You Be the Judge

The Dix clan embarked upon an urban Indianapolis adventure on a beautiful late August, Saturday afternoon. We ended up at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. Little did I realize that I had a couple of stowaways with us.  My inner Siamese twins, Judge and Critic,  had tagged along for the ride.

The IMA has invested a sizeable amount of money into a new outdoor experience called 100 Acres: The Virginia B. Fairbanks Art & Nature Park. We had heard about the park, but had not really researched it, so we didn’t know what to expect when we headed off into the 100 acre woods.

We walked right past two separate wedding settings being constructed. One was complete with elegantly dressed grandparents of the soon-to-be newlyweds, enjoying the shade of an ancient tree. They sat like statues in alabaster folding chairs and stared at the formal gardens, which were the site of the upcoming vow exchange.  Perhaps they were reminiscing of their first chaste public kiss that would seal their own ’til death do us part commitment to each other.  I’ll never know, because at that moment, I began to hear from Judge and Critic.

A more enlightened onlooker would have stopped and savored this bit of performance art. However, Judge and Critic were quick to grab my mind’s inner microphone and warn of intruding on this public/private event and implored me to just keep on moving. “Nothing to see here folks,” advised Judge. Critic lamented that we couldn’t walk the formal garden due to the wedding setting.  On we walked…

We entered the 100 Acre woods anticipating exciting glimpses of wild art in its natural setting.  I think my young girls were hoping for climbable art. We crossed the red bridge that spans the canal and entered under a green canopy of trees. 

“Where’s all the art?” asked a bored Critic. “All I see is woods.” Judge quickly agreed and noted that it seemed  to be just a hike and not an art exhibit.  This  inner whining was in full swing as we walked through various trees, vines and undergrowth of all shapes, shades and hues that lined the well maintained crushed stone walkways.  Shadows flashed on the ground from a diffused sun occasionally, as the breeze parted the treetops briefly. Critic, preoccupied with trying to spot poison ivy and snakes, failed to notice the trees’ performance art.

When we finally found the man-made art on display, I could not really get a good look, because Critic and Judge blocked my view.  I could plainly hear them sniping between themselves, “Is this a park bench or a piece of art?” “How is a floating igloo called art?”  Their negative commentary grew louder the more tired, hot and thirsty I became.

Finally, we all decided to give up on the 100 Acres and spend some time in the air conditioned comfort of the main museum.  After partaking in cold refreshments, (that were somewhat unsurprising a bit pricy per Judge and Critic), we wanted to use the few remaining moments before the museum’s closing to see some art.

The main entrance to the museum was temporarily blocked for installation of a new gigantic textile artwork that was being hung strand by colored strand, like a giant spider’s web, from the ceiling.  Rather than stop and marvel at this work-in-progress, Critic and Judge urged the family on to the exhibit halls because time was a-wasting and we needed to see some “real art.”

We ventured to the third floor and our 9-year-old raced to see Jeppe Hein’s Distance.  She raced to follow a white plastic ball that released as we entered this operational sculpture. It rolled on a steel rollercoaster track through walls and into different rooms.  She laughed and giggled and pointed and ran to follow her ball on its journey.  I tried to keep up with her, but Judge and Critic were doing their best to hold me back. “Looks like an overgrown bowling ball return!” shouted Critic to the snarky amusement of Judge. Judge was also on high alert, suspecting that the young art lover in our family might at any moment, want to scratch and sniff and feel  her way through an exhibit.

As closing time rapidly approached we downwardly escalated to the exit.  As we were riding down, one of the brides and several of her attendants were riding up.  She was aglow in her angelic white gown.  Critic and Judge sniffed an unprintable comment that made it challenging to return her broad smile.

Once in our car, we headed for a sushi dinner. While in-route,  each family member recounted her favorite parts of our day together.

My artist wife, my pre-teen and my fourth-grader all had attended a better exhibit than apparently I had attended.  I couldn’t really hear them over Judge’s and Critic’s heated discussion of what passes for art these days. That’s when I remembered that I had the power to gag both Judge and Critic at the speed of thought. I pressed my mental mute button and silenced them. As the girls continued on, I flashed through the trip to try to salvage as much of the experience as I could for prosperity. 

I remembered my youngest taking my hand as we walked in the 100 acres.  How small and warm her still tiny hand felt in mine.  One day hopefully, she will be a beautiful bride on her perfect August afternoon and I will be walking her down the aisle to turn over her care to her soon-to-be husband.

I reflected on the small koi pond where we had paused to sit on the rocks and watch as the bright orange koi cast jet black shadows on the pond’s floor, creating two schools of koi to consider.

Lastly, I tried to recapture the feeling of vicarious wonder as both my children met giant-sized art for the first time.  They were free from judgement and criticism and were simply alive in a special moment. They experienced the art in emotional ways that I had chosen to no longer allow, in the name of refinement and education.

Fortunately, I  found and stored many marvelous images of our family expedition  in my museum of  memories.  I chose to edit out Judge’s and Critic’s presence.

Next time, I am going to do my very best to remember to leave Judge and Critic at home.  They really are a downer and are no-fun to hang out with.  I think I’ll bring Curiosity and Appreciation along instead. 

What are you missing out on while you are so busy judging and criticizing? Is there a better way to live? What do you  need to do to reclaim your lost sense of wonder?  Is it time to experience life for life’s sake and not gripe and complain about what it is not?

All too often in life, we tend to reject a bouquet of wild flowers because we are fond of roses. We miss enjoying a perfectly above average “B+” experience because it did lot live up to our “A+” expectation.  Maybe we would be happier if we remembered that “C” answers are still satisfactory.

You be the judge.

P.S. The IMA is wonderful and well worth the price of admission…FREE! Please visit and support the arts.

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Dominos, Butterflies, and You-Make a Difference!



Have you been knocked over lately? 

“On 12 August 2010, Ordos City, located in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region in China, became the venue of a new Guinness World Records™ achievement for the longest human domino line. The record was achieved by 10,267 participants who formed a human domino line…” according to Longest human domino line – China, Guinness World Records Blog post

This noble endeavor required 10,267 people to knock each other down one after another. This amazing, if not a little bit odd, feat was started by the action of one single person. Someone choose to be the first human domino or shall we say, the first to fall. 

Our Mongolian brothers and sisters provided us with a living example of the so-called “Domino Effect.” Intrigued, I searched Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, and found the following post, “The domino effect is a chain reaction that occurs when a small change causes a similar change nearby, which then will cause another similar change, and so on in linear sequence. The term is best known as a mechanical effect, and is used as an analogy to a falling row of dominoes. It typically refers to a linked sequence of events where the time between successive events is relatively small. It can be used literally (an observed series of actual collisions) or metaphorically (complex systems such as global finance, or in politics, where linkage is only a hypothesis).” 

Living Domino Effects

The catalysis for my sudden domino fixation were a series of seemingly unrelated personal experiences that appear to be causing various domino effects from me to other people. Some of them were somewhat intentional, while others were completely unintended. Like a virus, these contacts spread from me to someone else, who bumped them into someone else and it made me think about the consequences of me just being me. 

You’ve probably heard or have been e-forwarded the tale of the beach encounter between two men written by author and poet, Loren Eisley called “The Star Thrower.” A man observes another man engaging in the absurd effort of throwing starfish, which had washed up onto the beach, back into the ocean. When asked why he was doing such a futile task, given that there were no-doubt millions of stranded starfish on the beach and that his actions could not possibly make a difference, the man replied with a starfish toss, “it made a difference to that one.” 

The Butterfly Effect

In 1960, MIT meteorologist Edward Lorenz, dramatically changed scientific thought by proposing what he called “The Butterfly Effect” to explain the unpredictable nature of weather. Lorenz theorized that when a butterfly flutters its wings in Beijing in March, the Atlantic hurricane patterns in August can be completely altered. 

If one little flap of a butterfly’s wings can have big impact on our world as a whole, imagine what one of our small actions can have on our immediate surroundings? We may unintentionally alter the course of history by choosing to act one time. It’s a proven fact that we can make a difference! 

The butterfly has no way of knowing the ultimate impact of its action and neither can we foresee the ripples our actions create. What if even the micro vibrations of our thoughts start a domino effect? Think how many times Mr. Eiseley’s “Star Thrower” story has been passed from person to person. Consider the spiritual tsunami created by the teachings of a Jewish tradesman who ended up being publicly executed by the government of his time. There was no high-speed Internet to tweet the news, just campfire whispers, breathed over and over again across the ages, quite possibly changing the lives eternally of many who were knocked over by this biblical domino. How would our world be different if all of Jesus’ disciples decided to return to their old fishing and tax collecting jobs and decided to never tell their story again? 

Your Effect

The chain of our existence is a fragile one made up of small choices and little actions. 

My former pastor tended to end each Sunday’s message with, “The way you live your faith matters!” He’s right. How we think and live is how we flutter our invisible butterfly wings and we begin to bump into other kindred spirits and domino on and on for better or for worse. 

A young woman, whom I work with, bumped into me in a hallway and stopped me to say that my book “Life Matches: Fire Up Your Life!” had profoundly influenced her life in a positive way. I actually could see inner flame burning brightly during this humbling exchange as she detailed her unexpected transformational experience to a more fired up life. Our brief encounter was made all the richer for me when she told me that she had only read the introduction and the first chapter of my book, but couldn’t wait to finish the rest. As a human domino, I was knocked over. 

As I wrote the book, I certainly did not have my co-worker in-mind. I had just been given a story to tell and the time to tell it. No biggie. When I think of the strangers who I will most-likely never meet that may be changed even a little as a result of my laptop hours typing at my kitchen desk, I am awed by the enormity of the possibilities. I may not have written a best-seller. I will never make a penny’s profit from my efforts, since the proceeds are donated to a non-profit charity. Yet, it doesn’t matter at all to me. Because like our star throwing friend on the beach, I made a difference to at least one person and the feeling of satisfaction that I savored as a result, was worth the effort! Mission accomplished. Well done. 

We sometimes believe that our common efforts in common hours are inconsequential. I now have living proof that this is a lie that our fears tell us to keep us from trying to be, as Ghandi said,“the change we want to see in our world.”  

What if you are parenting the next world leader who figures out a way to end poverty, sickness and hunger? What if you are a teacher who sharpens a thousand intellects over the course of her career? What if you are the bedridden senior, who raises prayers to a loving God by the hour, as your last act of service? 

Our world is full of butterflies and dominoes. I hope you are blessed to receive the satisfaction of one of life’s best gifts–a chance to appreciate even for a moment the difference you have made in this world because you were here and you were you. 

You make a difference just by being the you that only you can be. Choose to be the best you that only you can be and that will be enough to make all the difference in the world! 

I would love to hear about your butterfly/domino moments, where you are certain you made a difference. If you want to share, leave a comment. 

Flap your wings and make some waves! It’s been nice bumping into you. 

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Turn Your Thoughts Into Action

Image: djcodrin /

Thought was lonely and bored, so he pondered how he could meet some friends. He posted a personal ad that read, “Looking for a meaningful and satisfying relationship.” 

Dream was floating around on the mental web and responded to Thought’s ad.  They went out on a date and found that they were in-fact very similar and had a lot in common.

Thought was very comfortable hanging out with Dream. She told him amazing stories of possibilities that he had never even considered. She introduced him to her best friend Hope. Thought had a great time having long and deep conversations with Dream and Hope.  It seemed that both of them could talk on and on forever. It was heady stuff for Thought, but after a while it seemed to him that Dream and Hope were repeating themselves and that while he loved their companionship, Thought was pretty much still in the same place that he had been before he met them.

One day while thinking about his situation, a very interesting character sat down next to him.  The stranger quickly stuck out his hand and curtly introduced himself as Decision. Thought and Decision shook hands and Thought began to tell Decision about his floundering relationship woes with Dream and Hope. After only a brief minute, Decision interrupted Thought with, “Ok, I got it.”

Decision was quick to point out all the pros and cons to Thought’s Hope and Dream drama and persuasively advised that a new course was called for.  Thought had to make a choice if he didn’t want to have a bored, lonely, meaningless, and unsatisfying life.  All Thought had to do, according to Decision, was to choose to think about his situation differently and it would magically be that way he chose for it to be.

Thought carefully ruminated on Decision’s advice.  Could it be that easy?  Making a different choice seemed as easy as changing clothes to Thought. He took Decision’s advice. With his eyes closed tightly and his brow wrinkled, Thought made a new choice with all his might to live a life that was exciting, loved, meaningful and satisfying.  He chose this thought over and over again, but each time he opened his eyes, he was still sitting right where he was living the same life he had been living. Decision had seemed so sure of himself that Thought questioned his thinking abilities. “Maybe I’m just not choosing hard enough or maybe I don’t really want this new life bad enough?” considered Thought.

While Thought was lost in his thoughts, he was rudely brought to the present moment by the sudden, sharp pain caused by a pointed high healed shoe quickly stepping on his foot. “OUCH!!!” cried out Thought. His painful scream startled the beautiful but determined walker mid-stride.  She stopped and turned around and noticed Thought.  “Oh my, I’m so sorry!” she chirped rapid fire with a smile.  “I didn’t see you there. My name is Action and I hope you will forgive me for stepping on your toes, I tend to do that a lot.”

Thought felt an immediate attraction to this stunningly beautiful woman before him.  Thought was sure that it was love at first sight. Thought jumped to his somewhat throbbing feet and took a couple of steps toward her.  Action met him half-way.

“Where are you headed in such a rush?” asked Thought.

“I’m off on yet another adventure. I need to stop by and pick up my friends, Dream, Hope and Decision. We like to travel together.  I’m the only one who can drive you see!” exclaimed Action with a quick giggle that sent excited tingles up and down Thought’s entire being.

Without giving it a second thought, Thought blurted out, “Can I come too?”

“Hey, the choice is yours!  You’re welcome to join us. There’s plenty of room on our bus,” invited Action.

“Where are you all going?” inquired Thought.

“It really doesn’t matter, as long as we are all traveling together.  We always seem to end up right where we are supposed to be,” said an already in-motion Action over her shoulder.

Thought caught up to Action and took her hand and together they met up with Dream, Hope and Decision and began their journey of a lifetime.

Thought never gave boredom, loneliness, or meaninglessness a second thought.  He was too busy having a satisfying trip in the company of friends.

Yes, he did choose to live happily ever after.

What’s holding you back from taking the journey of your lifetime?  Have you met Thought’s friend Action yet?

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