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)

The Nature of Good and Evil

Like in the Bible…


When our forefather Itzchak was about to bless his son Jacob and he said the words (are good) like Jacob, but the hands (deeds) feel like Esau.


Words are cheap, and actions speak volumes louder!


Good deeds mean something, but words are easily manipulated.


We can all spot good deeds, and that is what must guide our judgement of people and situations–that is where the truth rests.


Like my father and grandfather always taught me–some people are good and some are not so good.  😉


(Source Video: Dannielle Blumenthal)

The Trouble With Communication

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So I remember this old comedy skit showing the problem with communication.


There is a deaf guy trying to communicate with a blind guy.


Boy, this is a real conundrum.


The deaf guy communicates with sign language that the blind guy can’t see. 


And the blind guy communicates by talking which the deaf guy can’t hear. 


So neither are getting any messaging across. 


This is sort of like every day life, where people communicate talking past each other. 


Each may only be concerned with what they feel, think, and have to say. 


They don’t really care to listen or understand the other person. 


It like the blind and deaf guy communicating and neither can hear the other. 


Most importantly, we need to put ourselves in the other person’s shoes. 


To think from their perspectives, and to communicate having in mind to fulfill for the other person–what’s in it for me (WIIFM).


In Judaism, their is an important teaching that each person is an entire world unto themselves.


We need to be sensitive to their world and speak our mind, but definitely in their language. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Overcoming Resistance To Change

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So have you heard of the 20-50-30 Rule when it comes to change management?


20% of the people are open and friendly to change–they are your early adopters.


50% are fence sitters–and they hold a wait and see attitude. 


30% are resisters–these are the people that will be the roadblocks to change. 


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Total 100%


Some will resist openly and loudly. Others will disguise their resistance in a politically correct way.  And finally some may work subversively to block change. 


The keys to overcoming the resistance is by working through the head, heart, and hands model, helping people to understand the following:


Head (Intellectual) – What is changing. 


Heart (Emotional) – Why it’s changing (and what’s in it for me–WIIFM).


Hands (Behavioral) – How is it changing.


This means changing the mindset, motivating people, and shaping behavior to effect change. 


Change and resistance to change are facts of life, but how we approach it can either mean failure or amazing transformation. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Why People End Up On The Sh*t List

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This was a funny sign…the old “sh*t list!”


When people do cr*p to you and they do it maliciously and with intent, and as repeat offenders enjoying their evil ways hurting others. 


Invariably, they can end up on the sh*t list. 


However, I’ve never actually seen such a list until this. 


You have your:


– Offender

– Violation

– Was it a friend, stranger, lover, family, other?

– When did it occur?

– Severity level


It even has a line for your “plan of attack”–whether you confront, ignore, stew, avenge, talk sh*t, or other. 


And finally whether the terrible offender is still on or off the list. 


While not every offense is a mortal blow and we need to have compassion for people and try to love everyone…sometimes, people can behave so badly and don’t stop no matter how much you try and beg and offer to help them that they just force themselves onto the bad boys/girls list. 


We don’t want to have ill feelings to anyone–we are all G-d’s creatures–but what do you do when people go so far astray or have problems so big that they hurt others so bad and so often.


Surely, we need to have understanding and compassion first for people and try to do everything to help them and bring peace to the world, but when your dealing with the true worst of what people have to offer and they lack basic human self-control and decency, perhaps that’s why victims revert as a last resort to their sh*t list. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

The Most Important Word Is AND

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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)

Compassion Instead Of Anger

Compassion and Anger

So I was speaking to someone recently about how angry they were with some stressful things and people in their life. 


I listened carefully and tried to empathize–also in full transparency, it got to be a lot and I at some point was begging them to stop!


At one point, I just said, instead of being angry maybe try to be compassionate. 


And I could see in other person’s reaction that they thought perhaps that I had hit on something a little eye-opening here. 


We can get angry about all the stresses and injustices that we perceive in our lives. 


People blame us, attack us, don’t appreciate us, talk down to us, disrespect us, even bully us or try to hurt us.


Also life throws some pretty stinging to earth-shattering circumstances upon us.


And maybe we have every right to feel angry.


But usually the anger, unless we need the adrenaline-rush in fighting for our survival and for our core beliefs and values, doesn’t help us achieve what we really want. 


What we want most of the time is to resolve things!


But getting angry and lashing out often only makes things worse. 


We act rashly, we overreact, we say and do things we may regret afterwards, and the consequences of our reaction can be severe to us afterwards in terms of alienating and harming others, escalating the situation and making it worse, creating hurt and destruction in our own wake, and even losing jobs or getting yourself in trouble and sent to the pokey.


If instead of getting angry and flinging arrows, we look at things from eyes of compassion, we can listen to others more carefully, understand the situation better, and try to rectify bad relationships or cope with stressful life events by employing emotional intelligence and a soft hand/skills. 


This is not to say that we should excuse really bad behavior or truly unforgivable misdeeds, but rather that we should look at things in a larger context, the role we play, and as part of our our life challenges to make things better and overcome.


Anger and the associated response is appropriate when the little devil is doing their misdeeds (lashing out severely and/or repeatedly with harm and intent), but compassion can help to see everything else for what it is or isn’t and gives us an opportunity to react with a level head, a stable hand, and humanity as a first resort. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)