue expands . . . Conversations with God, Book 3 is the final book of the original three-book series. As was written in the introduction to Book 1, it deals with “universal truths of the highest order, and the challenges and opportunities of the soul.” In Book 3, the dialogue expands to include more about the nature of God, about love and fear, about Who We Are and who we may become, and about the evolution of the human species that is about to take its place in the universal neighborhood. Here is a profound dialogue about the culture, philosophy, and spirituality of highly evolved beings (some of whom we presently call “aliens” or “ETs”) in other realms of the universe, and how they have learned to view life, love, and the pursuit of happiness. By reading this book, you will begin to see life in a different way and begin to question the truth of what you have known on this planet: “And so I end this dialogue as it began. As with life itself, it comes full circle. You have been given truth here. You have been given joy. You have been given love. You have been given here the answers to the largest mysteries of life. There is now only one question remaining. It is the question with which we began. “The question is not, to whom do I talk, but who listens?”


There is a movie of Conversations With God, from 2006. It has an ‘after school special’ low-budget feel. I don’t recommend it.