Blog

Latest Blogs

Jason Merchey the writer, philosophical thinker, and Master’s-level psychologist shares his perspectives on classical and modern applications of values, wisdom, ethics, and personal growth. The goal is to provide insight into what “a life of value” is and how one can live it. Quotations, proverbs, idioms, and historical facts often provide grist for the mill. Occasional guest blogs are featured as well.

“Strange Fruit” Had a Massive Impact on Society

Strange Fruit May 17th, 2021

America has maximized human and societal potential in many ways – we are truly a republic of great potential and productivity. Of course, being black, Holliday experienced an appalling side of America first-hand, one grossly shy of the beautiful principles on which it was founded. We are the best and the worst of everything in humanity. It is fair, recognizing slavery and poverty and vicious wealth inequality since ideals such as liberty, inclusion, democracy, and opportunity are unambiguously glorious values and aspirations we do treasure here. We must be truthful and integrate all our past and reconcile our darkness with our light. Anyway, Billie Holliday represented something special to many people, and I think the story of her song “Strange Fruit” is quite relevant to the idea of integration – both on a personal level, and certainly on a societal one.

Read More

The Power of Positivity, Optimism & Enthusiasm

positivity May 15th, 2021

Hara Marano, in a Psychology Today article, notes that psychological researchers seem to feel that human beings have a pull toward the dark, upsetting, and disturbing: a “negativity bias.” Perhaps indeed our brains are wired to focus on, feel, and resonate with negative events such as slights, insults, and crises. It is probable that positivity feels good, but negativity really engages the brain to mount coping mechanisms. Well, so be it. The fact is that overcoming that negativity bias and engaging in optimistic thinking, glass-half-full mindsets, and hopeful action are better for us. Gratitude and mindfulness are better ways of being. Just as eating too much food or prejudice are remnants of our evolutionary past, but are not typically helpful in our modern age, having a negative attitude and “sweating the small stuff” probably isn’t as adaptive or functional as “the power of positivity.” Herein you will find many inspirational quotes about optimism, sanguineness, and positivity.

Read More

Ancient Greek Quotes (and Roman, Too)

ancient Greek quotes May 9th, 2021

The Athenians, Spartans, and Romans were remarkable in so many ways. Certainly, one way in which these societies excelled is in writing down laws, establishing and testing the limits of democracy and other forms of government, and in oration/theater/philosophy. We have myriad ancient Greek quotes, Roman proverbs, writings, meditations, insights, and bits of wisdom that survived the ages. This is saying a lot because much has been lost or destroyed in the last 2,000 years. It is a rich cultural heritage that Athens bestowed, and there is much of interest in the Spartan and Roman civilizations as well. Add in Macedonians like Alexander and Aristotle, and you have a very valuable vein of knowledge, discovery, and even proto-science. Below you will find a beautiful array of ancient Greek quotes (and Roman, too) on all manner of subject, including philosophy, personal growth, wisdom, politics, glory, courage, and strength. 

Read More

Socrates: Still Relevant After 2,400 Years

Socrates May 5th, 2021

Few persons are relevant 2,350 years after they died. Confucius, The Buddha, and Jesus of Nazareth all have deep and lasting legacies. Socrates is certainly one of the most influential individuals ever to live. Considering how many ancient Greek documents and texts have been lost, we are lucky to have any information about him at all. He never wrote anything down! I will share a few thoughts and quotes about Socrates, one of the best teachers of wisdom and most interesting thinkers in history. He is a great guide to us in the waning days of empire here in the United States, just as he was in the tumultuous period in which he lived in ancient Athens.

Read More

Consistent Critic: Noam Chomsky Quotes

April 8th, 2021

Noam Chomsky is literally one of the most influential and prolific individuals in the history of mankind. We are all so lucky that he has worked so hard on behalf of values such as truth, justice, social justice, freedom, solidarity, progressivism, and social welfare. Thought of as the founder of modern linguistics, he is extremely erudite and has written on all manner of subject—mostly politics and economics. Known as a “left-libertarian” or a “libertarian socialist”, he is wary of government, the media, the military, and the two big political parties. He has lampooned, lambasted, and laid bare their lies, machinations, and subterfuge. He is a man of the people, and has my deep respect. Bono called him “a rebel without a pause.” A great American.

Read More

Economic Justice Has Gotten Worse Since COVID-19

economic justice March 9th, 2021

Is the American “capitalistic” system fair and functioning well? What makes a society good and economically just? Does America show satisfactory respect for the dignity of its citizens based on the economic system is created? Have things gotten worse since the COVID-19 pandemic? Whether wealth and income inequality are fair and morally justifiable hinges on what one believes about the nature of the socio-economic system in question. The 18th century theorists of great renown, Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Adam Smith both have opinions relevant American-style capitalism, economic justice, and rights/fairness. In the end, I do not believe either would see a justification for the “capitalistic” system America has created.

Read More

Empathy is a Solid Route to Moral Goodness

moral goodness March 6th, 2021

Empathy is the degree to which a person can place oneself in another’s shoes. Anyone can feel pain when someone steps on their toe, but what if you see someone else wincing in pain, grasping their own toe? The question is related to what you experience when you determine, perceptually, that someone else is suffering in some way. Empathy is a key driver of moral goodness, I believe. Another way to describe this phenomenon is, acting right is about empathizing with the other. What follows is my rationale.

Read More

Existentialism: Authenticity vs. ‘Bad Faith’

authenticity March 1st, 2021

In a prior post entitled “Existentialism, Humanism, Responsibility, and Freedom,” I examined meaning in life, Jean-Paul Sartre, existence, etc. In this blog, I would like to go a little further toward examining authenticity vs. the idea of “bad faith.” It will hopefully generate more light than it does heat as far as living one’s life with success, passion, deliberateness, and insight. As always, wisdom is about the highest goal, and happiness is not far behind. 

Read More

What Do We Deserve? Moral Desert & Entitlement

moral desert February 27th, 2021

What does a person – let’s confine it to Americans in this blog – deserve? In philosophy, it is termed moral dessert. That is, as a member of society, what rights does one have to goods and benefits and opportunities? Contrast dessert (sometimes spelled desert) with entitlement – the rights one has based on law, contracts, and agreements. In this piece, I want to dilate on this topic, and to that end, will share a brief discussion a friend and I had. You may not be surprised to learn that I take a generally liberal position, and my friend, a fairly libertarian one. I am more likely to see, optimistically, that people deserve opportunity, chances, and help from society at large (i.e., the institutions of government and associated social welfare provisions). You can expect, of course, to see apt quotations brought to bear on the dialogue.

Read More

Review of Ch. One: “In Defense of a Liberal Education”

liberal education February 11th, 2021

Liberal education is not typically prized by parents. “What you are not supposed to do is study the liberal arts. Around the world, the idea of a broad-based ‘liberal’ education is closely tied with the United States and its great universities and colleges. But in America itself, a liberal education is out of favor.” This is a sad and even ironic state of affairs. In the wonderful, well-researched, short but stout book In Defense of a Liberal Education, noted columnist and historian Fareed Zakaria, called “the most influential foreign policy advisor of his generation” by Esquire, laments that the humanities are no longer as popular as they were in America’s more prosperous decades. As manufacturing is under severe threat and jobs are increasingly lost to foreign countries or automation, Zakaria maintains that “to succeed today, you need creativity, lateral thinking, communication skills, and, more than anything, the ability to keep learning – precisely the gifts of a liberal education.” What follows is a summary and review of chapter one of this engaging book.

Read More