development

development


Cosmos: Science, Hope, Wisdom & Inspiration

science July 28th, 2022

Famed astrophysicist Carl Sagan’s obituary featured the President of the National Academy of Sciences, Bruce Alberts extolling him thusly: “Carl Sagan, more than any contemporary scientist I can think of, knew what it takes to stir passion within the public when it comes to the wonder and importance of science.” The television program Cosmos has been a reliable, interesting, educational experience for me and for millions of others; it’s like Sesame Street for this millennium. If you want to learn more about science—astrophysics, astronomy, geology, and even the history of science—this is the show for you.

I will say a few things about it and share a number of quotes from a diverse group of individuals.

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Dignity as an Antidote to Partisanship and Economic Despair

dignity June 25th, 2022

E. J. Dionne of the Washington Post suggested (a while ago now) that dignity is an antidote to partisanship and economic despair, and can be the best way to defeat Trumpism, which is, appallingly, still a scourge on the American republic. Perhaps until we root out the essential causes and contributors of how it is that so many Americans are so disaffected and so susceptible to propaganda and white supremacy and violent extremism, we will not be back on track. Perhaps this will all end up being a crucible through which Americans had to pass in order to transcend the figurative adolescence in which we have clearly been stuck.

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What is the Nature of Human Nature?

what is the nature of human nature June 11th, 2022

Conventional wisdom says that human beings are selfish, tribalistic, violent, greedy, and so on. There is plenty of evidence for this when one looks at the sordid, dark history of humankind. We are talking of course about human nature—what people are and how we tend to behave as a whole, by and large, over time.
This blog explores the nature of human nature.

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Ten of History’s Greatest Thinkers

greatest thinkers March 26th, 2022

Perhaps you know of the eminent historian, writer, and psychologist/philosopher/anthropologist all rolled into one, Will Durant. He died in the late twentieth century, but was truly a man of letters and a wonderful writer. I found a neat little book, compiled after his death by John Little. It is a compilation of his writings that involved rankings of merit. The first real chapter in the book is “The Ten Greatest Thinkers,” though the two men put greatest in quotation marks, as I suppose they should, since great is really a subjective term. My intention in this blog is to share which ten men (yes, they are all men) he thinks shine the brightest among history’s renowned philosophers and scientists, and include a quote of each.

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Developing Wisdom As You Go

developing wisdom November 9th, 2021

If it is true that wisdom is much more complex and multifarious than, say, courage or passion, then it seems as though some aspects of a person’s wisdom would be more advanced than others, which would be relatively underdeveloped. I picture a bar graph for each individual with some levels (bars) being more highly developed and prominent than other levels. Life is a challenge, and a wise person knows where they’ve been, knows what they are about, and knows what it takes to get where they are going. Developing wisdom as you go is a concept I want to reflect on in this blog.

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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.

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My Father Suffered Greatly in Retirement

my father April 26th, 2020

My father was a brilliant surgery resident at the famed Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, CA when he was oh, probably, 27 years old. He ended up specializing in and completing another residency in family practice (long story!) by the time he was 31, or thereabouts. Coming from relative poverty, a loveless and sometimes-physically-abusive home, and facing anti-Semitism growing up in the 1950s, I remember him telling me “I went off to college at age 18 with only a suit.” As in, no money, no furniture, no books, no nothing. My father busted his butt and was an admired and even loved physician in the rough part of L.A. when I was growing up. He was asked to be the head of four Kaiser Permanente when he was, oh, about 40. Instead, he opted to remain at Kaiser-Montebello and be the Physician-in-Charge at that clinic. Mort Merchey spoke Spanish with probably 50 percent of his patients—who always remembered him generously during the Christmas holidays. As if that weren’t enough, he also was a Captain in the Reserve Corps of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, a huge organization. My pop knew how to shoot his Magnum .357 as well as any uniformed deputy could. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that he did pretty darned well, considering where he came from. He makes me look like a slacker in comparison, that’s for sure! He was smart, good-looking, funny, amiable, and competent. Driven to school in his true-blue Mercedes convertible in the mornings, needless to say, I had the greatest respect for my dad’s professional and educational achievement.

This story does not, however, have a happy ending, exactly. My dad suffered greatly in retirement. This happens with many people, perhaps especially those who are like him.

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Are Human Beings Selfish?

what is the nature of human nature October 23rd, 2019

I thought about the question, Are human beings selfish?, when I received this snippet of an article from a friend: “Advocates of capitalism understand, as the classical economists understood centuries ago, that government and social institutions must be designed for the human beings that actually exist — callous self-interest and all.” That thought, from The Mises Institute, a capitalistic/libertarian think tank, is making a fair point that can be examined to see how fully and completely true it is. That is what I will do in this blog. As a sneak peek, my answer to the question, Are human beings selfish? will be “Yes, to some degree, but not to the exclusion of all other high values.”

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Personal Growth Tip: Choose ‘Enlargement’

personal growth June 18th, 2019

James Hollis is the author of a sweet little book (2018) entitled The Examined Life: Wisdom for the Second Half of the Journey. He divides the 110-page book into 21 chapters, each about 2-3 pages long. Hollis keeps it pithy and free of fluff. Examples of chapters include: “It’s Time to Grow Up”, “Step Out from Under Parental Shade”, “Vow to Get Unstuck”, and “Choose Meaning Over Happiness”. What follows is a brief review and some personal growth quotes that can be found in Chapter 9: “Choose the Path of Enlargement”. I do recommend the book and please consider this a “critical review” for educational purposes.

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Finding Meaning and Living a Good Life

meaning August 29th, 2018

This is a guest blog written by Paul Wong, Ph.D. In it, he writes that “All the great humanitarians, such as Albert Schweitzer, Maya Angelou, Oskar Schindler and Mahatma Gandhi, devoted their lives to a noble mission. In contrast, those who pursue money, power and wealth can achieve only a shallow life at best; when they fail in their egotistic goals, they are more likely to become bitter, angry and depressed than those who failed in pursuing a life full of meaning.” Read more about how meaning contributes to a well-lived life – a life of value.

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