Lately I’ve been thinking about experience. Donald Trump lacks political experience, and the ineptitude caused by his inexperience is evident every day. On the other hand, Hillary Clinton is nothing if not experienced. Her ship is running smoothly, and yet as her reaction to the email scandal shows once again, there’s often a whiff of inhumanity about her campaign that inspires distrust.
So I’ve been thinking that it’s not enough to be experienced. The people in public life we really admire turn experience into graciousness.
Those people, I think, see their years as humbling agents. They see that, more often than not, the events in our lives are perfectly designed to lay bare our chronic weaknesses and expose some great whopping new ones.
Sooner or later life teaches you that you’re not the center of the universe, nor quite as talented or good as you thought. It teaches you to care less about what others think and, less self-conscious, to get out of your own way.
People who are gracious also understand the accuracy of John Keats’s observation that “Nothing ever becomes real ’til it is experienced.” You can learn some truth out of a book or from the mouth of a friend, but somehow wisdom is not lodged inside until its truth has been engraved by some moment of humiliation, delight, disappointment, joy or some other firsthand emotion.
The mistakes just have to be made.
Gracious people are humble enough to observe that the best things in life are usually undeserved — the way the pennies of love you invest in children get returned in dollars later on; the kindness of strangers; the rebirth that comes after a friend’s unexpected and overawing act of forgiveness.
The gracious people one sees in life and reads about in history books — I’m thinking of the all-time greats like Lincoln, Gandhi, Mandela and Dorothy Day as well as closer figures ranging from Francis to Havel — turn awareness of their own frailty into sympathy for others’ frailty. As Juan Gabriel Vásquez wrote, “Experience, or what we call experience, is not the inventory of our pains, but rather the learned sympathy towards the pain of others.”
They are good at accepting gifts, which is necessary for real friendship, but is hard for a proud person to do. They can be surprisingly tenacious in action. Think of Martin Luther King Jr. The grace that flowed into him from friends and supporters and from all directions made him radically hopeful and gave him confidence and tenacity. His capacity to fight grew out of his capacity to receive.
Such people have a gentle strength. They are aggressive and kind, free of sharp elbows, comfortable revealing and being abashed by their transgressions.
The U.S. military used to be pretty good at breeding this type of leader. In the years around World War II, generals often got fired. But they were also given second chances. That is, they endured brutal experiences, but they were given a chance to do something with those experiences and come back stronger and more supple.
They were also reminded very clearly that as members of an elite, they had the responsibilities that come with that station. Today, everybody is in denial about being part of the establishment, believing the actual elite is someone else. Therefore, no one is raised with a code of stewardship and a sense of personal privilege and duty.
Hillary Clinton has experience, but does not seem to have been transformed by it. Amid the email scandal she is repeating the same mistakes she made during the Rose Law Firm scandal two decades ago. Her posture is still brittle, stonewalling and dissembling. Clinton scandals are all the same. There’s an act of unseemly but not felonious behavior, then the futile drawn-out withholding of information, and forever after the unwillingness to ever come clean.
Experience distills life into instinct. If you interpret your life as a battlefield, then you will want to maintain control at all times. You will hoard access. You will refuse to have press conferences. You will close yourself off to those who can help.
If you treat the world as a friendly and hopeful place, as a web of relationships, you’ll look for the good news in people and not the bad. You’ll be willing to relinquish control, and in surrender you’ll actually gain more strength as people trust in your candor and come alongside. Gracious leaders create a more gracious environment by greeting the world openly and so end up maximizing their influence and effectiveness.
It’s tough to surrender control, but like the rest of us, Hillary Clinton gets to decide what sort of leader she wants to be. America is desperate for a little uplift, for a leader who shows that she trusts her fellow citizens. It’s never too late to learn from experience.
In looking back from this immanent afterlife on my earlier terrors, and how they have been slowly buried over time, I see now that they were overly fixated on my own biological death. Since I recognized eternal transcendence as nothing more than a comforting illusion, the only thing left was my finite life in the here and now, which was destined to disappear forever in an instantaneous blackout.
It is now patently unclear to me, however, that we ever actually die in this way. Our existence has numerous dimensions, and they each live according to different times. The biological stratum, which I naïvely took to mean life in general, is in certain ways a long process of demise — we are all dying all the time, just at different rhythms. Far from being an ultimate horizon beyond the bend, death is a constitutive feature of the unfolding of biological life. In other words, I am confronting my death each day that I live.
Moreover, the physical dimension of existence clearly persists beyond any biological threshold, as the material components of our bodies mix and mingle in different ways with the cosmos. The artifacts that we have produced also persevere, which can range from our physical imprint on the world to objects we have made or writings like this one. There is, as well, a psychosocial dimension that survives our biological withdrawal, which is visible in the impact that we have had — for better or worse — on all of the people around us. In living, we trace a wake in the world.
If biological death appears to some as an endpoint to existence, there is nevertheless a longevity to our physical, artifactual and psychosocial lives. They intertwine and merge with the broader world out of which we are woven. This should not be taken as a form of spiritualist consolation, however, but rather as an invitation to face up to the ways in which our immanent lives are actually never simply our own.
Authentic existence is perhaps less about boldly confronting the inevitable reality of our own finitude than about recognizing and cultivating the multiple dimensions of our lives. Some of these can never truly die because they do not belong only to us. They carry on in the physical world, in the material and cultural vestiges we leave, as well as in the psychological and social effects we have on those around us.
It is in this regard that my twilight conversations with my oldest son take on a very different light. Although they might not bring consolation to either of us in any traditional sense, they certainly leave traces of an intense moment of sharing something that will carry on in both of us, as well as in my youngest son who “plays dead” in his bed next to us as he pretends to sleep while listening intently to our probing exchanges.
We all have a remarkable capacity to make ourselves happier.
Each of the little things we do to boost our mood — from reading an adventure story to keeping a gratitude journal or even gazing up at the stars on a clear night — can add up to greater overall satisfaction.
But happiness doesn't come easy. We have to work at it.
Here are some of the things that psychologists and social science researchers have found that have the power to lift your spirits and keep them high. Take a look:
Last time when I visited Mumbai, I stayed with the family of my friend in Bandra. After couple of days I got sick suffering from fever and cold. My friend took me to his family doctor. Old age doctor wrote a prescription and gave me some sample tablets and said," BETA YEH SHISHI SE 2 TABLETS RAAT KO KHANA OUUR SHANTI KE SAATH SO JANA." On hearing this my friend laughed but said nothing, though doctor asked him. When we came out of doctor's office I asked him why he laughed. Laughingly he repeated doctor's words," Beta yeh shishi se 2 tablet raat ko khana ouur SHANTI se so jana." I asked my friend, what is funny? He replied SHANTI BAI is name of his HOUSE MAID.
I thought one day I shall sleep for ever with SHANTI ( peace ).
Eavesdrop on any conversation or pay close attention to your own and you’ll hear laughter. From explosive bursts to muffled snorts, some form of laughter punctuates almost all verbal communication. Electronic communication, too, LOL.
You’ll probably also notice that, more often than not, the laughter is in response to something that wasn’t very funny — or wasn’t funny at all. Observational studies suggest this is the case 80 percent to 90 percent of the time. Take Hillary Clinton’s strategic laughter during heated exchanges with Donald J. Trump during the presidential debates. Or Jimmy Fallon’s exaggerated laughter when interviewing guests on “The Tonight Show.” Or employees at Fox News reporting that they tried to “laugh off” unwanted sexual advances by Roger Ailes and others within the organization.
How laughter went from a primal signal of safety (the opposite of a menacing growl) to an odd assortment of vocalizations that smooth as much as confuse social interactions is poorly understood. But researchers who study laughter say reflecting on when and why you titter, snicker or guffaw is a worthy exercise, given that laughter can harm as much as help you.
From a historical perspective, the Middle East was the cradle of civilization and remains unfamthomably rich in its huge cultural heritage. With its warm colors, narrow streets, scorching sun, beautiful dresses, and caravans moving peacefully over the hot burning sands of the desert, it attracts anyone who is eager to learn the secrets of its ancient wisdom.
We at Bright Side decided to present you with some brilliant Arabic proverbs and sayings that express the philosophical thought, worldview, and morality of the Arab world.
Open your mouth only if what you’re going to say is more beautiful than silence.
An army of sheep led by a lion would defeat an army of lions led by a sheep.
A single mistake ensures a double misfortune.
The wise with a wink, the fool with a kick.
Believe what you see and lay aside what you hear.
Ask the experienced rather than the learned.
With a sweet tongue and some kindness, you can drag an elephant by a hair.
Winds blow counter to what ships desire.
If you’re an anvil, be patient; if you’re a hammer, strike hard.
Whoever seeks a faultless friend remains friendless.
Sunshine all the time makes a desert.
Stay away from evil, and instead sit and watch it.
The necessary connection of movement and time is real, and time is something the soul constructs in movement.
Keep a green tree in your heart, and perhaps a singing bird will come.
Defeating pride makes you good. Overcoming anger makes you cheerful. Overcoming passion makes you successful. Overcoming greed makes you happy.
No one is fit to command another who cannot command himself.
If you’re afraid — don’t do it; if you’re doing it — don’t be afraid!
Victory shows what you’re capable of; defeat shows what you’re really worth.
Don’t open a door that you won’t be able to close.
Men who do not forgive women for their little faults will never enjoy their great virtues.
If you reveal your secrets to the wind, you should not blame the wind for revealing them to the trees.
32 successful people share the best advice they ever received
Advice for success
We’ve all heard the clichéd formulas for success: ‘Do what you love’, ‘You only fail by not doing’, ‘As one door closes, another one opens’, etc. Read on to find out the pieces of advice some of the world’s most successful people live by and who they got their inspiration from.
The poem’s message is perennial: All of this will be over soon, faster than you think. Fame has a shadow — inevitable decline. The year 2016 has delivered a string of deaths that serve as bracing reminders of this inevitability: Prince, Nancy Reagan, David Bowie, Elie Wiesel, Bill Cunningham, Muhammad Ali, Gordie Howe, Merle Haggard, Patty Duke, John Glenn. Of course, it has also been a year that has ushered in a new empire and, simultaneously, the specter of apocalypse. The year’s end is a time to take account of kingdoms built, but also the sheer rapidity of their destruction. It is a chance to come to terms with the existential fragility that is overlooked in most of our waking hours and that must be faced even by the greatest among us.
Often in our world of mass-produced goods and machine-like cities, we strive for perfection, or in the case of modern process improvement techniques, near-perfection achieved by minimizing errors to within a prespecified amount. Coupled with this perfectionism is a tendency to toss away goods once they become marked on the surface or begin to show other signs of aging.
This quest for perfection and newness doesn’t stop with just our smartphones and sports cars. It creeps into every aspect of our lives, and eventually shuts us off from a natural world that resists being standardized. However, by ignoring perfection and embracing all that is worn or asymmetrical, you can begin to see the world differently. This, says Leonard Koren, will open you up to “the delicate balance between the pleasure we get from things and the pleasure we get from freedom of things.”
This welcoming of imperfection into your life is at the heart of Japanese concept of wabi-sabi, which means “impermanent, imperfect and incomplete.” The word comes from two separate words. “Wabi” describes the creation of perfect beauty through the inclusion of just the right kind of imperfection, such as an asymmetry in a handmade ceramic bowl (contrasted with the precision of a machine-made bowl). “Sabi” reflects the kind of beauty that develops with age, such as that which occurs with the oxidation of the surface of a bronze statue.
Often wabi-sabi is applied to design principles, such as creating living spaces that eschew the sterile formal living rooms of the 1940s or ‘50s, the cookie-cutter approach to houses, or the bland designs of corporate logos. This includes focusing on the types of asymmetry you would find in nature—handmade wooden chairs, the natural drooping of a flower head in a vase or a worn leather bag that is well-traveled.
But not all wabi-sabi is intentional. Nature is the best source of wabi-sabi aesthetics. And when you are attuned to the world, you begin to see wabi-sabi in the most unlikely places. The cracks in tree bark, a sign of healthy maturity; or the cracks in our own faces as we age, as we gain wisdom along the way. Krishnamurti goes deeper, saying that our souls are all made of the same paper; our uniqueness, though, comes from the creases in that paper from the folding and unfolding of our experiences.
Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There’s a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.
Unthinkable: We lie to ourselves more than to others
Self-deception is rife, says Colm Fitzgerald, and our education system is to blame
How many lies do you tell a day? Start counting. You may be shocked by the answer, especially if you include those little lies about how you’re powerless to influence all those things that are, in fact, under your control.
“Probably the most common lie that we can tell ourselves is that our life would be better if we had more – if only I had an extra €10,000, or if I only had this or that – when the reality is that the best thing we can do to make our lives better is to do more,” says Colm Fitzgerald, an assistant professor in actuarial science at UCD.
“Many people wish they were more talented and say to themselves that if [they were] they could do the wonderful things they’d like to do. The reality is that talent is nothing but a lengthy patience.
“Anyone good at maths, is good at maths because they’ve applied a lengthy patience with themselves to become good at maths. Michelangelo even went further than this, declaring that genius is nothing but eternal patience.”
Fitzgerald, a former banker with an interest in philosophy, sees the education system as the root of this self-deceit. “The word education comes from Latin and literally means ‘to draw out from within’ – to bring out our best selves. Education should not be about filling us up with stuff. Nor should it be in a building where we are whipped into shape,” he says. “Our education system is mostly set up to benefit those in power.”
To help remedy the situation, Fitzgerald has developed the “Know Yourself Test” which he is seeking to promote in business and educational settings as a way of guiding people “to achieve their full potential”.
It measures, among other things, how honest one is with oneself, one’s willingness to listen to others and one’s general reasoning ability.
This reporter took the test – which was developed by Fitzgerald with funding from the Society of Actuaries in Ireland – and I was informed I’d done “very well overall” but there were negatives too. Fitzgerald is keen to accentuate these in feedback, as “nothing grows in the comfort zone”, he says, and I’d be lying to myself if I thought otherwise.
You say “real education is about helping us become one of our best friends”. What do you mean exactly?
“Real education is about understanding what it means to be human – to know yourself in the context of being human – to be able to see the heights to which you can soar, and the depths to which you can fall – and to help you to thrive and not fall into life’s traps.
“The Stoics used to say that education was to align our perceptions with reality. Too many of us don’t know the perceptions we have that are helping us most, or the perceptions we have that are hampering us most.
“There are lots of examples of this. Many people bemoan the fact that life is unfair. But the reality is that life is a hill. If we want to thrive we have to get over it and usually the best way to do that is to get over ourselves.”
Is one of the lies we tell ourselves that we “deserve” an easy life?
“Lying, we all know, usually isn’t a good thing, but the worst form of it is lying to ourselves. Nietzsche claimed that we lie to ourselves about 100 times more than we lie to others. Most of the lies we tell ourselves are in order to do less rather than to do more – this is the lying that is most problematic.
“Many people in our society need to be hugged, they need more love, but most people have a greater need to be woken up than a need to be hugged.
“If somebody is dishonest to rob something, or do something else regressive and we hug rather than attempt to wake them up, then we are doing them harm and philosophically we are forgetting the moral of the Aesop’s fable of The Young Thief and his Mother.
“I know a good manager in Paris who has a very responsible and demanding job, meaning that she works very long hours, is under a lot of stress and is mostly thinking about others rather than thinking about herself. She was having problems with her PA who was not doing her job well and bemoaning her life all the time - making the manager’s job even harder.
“She overheard her PA saying how unfair life was, and that if only she was manager like her boss, her life would be great, she’d have loads of money, and her problems would all be sorted.
“This is an insidious lie that she is telling herself. Her problems are to do with her terrible attitude and her laziness and how little she is doing - even if she had a job as a manager, it would also mean a much heavier burden of work than she is currently trying to carry and she’d probably very quickly lose it, making her life even worse.
“Lies damage or even poison our characters. Having a good character is the best defence that we have for all that life throws at us and it is our best resource in helping us to thrive.”
“That said, we need to be careful, taking anything to an extreme usually turns it into its opposite. Lying can sometimes be good.
“Take the story told by the very funny and wise [psychologist] Dan Ariely about how he lied to himself to keep his spirits up and keep himself cheerful to help get him through taking painful medication that he needed to take to avoid liver disease.
“Fun and cheerfulness are wonderful things and they are also very helpful to us. They are usually the best defense against fear. Fear is something that can be extremely disabling to us. Lies that help us do more and that cheer us up without leading us to do less are hardly a bad thing.”
Being true to oneself sounds like hard work. Is it?
“William James put it nicely, saying: ‘Action may not always bring happiness, but there is no happiness without it’. Often we excuse ourselves from action with a lie, saying we don’t feel like doing it.
“We need to encourage action. I dream of the day when a politician calls to my door offering to help me do more to achieve my dreams, rather than trying to corrupt my nature by offering – and usually lying about – giving me more as a means to making my life better. Yes we do have needs, but our biggest need is to act. The best help that we can get is to help us act.”
Explain the Know Yourself Test to me, and how it can be used to promote “real education”.
“The Know Yourself Test aims to help an individual to achieve their full potential. The test does this by figuring out where our perceptions are aligned towards helping us to thrive and figuring out where our perceptions are distorted and where they are hampering and hindering us.
“It can then be used to affirm our helpful perspectives – to give us an encouraging hug – and to propose corrective actions to counter our not-so-helpful perspectives – ie to wake us up.
“One of the biggest things that prevents us from thriving is confusion about the best way to make our lives better. Our education system does not give us the ethical guidance we need here. The Know Yourself Test aims resolve this confusion and to point us in the right direction to achieve our dreams.
“No matter how strong we are, we can always do with a little help and a hand from others, but it’s best when this help, helps us do more, and helps us to become one of our own best friends.”
ASK A SAGE
Question: If Honesty was a Leaving Cert course would anyone get 100 per cent?
Thales replies: “The most difficult thing in life is to know yourself.”
If you study and write about happiness as I do, you become attuned to patterns. For instance, when I walk into a workplace, I can usually tell, based on my first few conversations, if the environment is happy or not. And in the past couple of years, I have noticed a happiness pattern that relates to politics. Namely, the people most in the know tend to be unhappier than those who pay less attention.
I subjected this observation to a bit of analysis, and sure enough, the numbers bear it out. I analyzed the 2014 data from the General Social Survey collected by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago to see how attention to politics is associated with life satisfaction. The results were significant. Even after controlling for income, education, age, gender, race, marital status and political views, being “very interested in politics” drove up the likelihood of reporting being “not too happy” about life by about eight percentage points.
Over breakfast with a social psychologist I know, I asked him what constructive contribution Christians could make to public life. An atheist who finds much to admire in religion, he answered simply: “Humility.”
That is a perfectly reasonable hope. Unfortunately, however, humility is a neglected Christian virtue. This is rather odd, given that humility should be a defining trait of Christians. The resurrection, celebrated by Christians throughout the world on Easter Sunday, was made possible only by an act of unsurpassed humility.
According to St. Paul, Jesus did not consider equality with God a thing to be grasped. Instead, Jesus “emptied Himself, taking the form of a bondservant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
Yet humility is hardly a hallmark of American Christianity, especially (but by no means exclusively) among those Christians prominently involved in politics. There we often see arrogance, haughtiness and pride, which is not only the “original sin” but also arguably the one most antithetical to a godly cast of mind.
In what should rank as one of the more ironic facts of modern politics, prominent Christian leaders and a record number of self-proclaimed evangelical voters supported for president a man of undisguised cruelty and unmatched narcissism. Indeed, for some evangelicals, those qualities worked in President Trump’s favor. Robert Jeffress, pastor of a megachurch in Dallas, explained that he did not want as president “some meek and mild leader or somebody who’s going to turn the other cheek.” What he wanted, Mr. Jeffress said, was “the meanest, toughest S.O.B. I can find to protect this nation.”
Since humility is so out of fashion as to almost have been forgotten, it’s worth making the case for how to rightly understand it, to articulate why humility is not only an essential Christian virtue but also, as my breakfast companion understood so well, an essential civic one.
My own understanding of humility is inextricably tied to a decades-long journey of faith. From it I have become convinced that Christians should be characterized by moral humility. This doesn’t mean followers of Jesus should be indifferent to a moral order grounded in eternal truths or unable to judge some things right and others wrong. But they ought to be alert first and foremost to their own shortcomings — to the awareness of how wayward our own hearts are, how even good acts are often tainted by selfish motives, how we all struggle with brokenness in our lives. This is not an argument for self-loathing; it’s an argument for self-awareness.
At the core of Christian doctrine is the belief that we have all fallen short, that our loves are disordered and our lives sometimes a mess, and therefore we are in need of grace. As a result, one of the defining qualities of a Christian’s witness to the world should be gentleness, an irenic spirit and empathy. The mark of genuine humility is not self-abasement as much as self-forgetting, which in turn allows us to take an intense interest in the lives of others.
But that is hardly the whole of it. Epistemological humility should also characterize Christians. In my last conversation with him before he died in 2015, Steve Hayner, who was president of Columbia Theological Seminary and an enormously influential figure in my life, put it well. “I believe in objective truth,” he told me, “but I hold lightly to our ability to perceive truth.”
What Steve meant by this, I think, is that the world is unfathomably complex. To believe we have mastered it in all respects — that our angle of vision on matters like politics, philosophy and theology is just right all the time — is ridiculous. This doesn’t mean one ought to live in a state of perpetual doubt and uncertainty. If we did, we could never speak up for justice and moral truth. It does mean, however, that we’re aware that what we know is at best incomplete. “We see through a glass darkly” is how St. Paul put it in one of his letters to the Corinthians: We know only in part.
My point is not that humility is uniquely available to Christians; it is simply that Christian teaching and tradition affirm its importance.
Humility is a sign of self-confidence; it means we’re secure enough to alter our views based on new information and new circumstances. This would be a far more common occurrence for many of us if our goal was to achieve a greater understanding of truth rather than to confirm what we already believe — if we went into debates wanting to learn rather than wanting to win.
This is a challenge for people of every faith and people of no faith, but as Robert Putnam and David Campbell write in “American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us,” Christians and other religious Americans, while generally better neighbors and “more conscientious citizens than their secular counterparts,” also tend to be “less tolerant of dissent than secular Americans.”
Certitude can easily become an enemy of tolerance but also of inquiry, since if you believe you have all the answers, there’s no point in searching out further information or making an effort to understand the values and assumptions of those with whom you disagree. It’s worth noting, too, that our checks-and-balances system of government assumes that none of us has all the answers and therefore no single person should be trusted with complete authority.
Humility believes there is such a thing as collective wisdom and that we’re better off if we have within our orbit people who see the world somewhat differently than we do. “As iron sharpens iron,” the book of Proverbs says, “so one person sharpens another.” But this requires us to actually engage with, and carefully listen to, people who understand things in ways dissimilar to how we do. It means we have to venture out of our philosophical and theological cul-de-sacs from time to time. It’s worth the effort.
As Tim Keller, one of America’s most influential evangelical thinkers, says: “You can’t disagree with somebody by just beating them from the outside. You have to come into their framework. You critique them from inside their own framework; you don’t critique them for not having your framework.”
A friend of mine recently told me that humility — a virtue he would be the first to admit he recognized only later in life — is elusive, a perpetual goal, almost always a little bit out of reach. The wiser we become, the more we see how much we don’t know and how much we need others to help us know.
The greatest among you shall be a servant, Jesus said, and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted. For people of the Christian faith, no one humbled himself more, or was exalted as much, as Jesus himself. The cross made the resurrection possible; humility prepared the way for hope. Which raises this question: If humility was good enough for Jesus, why not for the rest of us?
How Diversity Makes Us Smarter
Being around people who are different from us makes us more creative, diligent, and hard-working.
BY KATHERINE W. PHILLIPS | SEPTEMBER 18, 2017
The first thing to acknowledge about diversity is that it can be difficult.
In the U.S., where the dialogue of inclusion is relatively advanced, even the mention of the word “diversity” can lead to anxiety and conflict. Supreme Court justices disagree on the virtues of diversity and the means for achieving it. Corporations spend billions of dollars to attract and manage diversity both internally and externally, yet they still face discrimination lawsuits, and the leadership ranks of the business world remain predominantly white and male.
It is reasonable to ask what good diversity does us. Diversity of expertise confers benefits that are obvious—you would not think of building a new car without engineers, designers, and quality-control experts—but what about social diversity? What good comes from diversity of race, ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation? Research has shown that social diversity in a group can cause discomfort, rougher interactions, a lack of trust, greater perceived interpersonal conflict, lower communication, less cohesion, more concern about disrespect, and other problems. So, what is the upside?
The fact is that if you want to build teams or organizations capable of innovating, you need diversity. Diversity enhances creativity. It encourages the search for novel information and perspectives, leading to better decision making and problem solving. Diversity can improve the bottom line of companies and lead to unfettered discoveries and breakthrough innovations. Even simply being exposed to diversity can change the way you think.
This is not just wishful thinking: It is the conclusion I draw from decades of research from organizational scientists, psychologists, sociologists, economists, and demographers.
I’ve had a series of experiences over the past two weeks that leave the impression that everybody on earth is having the same conversation: How do you engage with fanatics?
First, I was at a Washington Nationals game when a Trump supporter in the row in front of me unleashed a 10-minute profanity-strewn tirade at me, my wife and son.
Then I went to the University at North Carolina at Asheville and watched some students engage in a heartfelt discussion over whether extremists should be allowed to speak on campus.
Then I went to Madrid, where a number of Spaniards told me that the leaders of the Catalan independence movement were so radical there was no way to reason with them.
Then I went to London where I was with pro-Brexit and anti-Brexit activists trying to have a civil conversation with one another.
Over the course of these experiences I’ve been rehearsing all the reasons to think that it’s useless to try to have a civil conversation with a zealot, that you’ve just got to exile them, or confront them with equal and opposite force.
For example, you can’t have a civil conversation with people who are intent on destroying the rules that govern conversation itself. It’s fruitless to engage with people who are impervious to facts. There are some ideas — like racism — that are so noxious they deserve no recognition in any decent community. There are some people who are so consumed by enmity that the only thing they deserve is contempt.
You’re not going to change these people’s minds anyway. If you give them an opening, you’re just going to give them room to destroy the decent etiquette of society. Civility is not a suicide pact. As Benjamin DeMott put it in a famous 1996 essay for the Nation, “When you’re in an argument with a thug, there are things much more important than civility.”
And yet the more I think about it, the more I agree with the argument Yale Law professor Stephen L. Carter made in his 1998 book “Civility.” The only way to confront fanaticism is with love, he said. Ask the fanatics genuine questions. Paraphrase what they say so they know they’ve been heard. Show some ultimate care for their destiny and soul even if you detest the words that come out of their mouths.
You engage fanaticism with love, first, for your own sake. If you succumb to the natural temptation to greet this anger with your own anger, you’ll just spend your days consumed by bitterness and revenge. You’ll be a worse person in all ways.
If, on the other hand, you fight your natural fight instinct, your natural tendency to use the rhetoric of silencing, and instead regard this person as one who is, in his twisted way, bringing you gifts, then you’ll defeat a dark passion and replace it with a better passion. You’ll teach the world something about you by the way you listen. You may even learn something; a person doesn’t have to be right to teach you some of the ways you are wrong.
Second, you greet a fanatic with compassionate listening as a way to offer an unearned gift to the fanatic himself. These days, most fanatics are not Nietzschean supermen. They are lonely and sad, their fanaticism emerging from wounded pride, a feeling of not being seen.
If you make these people feel heard, maybe in some small way you’ll address the emotional bile that is at the root of their political posture.
A lot of the fanaticism in society is electron-thin. People in jobs like mine get a lot of nasty emails, often written late at night after libations are flowing. But if we write back to our attackers appreciatively, and offer a way to save face, 90 percent of the time the next email is totally transformed. The brutal mask drops and the human being instantly emerges.
Finally, it’s best to greet fanaticism with love for the sake of the country. As Carter points out, the best abolitionists restrained their natural hatred of slaveholders because they thought the reform of manners and the abolition of slavery were part of the same cause — to restore the dignity of every human being.
We all swim in a common pool. You can shut bigots and haters out of your dining room or your fantasy football league, but when it comes to national political life, there’s nowhere else to go. We have to deal with each other.
Civility, Carter writes, “is the sum of the many sacrifices we are called to make for the sake of living together.”
You don’t have to like someone to love him. All you have to do is try to imitate Martin Luther King, who thrust his love into his enemies’ hearts in a way that was aggressive, remorseless and destabilizing.
Now I confess I didn’t respond to the Trump guy at the ballgame with all the noble sentiments I’ve put in this column. But I’m sure I’ll have a chance to do better soon. Doing the right thing in these bitter times is hard, but the answer isn’t that complicated.
A Dark Night of the Soul and the Discovery of Meaning
Anyone may go through a period of sadness or challenge that is so deep-seated and tenacious that it qualifies as a dark night of the soul. Not long ago I was giving a talk at a university when a man shouted at me from back in the crowd: “I’m terribly depressed. It’s been years. Help me.” I shouted back my email address. In his voice and body language I could see that this man was not caught in some passing depression. His life was broken by some loss, failure, or long-forgotten emotional wound that left him in a desperately dark place.
I reserve the expression ‘dark night of the soul’ for a dark mood that is truly life-shaking and touches the foundations of experience, the soul itself. But sometimes a seemingly insignificant event can give rise to a dark night: You may miss a train and not attend a reunion that meant much to you. Often a dark night has a strong symbolic quality in that it points to a deeper level of emotion and perhaps a deeper memory that gives it extra meaning. With dark nights you always have to be alert for the invisible memories, narratives, and concerns that may not be apparent on the surface.
Faced with a dark night, many people treat it like an illness, like depression. They may take medication or go into counseling looking for a cause. It can be useful to search for the roots of a dark night, but in my experience the best way to deal with it is to find the concrete action or decision that it is asking for.
Engaging the Night
img-engaging-the-nightA dark night of the soul is a kind of initiation, taking you from one phase of life into another. You may have several dark nights in the course of your life because you are always becoming more of a person and entering life more fully. At least, that is the hope.
One simple rule is that a truly deep dark night requires an extraordinary development in life. One outstanding example is Abraham Lincoln. With his early life surrounded by death and loneliness and his adult life weighed down by a war in which thousands of young men died, he was a seriously melancholic man who, in spite of or through his dark night, became an icon of wisdom and leadership. One theory is that he escaped his melancholy in his efforts for his country, but another possibility is that the very darkness of his life—he once said, “If there’s a worse place than hell, I’m in it.”—was the ground out of which his leadership grew.
As a therapist, I have worked with people profoundly sad and discouraged, and I join with them in looking for ways to transform that heavy mood into a weighty life. Contemporary people often don’t take their lives seriously enough. This tendency might be an aspect of the cult of celebrity, where we lose sight of our own importance by making too much of it in others.
In the archetypal psychotherapy that I practice, we always say: Go with the symptom. I don’t look for quick escapes from the pain or good distracting alternatives. I try to imagine how a symptom, like a long-standing dark night, might be re-imagined and even lived out in a way that is not literally depressive. As far back as the Middle Ages at least, dark moods were considered to be the work of Saturn, a spirit symbolized by a planet far out in the solar system. He was cold, lonely, and heavy, but he was also the source of wisdom and artistic genius. Look through history and you will find a great number of creative men and women who have struggled with the Saturnine humor.
This ancient idea that a dark night may be connected with genius and inspiration could help us today as we try to be constructive with a Saturnine disposition, like Lincoln’s, or a period of smoky moodiness. We might imagine it as the root and basis of an engagement with life that could give meaning and purpose. This doesn’t necessarily mean that eventually the dark spirit will go away, but it may have a counterweight—some extraordinary creative activity and involvement in life—that will make it more than bearable and may diminish it.
With our contemporary view of anything that looks like depression, we think: I’ll never be happy, never have a good relationship, never accomplish anything. But with the medieval image of Saturn, we might instead tell ourselves: A dark night is the sign of a high calling. My pain and loneliness will prepare me for my destiny.
President Jomo Kenyatta wrote this some years ago..
"I was jogging this morning and I noticed a person about 1/2 a kilometer ahead. I could tell he was running a little slower than me and I thought, good, I shall try to catch him. I had about a kilometer before I needed to turn off. So I started running faster and faster.
Every block, I was gaining on him just a little bit. After just a few minutes I was only about 100 meters behind him, so I really picked up the pace and pushed myself. You would have thought I was running in the last leg of an Olympic competition. I was determined to catch him.
Finally, I did it! I caught and passed him. On the inside, I felt so good. "I beat him." Of course, he didn't even know we were racing!
After I passed him, I realized I had been so focused on competing against him that I had missed my turn! I had gone nearly six blocks past my turn and I had to turn and go back.
Isn't that what happens in life when we focus on competing with co-workers, neighbors, friends, family, trying to outdo them or trying to prove that we are more successful or more important?
We spend our time and energy running after them and we miss out on our own paths to our God-given destinies!
The problem with unhealthy competition is that it's a never ending cycle!
There will always be somebody ahead of you, someone with a better job, nicer car, more money in the bank, more education, a prettier wife, a more handsome husband, better behaved children, etc.
But realize that "You can be the best that you can be, when you are not competing with anyone."
Some people are insecure because they pay too much attention to what others are, where others are going, wearing and driving....
Take what God has given you: your height, weight and personality.
Dress well and wear it proudly: you'll be blessed by it!
Stay focused and live a healthy life. There is no competition in Destiny.
Run your own race and wish others well.
In 1945, the Austrian physician René Spitz investigated an orphanage that took extra care to make sure its infants were not infected with disease. The children received first-class nutrition and medical care, but they were barely touched, to minimize their contact with germs. The approach was a catastrophe. Thirty-seven percent of the babies died before reaching age 2.
It turns out that empathetic physical contact is essential for life. Intimate touch engages the emotions and wires the fibers of the brain together.
The power of this kind of loving touch is long lasting. The famous Grant Study investigated a set of men who had gone to Harvard in the 1940s. The men who grew up in loving homes earned 50 percent more over the course of their careers than those from loveless ones. They suffered from far less chronic illness and much lower rates of dementia in old age. A loving home was the best predictor of life outcomes.
If the power of loving touch is astounding, the power of invasive touch is horrific. Christie Kim of N.Y.U. surveyed the research literature on victims of child sexual abuse. The victims experience higher levels of anxiety throughout their lifetimes. They report higher levels of depression across the decades and higher levels of self-blame. They are more than twice as likely to experience sexual victimization again.
Over the course of each year, people have many kinds of interactions and experience many kinds of mistreatment. But there is something unique about positive or negative touch. Emotional touch alters the heart and soul in ways that are mostly unconscious. It can take a lifetime of analysis to get even a glimpse of understanding.
For this reason, cultures all around the world have treated emotional touching as something apart. The Greeks labeled the drive to touch with the word “eros,” and they meant something vaster and deeper than just sexual pleasure. “Animals have sex and human beings have eros, and no accurate science is possible without making this distinction,” Allan Bloom observed.
The Abrahamic religions also treat sex as something sacred and beautiful when enveloped in loving and covenantal protections, and as something disordered and potentially peace-destroying when not.
Many years ago, the Israeli Bedouin expert Clinton Bailey told me a story about a Bedouin chief who discovered one day that his favorite turkey had been stolen. He called his sons together and told them: “Boys, we are in great danger now. My turkey’s been stolen. Find my turkey.” His boys just laughed and said, “Father, what do you need that turkey for?” and they ignored him.
A few weeks later the Bedouin chief’s camel was stolen. His sons went to him and said, “Father, your camel has been stolen. What should we do?” And the chief answered, “Find my turkey.”
A few weeks later the chief’s horse was stolen, and again his sons asked what they should do. “Find my turkey,” the chief said.
Finally, a few weeks later his daughter was abducted, at which point he gathered his sons and told them: “It’s all because of the turkey! When they saw that they could take my turkey, we lost everything.”
I retell that story today because it’s helpful in understanding how and why we failed to contain the egregious behavior of both Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin.
They each started by — metaphorically speaking — stealing a turkey. And when we didn’t respond, they kept ratcheting up their wretched behavior to the point where Trump thinks he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and Putin thinks he could poison a wayward spy in London, and get away with it.
The lesson that the Bedouin chief was trying to teach his sons is that he could live his life without that turkey — but he couldn’t live his life with what the stealing of his turkey with impunity implied: that when people keep eroding the norms of society, stealing — turkeys or the truth — eventually becomes the norm.
That steady erosion of norms is what Trump is doing to America and Putin is doing to the world. And if we let them get away with it, your kids won’t just grow up in a different America, they’ll grow up in a different world.
Recently, I’ve been lucky enough to be around a lot of people who I would regard as moral heroes. They spend their lives fighting poverty, caring for the young or the sick, or single-mindedly dedicated to some cause. I’ve been wondering what traits such people tend to have in common.
There's a gap between our moral values and actions, but we can reduce it by increasing our propensity for moral action.
By Christian B. Miller | May 23, 2018
One beautiful summer day in the ocean off Panama City Beach, two boys out for a swim got caught in a rip current. When their mother heard their cries, she and several other family members dove into the ocean, only to be trapped in the current, too. Then, in a powerful display of character, complete strangers on the beach took action. Forming a human chain of 70 to 80 bodies, they stretched out into the ocean and rescued everyone.
Stories like this inspire me with hope about what human beings are capable of doing. Though we may face a daily barrage of depressing reports about sexual harassment, corruption, and child abuse, stories of human goodness help to give us another perspective on our human character.
don't think anybody anywhere can talk about the future...
without talking about education.
Whoever controls the education of our children controls our future.
- Wilma Mankiller
There are two educations.
One should teach us how to make a living,
and the other how to live.
- John Adams
Education is a social process.
Education is growth.
Education is not a preparation for life;
education is life itself.
- John Dewey
Nothing is more important than education,
because nowhere are our stakes higher;
our future depends on the quality of education of our children today.
- Arnold Schwarzenegger
Modern cynics and skeptics... see no harm in paying those
to whom they entrust the minds of their children
a smaller wage than is paid to those to whom
they entrust the care of their plumbing.
- John F. Kennedy
Education is not job training;
the function of education is to instill an appreciation
of our place in the flow of time and space,
to expand our intellectual and empathetic understanding
of nature and people.
- Jonathan Lockwood Huie
What makes a good life? Lessons from the longest study on happiness
What keeps us happy and healthy as we go through life? If you think it's fame and money, you're not alone – but, according to psychiatrist Robert Waldinger, you're mistaken. As the director of a 75-year-old study on adult development, Waldinger has unprecedented access to data on true happiness and satisfaction. In this talk, he shares three important lessons learned from the study as well as some practical, old-as-the-hills wisdom on how to build a fulfilling, long life.
Do you really want to win an argument, or do you want to find mutual ground and understanding? Canadian psychologist and author Jordan Peterson feels that in most cases it's the latter. It might take some getting used to, he posits, as acquiescence by its very nature means admitting that you're wrong in some way.
Are You a Visual or an Auditory Learner? It Doesn’t Matter
One mental strategy may be much better suited than another to a particular task.
You must read this article to understand it, but many people feel reading is not how they learn best. They would rather listen to an explanation or view a diagram. Researchers have formalized those intuitions into theories of learning styles. These theories are influential enough that many states (including New York) require future teachers to know them and to know how they might be used in the classroom.
But there’s no good scientific evidence that learning styles actually exist.
The Japanese Man Who Saved 6,000 Jews With His Handwriting
What the astonishing Chiune Sugihara teaches us about moral heroism.
NAGOYA, Japan — “Even a hunter cannot kill a bird that flies to him for refuge.” This Samurai maxim inspired one gifted and courageous man to save thousands of people in defiance of his government and at the cost of his career. On Friday I came to Nagoya at the invitation of the Japanese government to speak in honor of his memory.
The astonishing Chiune Sugihara raises again the questions: What shapes a moral hero? And how does someone choose to save people that others turn away?
You cannot post new topics in this forum You cannot reply to topics in this forum You cannot edit your posts in this forum You cannot delete your posts in this forum You cannot vote in polls in this forum