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)

Take Off The Halo and Horn

Thought this was a learning moment. 


The halo and horn effects. 


This has to do with generalizing about people, things, places, or events. 


With the halo effect, if we like (are positive) about one or a few things about it, we may put a proverbial halo on it and and treat or rate everything about it as great.


Similarly, with the horn effect, if we dislike (are negative) about one or a few things about it, we may put a proverbial horn on it and treat or rate everything about it as horrible. 


This means were not really being objective or balanced in our assessment. 


Usually, it’s not all just good or bad, black or white–but good AND bad, black AND white.  


And obviously, this can cause us to make bad decisions based on poor analysis and judgement. 


Therefore, the importance of taking a step back, looking holistically at all the facts, and evaluating things for what they really are, rather than making snap calls to judgement–and poor ones at that! 😉


(Source Photo: here with attribution to darksouls1)

White Lie, Black Truth

No this is not another civil or human rights post, although I like writing those as well. 


Rather, this is about how we use our words to help and not hurt others. 

“White Lie, 

Black Truth”

Yes, we all know that it’s wrong to lie (it’s even in the 10 Commandments). 


Except, of course, when we need to tell a “white lie” in order to keep someone’s feelings from getting hurt.


For example, I may not like your new haircut, but when you ask me glowingly what I think, instead of telling you how it’s too short or whatever, I tell you, “Yeah, it looks great!”


Then, there is the “black truth.”


That’s when we swallow hard and tell the  truth to someone, even though it may hurt their feelings, it’s ultimately for their good. 


For example, your child may be going of course with their lives, and while you don’t want to hurt their feelings, you know you need to tell them the truth in order to help them course-correct.


Telling lies or truth can be hurtful to people, but a white lie isn’t really bad, because it’s used to protect someone’s feeling, the black truth, is also not so dark and foreboding, because there are times when you need to get past the superficial, be real with someone, and tell them the hard truth in order to help them in a very practical sense. 


That’s one of life’s most difficult lessons, that not everything is black or white. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

The Most Important Word Is AND

coexist-jpeg

So as divisiveness continues to plague us. the option for acceptance, love, and coexistence is falling out of the favor and by the wayside. 

Division and conflict has been accentuated by the ugliness of the most recent election and representative political divide, economic and gender inequality, inner city violence, racial and religious tensions, worldwide terrorism, and global conflict from Syria to the South China Sea. 

This has even infiltrated the functioning of our government, social institutions, and free media big time, where vetting, negotiation and compromise, critical thinking, and fair, balanced, and investigative journalism have been largely jettisoned. 

There is no place anymore to go hide from bias, bigotry, and hate. 

But as the wise proverb goes things truly are not just black and white, but there are loads of grey everywhere

Many people are not good or evil, left or right, blessed or cursed.

Instead, most people are a mixture of this AND that. 

How much of the complex mix of different elements is what makes up the integrity and life of the individual, group, and organization we are dealing with.

But what’s important is that you really can’t just stereotype people, ideas, or actions as simply good or bad because in reality, they aren’t.  

Each person and position has elements of good and bad in them…nothing and nobody in life is perfect. 

You take the good and the bad in everything from relationships to policy decisions. 

So it is certainly possible and even probable to be conflicted and confused about what we see and hear–and not only because of the bias and prejudice in how it is presented or portrayed, but rather because things are not just simple, one or the other propositions, but rather a combination of things we approve of and disapprove of. 

Our brains can have lots of trouble dealing with this complexity, because we are wired in terms of survival of the fittest, and that often means choosing a action based on split-second categorizing of people and things as friend or foe. 

As the mere shadow of the person or idea is upon us, we are asked to respond–do we run or fight it or do we lovingly embrace it as it overtakes us. 

Choose wrong and you can be badly hurt or even dead. 

But we are forced to make these quick and bold choices without always having the luxury of time, the patience, or wherewithal to stop and recognize that things and people are a combination of things we like and agree with and others that we dislike and vehemently oppose. 

If we could just keep in mind that most things are not just good or bad, right or wrong, but good AND bad, right AND wrong, then we can make more astute and fine-tuned designations of what we think something really is and isn’t and how to handle it, live with it, and faithfully coexist with it. 

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

100% Burglar Proof–Tell Me Another One

Burgler_proof

So I saw this advertisement for a “100% burglar proof” system and I was just bewildered.

Does anyone really think we can be 100% sure of anything–let alone security?

Everyday thieves rob the safest banks, cyber criminals hack the most secure systems, and crooks break into the most secure sites.

Everything we do comes down to risk management–assessing and classifying risk, selecting controls to mitigate risk, and monitoring those for effectiveness and necessary modifications.

For children, maybe things are basic black and white–it’s simpler that way “good guys” and “bad guys” and so on, but for adults we know there are at least “50 shades of grey” and that means that there are no certainties in life–whether security, sure financial bets, or perfect opportunities–everything is a gamble in some respects.

I remember someone once joked about even marriage being somewhat chancy, since “you never really know the person until you wake up with them in the morning every day.”

With 20-20 hindsight, all the pundits seem brilliant, but only the prophets can predict the future with accuracy.

As to any product or vendor that markets itself as having a 100% success rate, you better get yourself a money back guarantee on it, because you will definitely need it! 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

>Brain Sharing is Eye Opening

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This is a neat video and idea from GOOD called “Brain Sharing” by Lincoln Schatz.

The idea…what if we could plug in to someone else’s brain and see the world the way they do (for a period of time) or as they say in the video “swap CPUs”?

(This is a little reminiscent of the Borg from Star Trek, where species are plugged into the Collective and become sort of one ultimate race or similarly in the movie the Matrix, where people are plugged into a master computer program that runs their world–although here it’s not an ominous context.)

But back to the point–what a powerful concept.

Rather than see things the way we see them, and think that’s the way it is, period; instead we temporarily plug into someone else’s brain (bionic implants away!) and whoa, we have the opportunity to see the world the way others see it and process the world the way they do–that is eye opening!

All of a sudden, things are not quite so simple. It’s not black and white, as they say, but lots of shades of grey.

Of course, I still believe that there is objective ethics and morality from G-d for us to live by and therefore we can distinguish right from wrong, which we are often are forced to chose.

However, when we are seeing choices through others persons eyes and processing through their brains, we may see the problems anew with different variables and effects as well as see new options for solving them that we didn’t even see before.

That’s a great thing about being a diverse society and bringing multiple views, vantage points, and brains to the table–we can innovate together beyond the limitation of any one of us alone.

This isn’t necessarily a new concept, but still one that is very important, often forgotten, and one well captured in this GOOD video.

P.S. Maybe an interesting exercise is to think about make a list of whose brains you’d like to share for a while (if only you could) and see the world the way they do.