Website owner:  James Miller

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The most important thing in life is understanding

   One of my most pronounced personality traits is frugality.  I 
   just don't like waste.  I am just prejudiced against 
   wastefulness.  I don't waste food.  I don't waste gasoline.  I 
   don't like wasting time.  I just make the most of all my 
   resources and don't waste anything.  It is a principle I have 
   long lived by.  It is a personal bias that regulates and rules 
   much that I do.  It has a big shaping effect on my personal 
   behavior and conduct.  Where did this personality trait come 
   from?  Did it come by reading books of proverbs, like perhaps 
   Poor Richard's Almanac?  No.  Definitely not.  Did the bias 
   come because I was taught it as a child?  No.  I was never 
   taught anything like that.  Did it come from seeing the example 
   of some frugal person?  No.  Did it come from reading about the 
   merits of frugality?  No.  Is it some genetic personality 
   trait?  I am sure it is not.  Then where did this strong trait 
   come from?  Well, I am sure that even as a young boy I was not 
   wasteful.  I have never been wasteful.  As a young boy I had 
   sense.  Basic good sense kept me from being wasteful.  Or 
   perhaps it was basic conscience.  Even as a young boy I saved 
   my money and spent it only very carefully and thoughtfully, 
   wanting to get good value from it.  I didn't spend it on candy, 
   or pleasure, or foolishness.  Money didn't come easily.  Our 
   parents didn't just give us money.  We had to work for it (we
   lived on a farm where there is always lots of work to be done).  
   My Father started me out at $1.00 a week and over the years 
   increased that to a high of $2.50 a week in my teen years.  I 
   didn't spend that money foolishly.  I saved it and bought 
   myself a 22 rifle, a fishing rod and reel, and various pieces 
   of fishing equipment, all of which I took very good care of and 
   still possess.  But when I was young I didn't have the strong 
   bias against waste that I have now.  I didn't consciously avoid 
   waste then as I do now.  It wasn't a set principle that I lived 
   by.  That came later, after I was out of college and out on my 
   own earning a living.  My current frugality dates back to some 
   conscious reflections over the foolishnes of waste that I still 
   recall.  It was from these reflections that it became an 
   operating principle for my personal conduct.  I consciously 
   examined and changed my conduct and behavior so as to minimize 
   waste.  I set up new habits for myself.

   I have stated the above as one single example of a wider 
   principle.  The principle is this: In reflecting upon the 
   subject, I believe that most of my personal ways, outlooks and 
   habits have their source in an understanding obtained from 
   observation (observation of people and life) and reflective 
   thought.  I am not the way I am because of childhood teaching.  
   Mostly, I am not what I am because of reading (although reading 
   the Bible certainly has had a big influence).  If I live by the 
   teachings that Jesus gave us, or teachings that we find in the 
   Bible, I believe that I do so more because of an understanding 
   that I have acquired from observation and reflection than I do 
   because I consciously attempt to follow God's teachings.  For 
   example, when I was young I saw argumentativeness in someone 
   close to me and learned a lesson from it.  I determined that I 
   would not be an argumentative person.  I saw maliciousness in 
   someone and learned a lesson.  I saw a lot of different kinds of 
   foolishness, understood it as foolishness, and my response to 
   it had a molding effect on my own character.  Quite possibly my 
   underlying love of God and seriousness about him did have an 
   enlightening effect on my mind and quite possibly influenced my 
   negative response to the foolishness I saw.  I am what I am 
   because of Understanding.  An understanding that comes through 
   observation and reflection.  It is a thing of the mind, an 
   intellectual thing.  I have a conscience.  I have basic good 
   sense.  I know what is right.  I live by my conscience and my 
   understanding.  I take the teachings of Jesus and the Bible 
   seriously and they are a guide but I am not just blindly 
   following rules.  I am following my understanding.  
   Understanding has taught me the importance of treating others 
   justly and well.  Understanding has taught me the importance of 
   chastity, humility, kindness and goodness.  And then later, 
   upon reflection, I realize that those things that understanding 
   and my mind and good sense has taught me are the very same 
   things that Jesus taught and that I read in the Book of 
   Proverbs.  I am on the path that Jesus taught, the path the 
   Bible teaches, but I got on the path, learned the path, from my 
   understanding.  It was Understanding that revealed it to me.

   Not everyone is frugal.  There are many frugal people but there 
   is probably ten wasteful ones for every frugal one.  Maybe more 
   like a hundred.  Not everyone is honest.  Not everyone is just.  
   Not everyone lives by their conscience.  Not every one does the 
   right thing.  Not everyone lives by God's rules.  The 
   difference between people lies in habits.  But what is the 
   source of the habits?  The cause of the difference lies in 
   personal understanding.  What separates people?  Why are 
   people so radically different in their outlooks and behavior?  
   Why the gigantic differences between liberal and conservative?  
   It is differences in understanding --- understanding and lack of 
   understanding.  Understanding and its lack, or degree of 
   understanding, lies under it all.  The most important thing in 
   life is understanding.  It is understanding that one should 
   wish to acquire more than anything else.  Understanding is the 
   prize of prizes.  From the time I was a teenager the most 
   urgent request in my daily prayer to God has been a request for 

   Most people lack understanding.  The masses lack in 
   understanding.  The crowd lacks understanding.  That is why 
   foolishness is so pervasive in this world.  

   The fear of the Lord, that is wisdom.  And to depart from evil 
   is understanding.  Job 28:28

   Get wisdom!  Get understanding!  
     Do not forget, nor turn away from the words of my mouth.
   Do not forsake her, and she will preserve you.
     Love her and she will keep you.
   Wisdom is the principal thing;
   Therefore get wisdom. 
     And with all your getting, get understanding.
   Exalt her, and she will promote you.
   She will bring you honor when you embrace her.
   She will place on your head an ornament of grace.
     A crown of glory she will deliver to you.

                               Proverbs 4:5-9

   Nov 2009

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