Only Game In Town

Only Game In Town.JPeG

This was a funny sign up in Harpers Ferry yesterday, Thanksgiving Day. 


Outside this restaurant, it says, “Only OPEN Place in Town, GREAT Food.”


I suppose if it’s the only game in town, then whatever food they have is by definition “great”-compared to going hungry that is. 


Life is very much like this–where everything is relative. 


If I have too many choices–how do I choose? 


Whatever I choose, I may second guess myself that maybe another one would’ve been better. 


It’s like when I go out with my daughter to eat, somehow whatever she orders is always better than what I got!


But when choice is limited or non-existent, well then “beggars can’t be choosey.”


Essentially, your happy with what you have– perhaps, something is often better than nothing. 


But really it’s much more than that, because if you look closely at others, you realize that what you have is actually a pretty darn good lot in life–so don’t be envious, jealous, or be too quick to want to change places with your neighbor. 


Obviously, this was a very apropos sign for Thanksgiving–where we need to learn to be grateful for everything we have in life. 


It is our basket, and we wouldn’t want to trade it for anything in the world (and if you did, you’d be sorry afterwards). 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Appreciating G-d’s Gifts

Chassidim Dancing
Today, I heard a fascinating speech from Rabbi Haim Ovadia of Magen David Synagogue that put a beautiful new perspective on the Ten Commandments.



He explained how the commandments are not just commandments, but actually a covenant between G-d and mankind.  



G-d gave man gifts of:



1) FREEDOM and choice (He is the L-rd who brought you out of bondage)

2) DIVINITY, a direct spiritual connection (Thou shalt have no idols)

3) PRAYER, heartfelt (Thou shalt not take G-d’s name in vain)

4) SABBATH (On the seventh day thou shalt do no work)

5) FAMILY (Honor thy father and mother).



In turn, G-d asks that we appreciate His gifts to us, and not take from others what isn’t ours:



1) LIFE (Don’t murder)

2) Another Man’s WIFE (Don’t commit adultery)

3) THINGS (Don’t steal)

4) DUE PROCESS/JUSTICE (Don’t bear false witness)

5) Someone else’s BLESSINGS (Don’t covet, and essentially bring an “evil eye” on them)



This interpretation is sort of the ah-ha in the Ten Commandments, which otherwise some would say, “what’s so novel or special about G-d telling us not to do these bad things–wouldn’t we already know (many of) these ourselves?”



But what is novel here is that the Ten Commandments is a whole philosophy of thinking about life, one where we appreciate G-d’s many gifts to us, but where we control our animal instincts and in turn act spiritually.



Thank you G-d for the many wonderful gifts, and for giving us the opportunity to elevate ourselves and be satisfied with our lot in life. 



(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

The Happiness Meter

The Happiness Meter

Ever realize that no matter how hard you strive for happiness, it almost always seems just as elusive.

There are many explanations for this:

Of course, it could also be that just because you think something will make you happy, doesn’t mean it will. Often, the fantasy does not live up to the reality, and so rather than achieve happiness, we end up disappointed.

Another explanation, from economics, is the law of diminishing marginal utility that tells us that more of a good thing, does not make us incrementally happier, rather the benefit and satisfaction that we receive from each additional unit of consumption is lower. Let’s face it, the 5th mouthful of chocolate cream pie is not as satisfying at the first, second, or third. And at a certain point, you actually will want to puke!

The Wall Street Journal had a brilliant piece on this that explained this from an evolutionary perspective–fitter organisms are more likely to survive and reproduce, so every time we make a positive decision in our life, rather than find happiness, our “happiness meter” resets to zero, forcing us to make the next positive move in our life to make us better, if not necessarily happier. In other words, keeping us unhappy, forces us into perpetual striving.

So while happiness has been correlated with our genetic makeup, life events, and values (New York Times) or even exercise, altruism, and supportive relationships (CNN), real happiness comes from living a life of meaning, where we find satisfaction in the journey itself, and not rely only on the destination.

For example, Buddhists understand that life is suffering and that we need to escape the hamster wheel of jealousy, aimless external desire, and quenchless ambition and instead seek to do good and find inner contentment.

One colleague (ex-army) of mine used to say, “everyday that I am not in Iraq and Afghanistan is a good day” and perhaps we need to think in those terms too, as we all know things can always be worse, so we would do well to find happiness not just in what we have or achieve, but in thanksgiving for what we are spared as well. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)