Not A Level Playing Field

Yesterday, dozens of wealthy parents were charged in a pay-to-play scheme.


To get their kids into choice colleges, prominent lawyers, business people, and Hollywood stars paid millions of dollars for bribes, bogus exam scores, and fake athletic achievements. 


Uh, let’s give Bobby just a little extra advantage and he’ll do just fine…


But while some people pretend to be so shocked that this is going on, the truth is that we all know that it’s definitely not a level playing field.


All I have to do is drive by the local Mansions in Potomac, Bethesda or Chevy Chase, Maryland or in Northern Virginia and see the extravagant homes, schools, shopping, and neighborhoods, and you know there are the forever haves and the have nots. 


As the old adage goes, “Money makes money!”


If you are born with a silver spoon in your mouth in the U.S., the chances are you will stay that way


Having the assets, information, connections, and opportunities seems to bode quite well for those who leverage it.


The worst part is that those who have these things often really believe that they are better or more deserving than others.


Can you see the nose elevated and those snooty eyes staring down on you? 


Wealthy parents cheating the system and paying off others to get their kids into the best schools–a surprise?  


Not a chance.


What the real surprise here is…that this time, they got caught.  😉 


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Me Myself and I

I thought this was really fascinating about how we interact with others.


It’s a theory by Martin Buber called the I-Thou relationship.


In every relationship, there are really 6 people in the room:


– Who I am.


– Who I want to be.


– Who I am perceived as.


———–


– Who they are.


– Who they want to be.


– Who they are perceived as. 


———-


Taking about a break between reality, fantasy, and perception. 


Is it any wonder that there are so many communication breakdowns and relationship disappointments. 


We need to coalesce around a unified persona of I and thou–and if we don’t know, perhaps we need to ask for clarification.


We don’t want to talk past each other. 


We want to talk to and work with each other. 


I am me and you are you. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Among All The Apples

This was an interesting photo moment at Whole Foods–this Valentine’s Day huggy bear sitting among all the apples. 


Sort of how I felt after synagogue today and at other times. 


I’ve learned the importance as my father had so often tried to teach me of going to synagogue.


Yes, the prayer and service to Hashem.


But also the community. 


We all need people. 


None of us is an island. 


At synagogue, aside from the opportunity to speak and be close with G-d, I appreciate the hearty calls of “Shabbat Shalom,” the embracing handshakes, hugs and occasional kisses, the chance to see and kiss the holy Torah, and being among friends.


Like the apples, we’re all sort of the same, yet unique, and we stand together. 


As apples, we all have our glowing and shiny outsides, a sweet inner core, and also plenty of juicy meat. 


People too put on their best clothes, shoes, and do themselves to look their best going to synagogue, and inside they are there to express their goodness with G-d and the community.


Also though, you hear plenty of the heartbreaking stories about what is happening to them as families and individuals. 


Sure, there are the lovely smachot (happy occasions) in their and our lives to celebrate, but there is also plenty of adversity and challenges faced daily. 


One member passed away this week, another is getting cancer treatments, and someone got hit by a car crossing the street and is in the hospital with literally 79 screws holding their ribs together!


Then there are those out looking for work, others suffering from bad marriages or getting divorced, someone with a sick child that needs lifelong care, and someone who even got robbed this week.


Yes, shiny on the outside and with the sweetness of souls and hearts, and yet everyone has their baskets of challenges to deal with. 


For someone like me, I literally feel it inside for people–it’s like I can almost imagine what it must be like to be in their shoes. 


Obviously, I can’t–no one really can–but I imagine myself and ask myself OMG what in the world would I do–and of course, I have no real idea. 


Synagogue is I guess the most perfect place to experience all this–since we are before G-d, asking for his blessings and mercy, and with others, we bond to who are all in the same boat paddling and trying to survive and live a full and meaningful life. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

There’s No Shield Against Loneliness

Lonelieness.jpeg

Loneliness is empty, hollow, a panicky void, and depression. 


It’s like being in the ocean and feeling so small in its massive depths…almost like drowning. 


In the end, you are alone in the universe. 


No one can truly feel your pain or joy or experience all of you.


You’re a world unto yourself. 


You connect and form relationships with others–there is learning and growth and love and caring in that. 


Talking and reaching out and being part of someone and something washes away parts of those scary feelings and creates a greater purpose of being and meaning. 


But there is also silence and solitude and the darkness of the night. 


And in that there is just the faith in G-d Almighty. 


He alone is what comforts us as we stare into the vastness out there as well as the evil and loss that we come face-to-face with and combat in life. 


The soldier girds his sword for battle and carries a shield to protect himself.


But there is no shield for the loneliness we experience in life and ultimately in death itself. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Who’s In Your Corner?

Who's In Your Circle.jpeg

So as the saying goes…


It’s not what you know, but who you know!


Relationships, connections, and networks are critical for all of us to work together and get things done. 


And sure, it’s good to have some reliable people in your corner who know you and can speak good about who you are, what you represent, and what you’re doing.


However, let’s face it, there are some people out there that take advantage and don’t just have advocates, but rather protectors, and it’s a way for those who may be unqualified, unsavory, and incompetent–as individual–to sustain themselves.


Frankly, some of these people should never be in their jobs and should never be a leader over anything or anybody–but they are enabled, because of who and not what they know or are able to do. 


Whether it’s the Peter Principle or bullies and those without a working moral compass or sometimes it seems even a conscience, it can be very scary at times for what suffices as leadership in many organizations. 


Yes, of course, Thank G-d for the many good, well-meaning, and hardworking folks that make getting up in the morning as well as going into the office, worthwhile.


But for those that hide behind the skirts of others, so that they can get away with things that they should never ever be getting away with…well those are not fruitful relationships being maintained, but rather caustic ones that radiate concentric circles of toxicity to organizations, people, and mission. 


People know it when they see it–because it stinks from the stench of bad apples, bullying, disengagement, lack of accountability and ultimately failure. 


We desperately need each person to perform and to band together as an A-Team. 


However, sink or swim–as individuals, each person in their own based on their conscience and contribution without a phony mask of a protectorate accomplice. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Oculus Rift Has My Attention

Oculus Rift

This picture is an older version of Oculus Rift–larger, heavier, more clunky than the streamlined version coming out this April for $599.


Zuckerberg’s Facebook announced the purchase of Oculus virtual reality (VR) in March 2014.


I can’t think of another piece of consumer technology that I want to try out more than this. 


Initially for immersive 3-D experiences in all sorts of entertainment, including gaming, movies, television, and more. 


But soon to follow are use cases for virtual meetings, classrooms, doctor’s appointments, and anything requiring our interaction and communication. 


Hush-hush is the more intimate use for things like virtual sex. 


Also, there are opportunities for augmented reality where physical reality is supplemented with computer sensory input making your real-experience that much richer and informed.


With the Oculus Rift, I imagine myself immersed on a safari in Africa, flying into the reaches of space, relaxing at the most beautiful beaches, praying at the Western Wall, fighting my way through first person shooter and action adventures, and reliving biblical and other major historical events.


I don’t see VR for myself as an escape from reality, so much as being able to experience many more of life’s realities and possibilities out there. 


My only fear is that as VR gets better and better, it becomes easier and easier to fall away from our challenges in the real world, and just live inside a mask with a controlled environment where our virtual choices and experiences seem all too convenient and real. 😉 


(Source Photo: here with attribution to Weston High School Library)

10 Commandments, 10 Plagues–What’s The Connection?

Ten Commandments

It occurred to me while listening to the Rabbi’s speech at Magen David Synagogue today that there is nothing random in the Torah (Bible).

Since this weeks’s Torah reading in Exodus was about the ten plagues in Egypt, I realized that this must be connected to the later ten commandments in a subsequent reading. 

This table explains how the commandments to the Jews (and all mankind) and the plagues on the Egyptians are connected one for one.

(Source Table: Andy Blumenthal)