Arrogance And A Messy Head

While sometimes children behave like “know-it-alls”…


Often an attempt to showcase what they’ve learned or to build their self-confidence. Sometimes, it’s also to bully others.  


More unusual though is to find an adult that thinks and actually says they know it all. 


But sure enough, I ran into someone who told me (about technology):

“I know everything!”


And they said it with a straight face. 


Literally, they told me how they came up through the ranks and knew EVERYTHING with emphasis!


Moreover, they told me that if I didn’t know something, I should go ahead and ask them because they would most definitely know it.


So I respect all people and certainly admire those who are knowledgable and talented in their fields. 


But something felt very wrong about an adult who feels that they have to go around bragging about the depth of their knowledge–and that their knowledge is apparently infinite (at least that’s what they espoused). 


I wondered to myself–is the person arrogant and a big mouth or the opposite–lacking in self confidence and therefore needing to boast and show off to compensate for their inadequacies?


When they were talking, it seemed like their head was getting so big and full of themself that it would just explode!


Most adults with emotional intelligence realize how little they know, and the older they get the more they realize that they don’t know in life. 


Especially, people of faith recognize that G-d is all-knowing and all-powerful, and we are but mere “flesh and blood” and truly just a speck of dust in the universe.


So truly smart people are humble and they look to learn from others, rather than preach and teach in a monologue of hubris.


Like many people that get too big for the britches, G-d usually brings them back down to Earth and their head to size.  😉


(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Transcending Suffering and Impermanence

There is a buddhist philosophy that life is all about loss and suffering. 


The Budha says:

Life is suffering.


Why? Because life is impermanence–whatever we gain, eventually, we must lose. 


– Riches, power, people, health, even our memories perhaps. 


In a sense, this is like the saying from “War of the Roses”:

There is no winning, only degrees of losing. 


However, there is one exception to the impermanence and loss in life:


The only thing that is permanent is our good deeds, and with this we can achieve an everlasting good name for ourselves.


In Judaism, we teach:

A good name is better than fine oil.


Hence, this is the permanence that we strive for in life and in death.  


If we can attain a good name through purity of soul then in a sense, we can transcend life’s suffering and impermanence.  


By becoming non-attached to all of life’s temporary things, and instead focusing on perfecting ourselves, we can free ourselves from suffering and from this world, and then we can go on in everlasting-peace to the afterlife. 

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Jack Of All Trades

I saw this quote hanging on the wall. 


It’s by science fiction writer, Robert Anson Heinlein.

“A human being should be able to:

  • Change a diaper
  • Plan an invasion
  • Butcher a hog
  • Conn [control] a ship
  • Design a building
  • Write a sonnet
  • Balance account
  • Build a wall
  • Set a bone
  • Comfort the dying
  • Take orders
  • Give orders
  • Cooperate
  • Act alone
  • Solve equations
  • Analyze a new problem
  • Pitch manure
  • Program a computer
  • Cook a tasty meal
  • Fight efficiently
  • Die Gallantly

Specialization is for insects.”

It’s sort of fascinating all the things that are expected of people to be able to do. 

And this is a short list–I’m sure you can think of many, many more things that people have to be able to do to survive, to live, to thrive. 

What complex and magnificent creations of G-d we are! 

Not only in terms of our physiology, but also in terms of our cognitive, emotional, social, and spiritual capacities and desires. 

We are flesh and blood, but with a breath of life from the living G-d, and we are capable and can do so much. 

At the same time, we are imperfect, limited, fallible, and mortal. 

– Jack of all trades, and master of none. 

Expect the best, but plan for plenty of mistakes and disasters along the way. 

Live well, and return to the creator a better person. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Growing With The Challenge

Thought this was a good saying, and wanted to share it.

“A man grows with the greatness of his task.”


In Hebrew, there is a similar saying:

“Lefum Tzaara Agra.” (Which translates roughly too: “As the suffering, so to is the reward.”)

Adversity, hardships, challenges, pain, suffering–these all test our mettle.


Obviously, these are not fun, but in the end, we are forced to grow from these experiences. 


– What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. 


Sometimes though, they really can kill us. 


So, push yourself as far and as fast as you can, but also you better know your true limits. 


And we all have them, even when we think we’re invincible. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

The Knowable and Unknowable

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So as we all do, I often come across challenging and perplexing issues or problems in life. 


And my nature is to try to understand them, solve them, fix them–is it survival or the challenge or both?


But then we come across some things that are just beyond our [mere mortal] understanding or ability to simply fix them. 


I remember as a youngster learning in Yeshiva about when it says in the Bible that G-d hardened Pharaoh’s heart so that he continued to refuse to let the Jews go from their enslavement in Egypt.


And the classic mind-bending question is how could G-d harden his heart if Pharaoh retained free will which we all have to choose good or evil.


Did G-d harden his heart or did he have free will–which is it?  And if G-d hardened his heart, then how could Pharaoh and the Egyptians be punished for something they didn’t fully control? 


One explanation is that by facing the punishing plagues, Pharoah was losing his free will to decide what to do with the Israelites, so by hardening his heart, G-d was actually restoring his free will to choose once again…interesting. 


Of course in life, there is also the philosophical dimensions of so many seeming contradictions such as the cliche about what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object.


Which wins out if one is unstoppable and the other is unmovable?


No, I don’t think these are just riddles, but the testing of the abilities of our human minds to understand further and further into the mysteries of G-d, creation, and the universe. 


So what do we do in life when confronted by things that are seemingly or really beyond our human capacities? 


– We ponder these weighty matters and sometimes we get frustrated and rip our little-left hair out or laugh at ourselves as to why we can’t just get it.


– We look to understand the deeper spiritual meanings of these challenges in the context of our earthly lives. 


– We try to solve and fix what we can within the confines of our spaghetti brain matter and flesh and bone bodies. 


– At the end of the day, we acknowledge our human limitations, and look to the Heavens for answers or at least for Divine guidance and protection along the way.


While we cannot understand everything or always reach our destination that we set for ourselves that should never prevent us from trying our hardest and going as far as we can on our journeys–and letting the next person, and the next person pick up the torch and carry it forward. 


In the Jewish prayers, we say that the matters of the earth are for our exploration and striving, but the ultimate secrets of the Heaven are for G-d alone. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

A Little Wear and Tear

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Despite a generally longer life expectancy…people still have lots of aches and pains already by midlife. 


Danielle Ofri in the New York Times points out:

“Our bodies evolved to live about 40 years and then be finished off by a mammoth or a microbe. [However,] thanks to a century of staggering medical progress, now now live past 80, but evolution hasn’t caught up; the cartilage in our joints still wears down in our 40s and we are more obese and more sedentary that we used to be, which doesn’t help.”

I hear from so many people in their 40s that they are already getting knee and hip replacements; they have high blood pressure, diabetes, and are having heart attacks, and many even are seeing their first bouts of cancer.


So in many ways, the 40s really sucks!  


Many of us would be dead many times over already, if not for G-d’s grace and the miracles of medical science and technology these days. 


So life is prolonged, and we even often get pain relief, while we are able to continue forward with our families, communities, and careers.


As we read in Psalms 39:4

“Show me, LORD, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting my life is.”

Perhaps that’s what illness is…G-d showing us that we are just mortal and that life is short and we need to make the most of every minute. 


When everything is going just swell, how easy it is to become arrogant and forget how mortal we really are. 


My father used to say:

“G-d doesn’t let any tree grow into the heavens.”

By our 40s, when most of us are growing our families, careers, wealth, and stature–unfortunately, maybe we sort of need that kick in the pants from Above. 


G-d is our maker and our teacher, and he guides us to the end of our days, and hopefully they are reached with wisdom, meaningful contributions, piety, and love. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Computer Luminaries

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I wanted to share these photo that I took at Micro Center, a computer and electronics store, outside Washington DC. 


On the wall are these pretty awesome photos of many of the founders and inventors behind modern-day computing. 


1) Doug Englebart – the GUI and Mouse


2) Dennis Ritchie – C and Unix


3-4) Dan Bricklin and Bob Frankston – Visicalc and Spreadsheets


5-6) Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard – HP 


7) Gordon Moore – Intel


8) Grace Hopper – First compiler that led to development of COBOL


9-10) Robert Khan and Vinton Cerf – TCP/IP


11) Steve Wozniak – Apple I and II


Of course, the following deserve a place of the wall of fame as well:


12) Steve Jobs – Apple


13) Bill Gates – Microsoft


14-15) Larry Paige and Sergey Brin – Google


16) Jeff Bezos – Amazon 


17) Mark Zuckerberg – Facebook


On one hand, these are people like you and I, who live, feel joy and pain, and one day die. In the end, we’re all just flesh and blood, plus a soul that is our moral compass. 


But on the other hand, G-d has given some people special gifts to pass to mankind, like a master painter, musician, inventor, or holy person, whose worldly works are as near to G-dly as perhaps we can get outside of Heaven itself.


G-d must have a plan for us as he sends us these people–or more like angels–to guide our development and our destiny. 


Whatever G-d wants from us, we’re definitely on a course to get there and that is comforting and a ray of hope for all of us. 😉


(Source Photos: Andy Blumenthal)