Tag Archives: living well

What’s the most important book you ever read?

What is the most important book you ever read?

off kilter library

I’m not talking about religious books like the Bible, the Quran or the Talmud; we all know those are important, so let’s leave them aside for the sake of this discussion.

What are the most useful books you have ever read? Which book was it that you read and actually put to work in your daily life? How did it influence you?

Was it something like the ‘7 habits of highly successful people’ or was it possibly Internet for Dummies? Did Hints from Heloise change the way you live?   How to win friends and influence people is a classic on the art of communication and has helped thousands in their daily lives.

So what has helped you to live your life? What made you change for the better?

For me these are a few of the most influential books I have ever read. I’m sure that someday I will add more to this list, but these are the ones that really hit me hard and made me think.

Macbeth by William Shakespeare. This play taught me at a very young age that you need to really think before taking drastic action. If Ol’ Mac had asked more questions when he met those three ladies, he may not have put a disaster into motion.

The Naked Ape by Desmond Morris. I went to a Catholic High School and found this in the restricted section of the library one day. A study of humans as biological entities, it made me really think about my place in the world. It had the added benefit of really upsetting my teachers. Hey, I was sixteen at the time.

A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking. This book made physics less mysterious and more accessible for me. I loved it.

The Joy of Sex by Alex Comfort. First, I found the pun of his name amusing, and the truly practical and un-embarrassed attitude was just what I needed at the time. I can’t say I’ve been able to put everything into practice, but the clear, rational tone was wonderful.

Eunuchs for the Kingdom of Heaven: Women, Sexuality and the Catholic Church by Uta Ranke-Heineman and Peter Heinegg. Ranke-Heineman was a chair of theology and used Roman Catholic Canon Law as her source material. It made me angry that as a female I was being so devalued on so many levels. Yeah, this was a huge influence on the way I thought about the world.

Chess for beginners by Israel A. Horowitz and Sol Horowitz. Hours of fun!

The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli. It’s still the basic primer for the art of politics.

The Art of War by Sun-Tzu. The ultimate strategy guide, written by a man who lived it every day.

Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell. Yeah, this is a weird one to have in here, but as much as I dislike Scarlet O’Hara, she knew how to survive. She also wasn’t willing to hide her abilities behind a folded fan, even if she had no clue about how to manage her personal life.

These are not the only important books I have ever read, of course. My personal library has several hundred books in it, not counting the ones I have sold or donated when I was done with them. I have read books on everything from cooking to car repair (if only that one had taken root) and philosophy, religion and politics, fashion and art. I like science fiction and crafts, how-to books and fantasy fiction.

In the midst of all the millions of words I have read over the decades of my life, the books that have actually helped or hindered are few. I’d like to know what books you consider the most influential in your life. Take a moment to think about it, and use the comment box to let me know: what was your most important reading experience?

Find your peace, friends.

Rev. Zita.

(Image courtesy of free clip art office.microsoft.com)

Do We Need a Manual for Living

Have you ever wished that somebody out there had written a guidebook for life? Heaven knows I do. I look around at the stuff going on around me and I just get confused. They say that with age comes wisdom, and I’m old enough to admit that there needs to be some sort of instruction manual.

Doesn’t it just make sense to have one? I mean come on, we have manuals for gaming stations, and that’s trivial! I think we need a practical, pragmatic, down-to-earth common sense guide to handle the crap life throws at us.

Now before somebody tells me to go read the Bible, let me tell you that I have already, three times, cover to cover, and including the Apocrypha. I’m not talking about a religious guide, I’m talking about one that goes over stuff like doing laundry, how to clean; to cook, controlling your money, managing time, taking care of your body and your mind, etc.

You know: all that stuff you were supposed to learn in high school and never did because you were being all angst-ridden like a good teenager.

I know there are already guides out there that cover everything I’m talking about, but it’s time we had something comprehensive; something that pulled it all together into one package that made sense. You can find books that will tell you how to do everything from change your oil to choose wine; from how to trim your own hair to choosing a lawyer. What we need is something that will pull all that information together into a cohesive encyclopedia of living, a compendium of domesticity.

We need of Universal Field Theory of American Life! (Cue thunderous applause)

What do you think it should contain? I’m thinking things like basic household skills: cooking, cleaning, laundry and organization. Then we can add things like basic manners and courtesy, the principles of respect, how to make a budget, manage your money, pay bills and keep your credit rating up there.

Should we include tech skills as well? They change so quickly that I’m not sure about that.

What about dating? Do we need a section on dating etiquette? Birth control should also be covered and there is bound to be a few folks with their own opinions about that subject. That’s fine, let us hear from you!

Accounting? Business? Auto repair? What subjects do you wish had been taught in school that weren’t? What do you need to know now to make your life run more smoothly?

Please let us know. I f we get a large enough response, we may even consider making this a series or an ebook! It all depends on what you want us to research for you! Let’s make the Practical Heretic live up to its’ name!

Rev Zita

How Much is Enough?

We live in a consumer society. We buy everything we see and listen to advertisements that tell us we need the latest gadget, the latest fashions, the newest movies and websites, all of it. And then, of course, we have to have the biggest house to store it all, the best cars and trucks to move it all and the most popular blog to brag about it all.

What purpose does all of it serve? There is a saying: ‘you can’t have everything—where would you put it?’ Funny in a sort of wry way, but it illustrates a point. There comes a time when no matter what, you have to say that it’s too much.

Some of the things we need are a given, such as food, shelter, water, etc. Those are pretty basic. When you get into the needs imposed by societies we live in, the list expands somewhat. Now we need such things as work, transportation, medical care, education, entertainment, technology, communications, information, and a slew of extra stuff our ancestors wouldn’t even recognize.

I wonder how different life would be if we just decided to pick and choose what we actually needed and perhaps only a few of the extras, rather than gobbling up everything the advertisers threw at us like greedy ducks in a pond. What if you just chose a few things, rather than tried to keep up with everything? Would your Facebook page really suffer all that much? Who are you trying to impress, anyway? Does anybody really care if you have the latest android or PS3?

Do you really need the biggest house on the block, or are you just grandstanding? Would it really kill your kids to have to share a room? Your parents and grandparents most likely did it for years. Heck, they probably had only one bathroom for the entire house and they did just fine. They may even have had to learn to actually compromise and think about the rest of the folks they lived with.

While technology has become a necessity, how much is really useful to you and the way you live? Upgrading your phone every six months when something new comes out is wasteful and expensive. So you can’t play ‘Angry Birds’ all afternoon, so what? You can’t think of something better to do with your time? Your computer and the internet are modern necessities, but does that mean that you can do without cable? I don’t even own a television set any more and I haven’t missed it in almost two years.

If chosen wisely, the many advances available to us could result in a lessening of the burden of sheer stuff we have to deal with on a daily basis. The paperless office has been touted for years and might even be a reality some day. Our photos, music, records and entertainment are now stored in a hundredth of the space used by our predecessors.

I buy what I need, and try to limit buying what I want. I’ve had my favorite jeans for years, and still wear them often, despite the change in fashion. No one even blinks at them. I choose the look that I want, not one dictated by some oddly dressed “Designer” whose aim is to be memorable, not tasteful. I once read a statement by the 19th century artist and designer, William Morris: “Have nothing in your house that you do not find both beautiful and useful.”

What terrific advice!

Find your peace, friends.

Rev. Zita

Green Living?

Whether or not you believe in Global Warming, there is a fact that is true and we must face it: we all live on this planet and it is our job to take care of it. Most of us already recycle and make an attempt to reduce the waste we create. We work on picking up litter in our neighborhoods and parks. Some of us purchase organic foods and products, but most of us feel that unless we are living on a 100 acre farm with our own animals and gardens or purchasing a battery operated car, living greener is just simply out of reach and we can do no more. That is not true, and it does not have to make you crazy either. There are simple things you can do to live greener and help keep our planet beautiful.

We are a consumer society. We buy stuff. We see stuff and want it, so we buy more stuff. We could save a bunch of money and the planet if we simply bought what we needed. So as you are going through those wonderfully stocked stores, think about if you really need that thing or not; and that includes your food choices too. Somewhere I read that the average American throws out somewhere around $600 a year in food. That adds up in our landfills, and even if you compost that is a huge waste too.
Before you put it in your cart and pull out that plastic, ask yourself if you will eat it before it goes bad or if you really need that do dad.

Last year, we decided to change all our lights to those funny looking compact fluorescent bulbs. As our old bulbs burned out, we put in the new “curly” lights (as my youngest son used to call them) and dropped our monthly bill by just over $10. I know that doesn’t seem like much, but since making the change over, we have only replaced two bulbs in over a year, and saved over $120 last year too. Now we have the option of purchasing LED bulbs, which are supposed to be even more efficient and last even longer. So pick your choice and save money and the planet.

Fall and winter are well on their way, and the heat bill is going to be big (again), but you can combat this by turning down your thermostat by just 2 degrees. Not only will you get a lower heating bill, but you will be greener too, since it takes less fuel to heat it. Even better would be getting a programmable thermostat and turning the heat down in the night and while you are gone, but having it turn up just before you are due so the house is always nice and warm, but if that isn’t in your budget, just lower the house’s temperature by 2 degrees. Your body probably won’t notice the difference but your wallet and the Earth will thank you.

Keep up on your car’s maintenance. Changing the oil when the manufacturer suggests, keeping on top of tune ups and checking and refilling tires regularly will keep your car in tip top shape for years and keeping one more out of the junk yard releasing rust and fairly economical as well. My car is now ten years old and still gets the average gas mileage that the user’s guide says it should get new. If yours has been neglected, now is the time to start pampering your wheels.

 The greenest way to get around is on a good pair of tennis shoes. So buy a pair that fits properly (and if you don’t know get fitted for a pair) and start walking. I know that I probably shouldn’t talk, since this is not my favorite way to get around, but we are on a truth sharing mission not a finger pointing one. Walking has no emissions, a pair of tennis shoes lasts around six months of regular use, and you are witling away at your middle as well.

Not all of us can have a garden in our backyard. That would be the best way to get our vegetables since they are so fresh, but when that is just no possible, it is time to head out and hit your local farmer’s market. Most towns have at least one road side stand, and many towns have several. Most of the time the food there is organic, less expensive than the trucked from Mexico and other areas, and is much fresher; ,most likely picked that morning. If you really don’t want to make another stop, some farms offer a delivery method. You pay a lump sum during the planting season and then the farm delivers the fresh food to your door step for you. It really is as easy as that.

These are not hard ways to save a little green; both money and the plant. Most will take seconds out of your day, and add a few bucks into your wallet as well. And if you are lucky enough to be able to drive a battery powered car or grow your own food three feet from your kitchen door, keep it up. If we all do a little bit, Mother Earth will be green for generations to come.

What do we need to know these days?

I was in a bookstore the other day and noticed there was a charming little tome that claimed to list all the things that a man needed to know how to do, from tying a necktie to choosing a wine. This started me thinking: what are the skills that all of us need these days? Have we actually defined them?

Maybe we should. I kept thinking about it and even did some research and found out that various cultures (the ancient Chinese and the Greeks and Romans among them) had instruction manuals for the things that a well-bred person needed to know and do. The Chinese list was the most extensive—37 different skill sets in order to be a well-rounded individual. Wow.

I decided to put together my own list of modern skills needed in order to be a more competent, capable person. I did my best to make it as comprehensive as possible, but I’m sure I may have missed a few things. I left out things like horsemanship and sword-fighting, since they seem less appropriate these days, but there do seem to be plenty of things that we should know.

The Modern Skills list: (in no particular order)

  1. Computer skills
  2. Business basics
  3. House cleaning
  4. Laundry
  5. Cooking
  6. Changing a tire
  7. Hooking up an entertainment system
  8. Mathematics/Accounting
  9. Basic chemistry
  10. First aid/CPR
  11. Building a fire
  12. Basic home repair
  13. Business English
  14. How to tie a knot
  15. Sewing on a button
  16. Shopping/bargain hunting
  17. Philosophy
  18. Classic books/movies/theater
  19. Self-defense
  20. Basic car maintenance
  21. How to dress well
  22. Courtesy/good manners
  23. How to be organized (I need help with this one)
  24. Driving (road rage is a little too common, don’t you think?)
  25. Social skills

I know there are more skills that could be added to this list, but these are the ones that I could think of off the top of my head. Let us know what your ideas are; we’ll add them to the list. Maybe we can come up with a new definition for a modern renaissance man!

Send us your ideas—What are the skills we need in modern life?

Time and how it seems to escape us

I seem to have lost a week somewhere in the chaos that is my life. Being a mom, a wife, a business owner, working, and going back to college (almost done with that though) seems to have fried my brain some. I thought that Lughnassad and Lammas were this week and not last week, and was planning on giving more information on those than just the Interfaith calendar posted last week.

Instead, you are getting a bit of a weird message from the deep depths of my fried brain on how we think we are on top of things, but time just seems to escape us. It isn’t just a day on a calendar or a set of numbers on a clock; it seems to be a thing that takes on a life of its own. Sometimes it is slow and either we enjoy relaxing or we are in a place where we wish time would move faster (like work…) and then there are times that we are enjoying ourselves and times flies by, and we wish we could slow it down.

Do you remember being a kid and it is the beginning of summer and you look out over those long days coming up that will be filled with swimming, fishing, biking, and what not with friends? It seemed as if those days would last forever (I fear I am beginning to sound like a bad Bryan Adams song), and school would never return again. Of course it eventually did, but not until the joys of summer lost their luster and it seemed as if everything that could be done during summer…well, you and your friends did it.

Then along came adolescence and time just went a little faster. We filled our lives with class and jobs, girlfriends/boyfriends, sports, clubs, and other things (and we are just not going there folks). We were busy with our lives and soon it was time for proms, graduations, and goodbyes. Some of us went off to college, and others of us joined the military, and the rest of us joined the working stiffs.

But with work occupying our days and dating, pairing off, some of us getting married and others either avoiding the issue or still looking for that one, well, time sped up even more. Then along come kids, and time is just chugging along at a swift clip…and then start adding in the fact that age makes us feel the pressures that we didn’t pursue our dreams as we wanted to…and that clock might as well be on fast forward.

What I wouldn’t give for those long lazy days of youth, where the only thing timing us is the sun. Heck, at this point, I would like to not be missing a week in my life and actually be celebrating holidays when they are traditionally celebrated rather than feeling like a fool and having the feast of the first harvest on my own schedule.

To be honest, the moments I want to remember always go by so fast and the ones that aren’t so great seem to last forever. I would like to have the remote control that speeds up and slows down my time line so I can stretch out those times that are so important and just make those slow times into normal time…I feel no need to speed up the clock. And thank you for listening to a ramble; feel free to comment or to tell your story.

Aphorisms for Heretics

Aphorisms for Heretics


In keeping with the spirit of the ‘Practical heretic’, the following are a few thoughts about religion in general. Some are obvious, some are less so, but all have at least the quality of (hopefully) being thought-provoking. It’s good to think, the exercise is good for the mind. I hope you enjoy them, and I would appreciate reading your own thoughts and comments on any that catch your eye.

1. God is infinite, Humans are finite; no human is equipped to understand the infinite.
2.   No Scripture ever was delivered from Heaven already printed.

3.   Prophets should keep their mouths shut.

4.   All Religions are equally right and equally wrong.

5.   Never trust anyone who tells you to check your brains at the door.

6.   Willful stupidity is common, but that doesn’t make it right.

7.   Never stop thinking.

8.   Never stop learning.

9.   Killing someone over a religious dispute will not change their mind.

10.  ‘If’ and ‘why’ are the two most dangerous words in any language; use them often.

11.  Authority should be questioned often, and the answers checked.

12.  Women have souls.

13.  Men have souls.

14.  Humans have sex. It’s natural. Deal with it intelligently.

15.  Stupid mistakes are regular occurrences; fix them as quickly as possible.

16.  Respect must be earned.

17.  Loyalty must be given intelligently, and withdrawn when necessary.

18.  Ask questions and listen to answers.

19.  Love is the highest good.

20.  When proof is available, ‘faith’ is not needed.

21.  Life is a process, not a result.

22.  Hatred and grudges are a waste of energy. You have better things to do, I hope.

23.  Murder is common, but that doesn’t make it right.

24.  The definition of what constitutes ‘sin’ changes from place to place and in different times.

25. Dogma is for people who have stopped thinking

26. The Infinite includes everything, even the things you don’t like.

27. A true God has no need to be defended by humans.

28. Be practical; the bills must be paid.

29. Be honest, it’s easier.

30. People gravitate to the gods they can handle.

31. ‘God’ has no religion.

32. Tolerance is challenging.

33. Help where you can.

34. Accept help when you need it.

35. You are responsible for the care and feeding of your own soul, no one else’s.

36. Pointing out other people’s faults does not change your own.

37. Happiness is a conscious choice.

38. Accept responsibility.

39. Forgive yourself first.

40. You cannot quantify a deity.

41. There is no mercy in nature, but nothing is wasted, either.

42. Polytheists do not start religious wars.

43. Monotheism is impossible–every person has their own definition of God.

44. The difference between a ‘cult’ and a ‘religion’ is social acceptance.

As thoughts occur to me I may be adding to the list, or you may have suggestions for others. Please let us know what you think? Have a great weekend, folks, and may you find your peace.

Why Practical Heretic?

Let’s delve into why we chose to call this area the Practical Heretic. First, it just sounds cool and rebellious. Two, it makes a person think, can heresy be practical? And if it can be, why would the church be against it? Practicality should be honored, and in our time of most people being stressed out over all the details that make up our lives, keeping things simple and practical seems like the right thing to do.

When discovering what something is, it is wise to break it down into its parts and understand the meanings of the parts. In our case, practical has 10 different meanings according to Dictionary.com. Ranging from meanings such as reasonable to pertaining to, and even application in the theater. We want you to be sure that your spirituality is practical, it serves you and works with your life. We want you on the spiritual path that feels right to you.

Next we discover what heretic is. Again we turned to Dictionary.com for the meanings. Heretic, as we use it here, either means a believer who acts contrary to the dogma of the institution or someone who thinks freely. Either meaning is appropriate here. We want you to be free thinkers, we want you to reject the dogmas that are wrong, that go against what is right.

Religion as it is known today is all about giving up for God, and I suppose they could be right, but I have one major issue with that. If God is the father of us all, and is equated to parenthood, then he wants nothing from us. Not really. As a parent, I don’t really want anything from my children. I want them to be happy, healthy, and well-adjusted enough to be a practical and productive part of society. But the things that I really want out of life, my children can’t give me, that is not their role, I have to fill those myself. Just like they are going to need to learn to fulfill their needs themselves.

God is not going to give us anything, nor does he want anything from us. He wants us to learn to fulfill our needs ourselves and to be happy, healthy, and well-adjusted enough to get by in society. In other words, a Practical Heretic.