Alternatives Are More Valuable Than Criticism

So one lesson of life that I have learned is about criticism. 


It’s easy to criticize, but tough to come up with real solutions. 


Criticizing someone else, does not usually provoke a good response. 


UNLESS, you can provide a bona fide better alternative in a loving way. 


It’s important to solve problems and not just create new ones. 


Criticizing without an alternative just causes anxiety and frustration in the other person. 


But when you says something isn’t right and why, and provide a better alternative, now the other person can see concretely what you are talking about, and they know they have options and that you are trying to help. 


No one wants to be told they are no good or their choices are no good. 


But people don’t mind and perhaps may even embrace being told that there is even something better for them out there.


Don’t criticize, instead give alternatives that are good for the other person. 


That’s real love without being a jerk. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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My First Interfaith Event

So I attended my first interfaith event today at Temple Shalom in Chevy Chase, Maryland.


The first lady that I spoke to said that she wasn’t any one religion.  


When I asked more about this, she said:

The core to all religions is Rachamim (mercy, compassion) and Ahavah (love).


Pictured above are the table seating cards that directed people to sit next to people of other religions:  Jewish, Muslim, Other. 


The event was led by the One America Movement, and the Director, Andrew Hanauer spoke very well about bridging what divides us. 


Here are some of the take-a-ways:


– We need to address the divisiveness, polarization, and conflict. 

– Remember that we are talking with other human beings and not with labels.


– Polarization is not just issues, but devolves into identity–“I hate your stupid face!”


– But we are all human beings (and children of G-d). 

– Republicans and Democrats each say that the other is 20% less human than they are. 


– We all have our own “facts”:  My facts vs. Your Facts. 


– We attribute good that happens to us as being because of “us,” but bad that happens to us because of “them.”


– Similarly, we believe that we act out of love, but they act out of hate–and:

– We interpret threats to our viewpoints (political and otherwise), as threats to our groups and to ourselves. 

– Try to remove binary thinking (right and wrong, left and right, etc.), critique your own point of view, and share doubts

– Reconciliation:  If we can cross the divide, have open dialogue, and positive interactions with each others, and develop cross-cutting identities then we will make it easier to counter divisive narratives, solve problems, and reduce violence. 

(Source Photos: Andy Blumenthal)

Loneliness Is Death

There is a very important article in the Wall Street Journal today on the link of loneliness to death. 


Frightening loneliness statistics:


– One in 11 Americans over age 50 “lacks a spouse, partner, or living child.”


– More than 1 in 4 baby boomers is divorced or never married.  


– 1 out of every 6 people lives alone. 


Research indicates that loneliness leads to early death. 


The impact of loneliness is equivalent to:


– Smoking 15 cigarettes a day


– Drinking 6 alcoholic beverages a day


Loneliness is worse for mortality than:


– Obesity 


– Physical activity


“The effect of isolation is extraordinarily powerful…we have to address loneliness,” says the former administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. 


Whether you are extroverted or introverted, we all need human interaction, sharing, caring, touch, and love.  


Truly, no man is an island!


Those that are stranded on loneliness island need to escape it and make their way back to human civilization.


Alone our lives are dull and stunted; but together, we have the inherent social dynamics to be able to experientially learn, grow, change and mature. 


Alone we die–together we live. 


It’s not just power in numbers, it’s life itself. 


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Who Took The Cheese?

So this is a photo from today in the cafeteria of the mac and cheese. 


What I see without fail, day-in and day-out ,is that the people take the yummy crispy cheese off the top of the mac and cheese. 


The result is that just a few people get all the cheesy cheese from on top and everyone else is left with the noodles underneath.  


So for cheese sake, why do they do it?


– For the Love of Cheese – People simply love melted cheese so much, they’ll do anything to get more of it.


– Because They Can Take Cheese – People take the best part, the crispy cheese on top for themselves, because they can and there is only benefits to themselves and no adverse consequences if they do it. 


– They are Very Hungry for Cheese – People take the cheese because they are so famished, only the cheese on top can satisfy their hunger pains. 


– Sense of Cheese Entitlement – People have a sense of entitlement for themselves, and if there’s cheese to be had, they they are entitled to it.


– Cheese Narcissism – People are innately selfish for cheese and they will take and take and take until there is no cheese on top for anyone else. 


– Anti-social Cheese Behavior – People have anti-social personality cheese disorder, so they can’t help but take all the cheese. 


– Not Enough Cheese to Go Around – People feel their is simply not enough cheese to go around; in other words cheese is a scarce resource, which makes it a valuable cheese commodity to scoop up for themselves. 


What is really funny-sad about this whole cheese situation is that every day the food service seems to put out the same leftover mac and cheese with a fresh topping of the cheesy-cheese on top, only for it all to be taken off again–cheesy day after cheesy day. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Impact of Hyperwork on Family

I am seeing this all the time now… 

Parents of little children, or even older children, who are too busy working to pay much, if any, attention to their families.

Call it a disease of the industrial revolution + information technology. 

Whether people worked on the assembly line making widgets or nowadays on the computer and smartphone answering their bosses and colleagues compulsively–it’s become a global obsession. 

On one hand, with the impending robot and AI revolution taking over jobs, people need to be grateful to even have a job to earn a living for the families.

On the other hand, with the connections to each other and our work 24/7, the depression-era saying of:

Brother, can you spare a dime?

Has morphed into:

Brother, can you spare some time?

Yes, we all need to be responsible adults, earn a decent living and pay our bills. 

But in the end, it’s not money or things that we give to our families that is the most important.  

I would argue money and things are the least important, and what is truly most precious is the love, time, and attention you give to yours. 

As the old saying goes:

Money can’t buy love.

But time and attention given to your loved ones can build meaningful relationships that last a lifetime and beyond. 

Yes, of course, people need to work to earn a living and productively contribute something to society, but it is also true that work is used as an excuse to run away from parental and familial responsibilities. 

It’s easier to give an Amazon gift certificate or a Gameboy then to actually spend the afternoon with the kids. 

These days, people say ridiculous things like:

I love going into the office to get away from home. 

But you can’t run away from your problems at home–you need to work on them and solve them.

The diabolical murderous Nazis used work as a tool to enslave, torture, and exterminate their victims as the sign over the gate of the Auschwitz (and many other) concentration camps read:

Arbeit Macht Frei  (or Work Sets You Free)

But as we all know inside, true freedom is being able to give generously from your time and effort to your loved ones, and slavery is not being able to let go of your work. 

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

One G-d, Many Stories

So we went to the mall and there was a new Indian gift store.


We went in to take a look, and they had all sorts of things, but one section had a lot of colorful statues. 


We didn’t even really know what we were looking at when one of the young lady salespeople came over to explain. 


And she’s pointing to different statues and saying that this is the “G-d of love,” this is the “G-d of prosperity,” this is the “G-d for removing obstacles,” etc. 


I said to her questioningly (non-judgmental), “So we are Jews, and we believe in monotheism. How do you understand this concept of different ‘G-ds’?”


She said, “Well, I learned about these growing up in India, but the way I’ve come to terms with this is that these “G-ds” are really different ‘faces’ of one G-d” and then she started to tell us the “stories” of them. 


So in her explanation, when they are confronting challenges in life, they pray to the “face of G-d” that focuses on removing those obstacles, and when they are seeking prosperity then they pray to that “face of G-d” so on and so forth. 


It was interesting to me how this young lady came to find a monotheistic interpretation and path for herself and perhaps others who have similar beliefs.  


I wondered to myself whether this understanding can be in a way be similar to the Jewish concept of G-d having different attributes like midat Rachamin, din, etc. 


Of course, I know that G-d loves all of us, and I respect everyone’s personal beliefs.


For me and my traditional Jewish belief system, I wholeheartedly affirm as my namesake Abraham:

Sh’ma Yis’rael, Hashem Elo’kenu, Hashem Echad.
Hear O’ Israel, the L-rd our G-d, the L-rd is one.  

 😉


(Source Photo: here with attribution to Moshe Shalom)

An 80-Year-Old’s Life Philosophy

So today an 80-year-old Algerian man sat our table for the Kiddush lunch after synagogue services. 


And he talked quite a bit about his life philosophy and told me I was a good listener. 🙂


1) TRUE LOVE IS LIKE AN ORANGE:

A man and women that are meant to be together are like two sides of an orange.  With his hands, he showed us putting the two sides together, twisting, and he goes, “You see it just clicks!”


2) WHEN LOVE IS NOT TRUE ITS LIKE TWO BIRDS IN A CAGE:

When a man and woman are not soulmates, maybe they just are meant to be together for a time to have children or make a home temporarily. But then, the birds need to leave the cage, and be free!


3) BURIED TOGETHER:

“When people are soulmates, they are buried together, next to each other. Otherwise, one is buried in Greece and the other in Hawaii, and it makes no difference because they are going their own ways in Heaven.”


4) 80 HERE AND 20 HERE

He pointed to his belly and said, “I’m 80 here.” And then pointed to his groin area, and said, “But I’m 20 here!”


5) WOMEN ONLY UNDER 40:

While he is 80, he claims to be robust in the bedroom, and “will never be with a woman over 40…not a day over!”  He said, “It’s like an old Cadillac!” Moreover, he said, if a woman is “not perfect” and has a scar like from having her appendix out, “forget it!”


6) WRITING, PLAYING GUITAR, AND DANCING:

He said, “I like to write, play guitar and dance.” And with his arms, he makes some swoops like he is on the dance floor having a good time. 


7) PEOPLE ARE LIKE CANDLES:

People are like candles.  The body is like the wax that burns down, but the soul is the flame that always rises up.  In the end, the soul ascends to heaven just like the flame. 


8) INFINITELY STUPID:

He pointed to the yarmulke on top of his head and said:  “You know what that means?  This means that there is no limit to how stupid some people can be!”  


8) YOU MAKE YOUR OWN LUCK:

I asked what he did for a living, and he said “Real estate, Jewelry, and even fashion salons.”  I said, “Wow, you’re very fortunate!”  He said, “No, in life, you make your own luck!”


10) RESPECT ME IF YOU WANT:

“You respect me, and I respect you. But frankly, I don’t care if you respect me or not. You can do what you want, and so will I!” I said, “Ok, see you next week and we’ll talk again.”  He said, “Maybe I will or maybe I won’t talk to you ever again.”


Like his philosophy or not, I never saw an 80-year-old with so much energy, life, and personality. Honestly, there are a lot of people half his age, who act more dead than alive. It was incredible to see this ageless person and hear what that’s like. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal