December 29, 2017

Having just completed 28 months of my existence here at Bastrop Federal Satellite camp, I've encountered a few men who would be close friends in the 'world'. One of them left this month to participate in RDAP, the residential drug and alcohol program which is not available here. I've written about that program before. He was the self proclaimed "In-House Editor" of this blog and I'll miss his comments like "Those self-help books are doing you no good." or "That was way too Baptist for most normal folks." or "Were you having an out of body experience when you wrote that?" He referred to himself in the 3rd person as "Ben Bradlee," after the famous executive editor of The Washington Post during the Watergate scandal. He'll have the option to return to Bastrop in about a year when the program concludes in Texarkana. Until then, I'll have to rely solely on my "Editor At Large," Jana Rundle, who also refers to herself in the 3rd person.

Here's an insightful word from Ian Morgan Cron's bo...

December 24, 2017

In this 3rd and final search for happiness, again inspired by the November 2017  National Geographic article by Dan Beuttner, I'm reminded that from an individual perspective, love is the key to happiness. I also know that real happiness is more than just being 'happy'. It's being content with myself and my surroundings, letting that joy flow to others, and experiencing the flow of that connection. I know this because "God is love" and the teachings of Jesus tell me to love God and to love my neighbor and even to love my enemies. I also know that Jesus' life exemplified those teachings. But I can be a little slow. Sometimes I don't learn so well from words or examples. Maybe I find it easier to 'worship' Jesus than to 'emulate' him. 

Perhaps a good beginning place for this topic is to explore why happiness can be elusive. Practically speaking, maybe I'm not happy because I'm angry or have been hurt. I could also be unhappy because when I look in the mirror, I see someone who's not...

December 19, 2017

I'm still here at Bastrop Federal Satellite Camp searching for happiness, returning to the November National Geographic article by Dan Buettner. I wrote previously about the happiest countries--Costa Rica, Denmark and Singapore. Today I'm wondering why the United States is not, and I'm reminded of my most unforgettable moment in television drama. It aired on June 24, 2012 in the opening scene of Aaron Sorkin's Newsroom series when actor Jeff Daniels answered the softball question, "Can you say why America is the greatest country in the world?" I think Sorkin may have been onto something about our happiness. If you missed that scene, it's worth 4 minutes and can be viewed here.

On January 20, 1961, John F. Kennedy stood on the western steps of our nation's Capitol and spoke these now familiar words to those gathered on the National Mall, "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country." Fifty six years later, Donald J. Trump stood at that same place and sa...

December 14, 2017

The lead article of the November National Geographic was entitled "The Search for Happiness" by Dan Buettner. In it, he includes information from the most recent Gallup World Poll which attempts to determine, based on the answers to dozens of questions, the measure of happiness in over 140 countries. Obviously, different cultures have varying ideas about what it means to be happy, but the results are compelling. Based on the survey, the happiest countries are Costa Rica, Denmark, and Singapore. Three countries that could hardly be more different.

In Singapore, people complain about rising prices and their overworked lives, but almost all of them say they feel safe and trust one another. Since independence in 1965, its society has been based on harmony, respect, and hard work. One reason for the happiness is that they still live lives consistent with these founding values. Religious freedom, equal education for all, and subsidized home ownership are guaranteed. Most Singaporeans own a fl...

December 9, 2017

I know many people think we start too early celebrating the holidays with decorations and music, but not me. With Veteran's Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanzaa, New Year's Eve and Festivus, what's wrong with taking 14.5% of the year and intentionally focusing on a little joy and gratitude?

Most of the distractions that get in the way of your holiday season don't exist for me here at Bastrop Federal Satellite Camp. There is never the feeling of not enough sleep or time, not enough weekends. Life is neither too hurried nor too challenging. None of the usual factors that grow into a general lack of joy can shroud what keeps me from appreciating this time of year. So I have no excuse, other than federal prison...and that's not enough.

As I consider this time of year, one of the best parts of the holiday season is the lights. Colored lights are fine, but I prefer the clear ones and have been known to line roofs, flower beds, sidewalks and wrap trees and branches with them. I've als...

December 4, 2017

Of all the places I've lived, none comes close to living on the banks of the Brazos River. Thanks to a low water dam below Waco, the water was normally a constant level and glasslike, begging me or teasing me to put on a slalom ski. But in the consistency, there was constant change that most folks never noticed unless they lived on the river. Of course, we could usually count on at least one flood each year when our pleasant Lake Brazos was again a raging river the color of refried beans. In those floods I've witnessed the water rise 18 feet in 8 hours, with uprooted 100 year old cottonwood trees bobbing downriver like twigs on their way to the Gulf of Mexico. Being on the river is being closer to life and to death and rebirth, thus a little closer to God.

I reread Goodbye to a River by John Graves last month. The book was even better than it's first reading years ago. It's the account of Graves' November canoe trip down the Brazos from below Possum Kingdom Dam in Palo Pinto Country, na...

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© 2016 by Charles D. Jones