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Like the Myth of Icarus, Val Kilmer’s Story is Amazing

Icarus August 14th, 2022

“I have never lost my faith to what seems to me is a materialism that leads nowhere—nowhere of value, anyway. I have never met a super-wealthy person for whom money obviated any of the basic challenges of finding happiness in the material world.” 

Guess who wrote that in his 2020 memoir, now a New York Times bestseller? Perhaps surprising to you, it is none other than Val Kilmer.

His book is entitled I’m Your Huckleberry, a riff on the most notable quote in a movie chock-full of notable quotes: the 1993 cinematic wonder, Tombstone. Kilmer and Kurt Russell rewrote Kevin Jarre’s screenplay fairly significantly, he claims, to help it pass muster with George P. Cosmatos, the demanding director of the film.

Since he was a boy, Val Kilmer lived twice as fast as anyone else, so what you have with this book is an honest and revealing memoir by a 120-year-old Hollywood titan. He probably tried harder in some of his films than anyone else who could be considered his equal. He loved and admired directors such as Tony Scott and Oliver Stone who were as intense and perfectionistic as he is/was. Indeed, like the ambitious and visionary Greek mytical figure Icarus, Kilmer’s meteoric rise as an actor of astounding ability and his subsequent plummeting back down to the hard Earth are equally remarkable.

In Tinseltown, perhaps more than any other since Rome, only the strong survive, and no one—not an acting legend and not an Emperor—can outpace Time forever.

This blog will highlight twenty of the most remarkable quotes in the book.

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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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Wisdom is About Love, Kindness, Altruism & Generosity

wisdom is about love June 1st, 2022

In this blog, I will share some snippets from Chapter One of my new book, Wisdom: A Very Valuable Virtue That Cannot Be Bought (March, 2022). The thesis is that wisdom is about love, kindness, altruism & generosity. These are some of the highest levels of human development, psychological sophistication, and societal progress. So, it is fitting that the first chapter in the book is about these beautiful values and virtues.

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What Does “Moral Values” Mean?

moral values May 23rd, 2022

Values is a neutral term; one could value relaxation, competition, humor, sexual conquest, helping others, or swindling them successfully (subterfuge and personal gain). It means what it sounds like it means – a value is something which a person holds in high regard, pursues, and even loves. Values tend to include hallmark ones such as truth, justice, humility, goodness, and kindness. In this blog, I explore the idea of moral values, asking what the term means, which values probably qualify as moral values, and how one implements them in one’s life.

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Compassion is an Important Aspect of Wisdom

compassion May 3rd, 2022

In my new book  Wisdom: A Very Valuable Virtue That Cannot Be Bought, compassion plays a major role. In fact, Chapter Four is titled “The Wise Perceive the World with Empathy and Compassion.” This blog is dedicated to describing why I believe compassion is related to wisdom, why that matters, and how we can gain a bit more appreciation for these allied virtues.

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Altruism in Action: Helping Others is a Virtue

altruism September 1st, 2021

Altruism is one of the most intriguing virtues. I have always found it to be “upon high,” very worthy, truly excellent. It has been called “selfishness in reverse,” and is basically when a person is helpful to another when “no benefits are expected or offered in return.” It sometimes involves self-sacrifice (for example, if you give money to someone, you don’t have that money any longer, or if you run into a burning building, you may be injured). It’s human beings helping human beings, and choosing to allocate valuable resources in such a way that one does not expect to keep a lion’s share of it. Is it real? How does is mesh with capitalism and the “rugged individualism” that the wealthy and powerful have fomented in this country since the very beginning? Is love really the answer?

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The Consolation of Reliable, Positive Values

positive values November 10th, 2020

Sigh. I entitled this blog what I did because I am having a difficult time of it at the moment. My dad did die this year. And Trump did ascend to power this year. But $hit has really been hitting the fan, as they say. Today, Matt Lauer and Garrison Keillor have been caught in the thorny bramble of bad behavior. I was also a bit shocked by Louis C. K., Senator Al Franken, and Representative John Conyers. I look around and institutions seem to be tarnishing, crumbling, under attack, and failing. It feels like we are more divided and that there are more dangers than I am comfortable with. In this blog, I will try to make sense of my angst, and use reliable, positive values as a consolation. 

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Empathy: The Wellspring of Goodness

empathy July 9th, 2020

What do we think when we pass a homeless person begging for money? Do you judge and ignore, or does their situation sink in as you are on your way to a meeting or a museum?

How do we feel when a person of another race is a victim of a hate crime, or killed by a police officer for unjustifiable reasons – and does it sink in if you’re white?

What is the meaning of a woman being discriminated against trying to get a job, or raped as she serves in the military, and does it sink in if you’re a man?

Empathy is one of humanity’s highest aspirations. Truly, it is the fount of kinship; it is the better part of our mottled souls; it is the mother of kindness; it is the foundry of care; it is the wellspring of goodness; it is the origin of forgiveness.

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Magnanimity & Altruism: Saving 50 Jews from Death

magnanimity June 25th, 2020

Eleanor and Gilbert Kraus are very likely two of the greatest unsung heroes in American history – at least, in Jewish history. I watched a documentary about their courageous acts (in 1939), which amounted to nothing less than a full-throated display of magnanimity and altruism. Here is their story. I will also include a selection of quotations about magnanimity by noted Holocaust survivors, human rights activists, altruism researchers, and stalwart exemplars of virtue and honor such as Elie Wiesel, Nelson Mandela, Anne Frank, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Viktor Frankl. 

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Jews Have Special Insight into American Discrimination

May 19th, 2020

I’m not the “most Jewish” person around, that’s for sure. One thing I do have, though, is that I connect my Jewishness up with empathy for what African-Americans have gone through and still experience. We Jews ought to have special insight into America’s long history of racial, ethnic, and class discrimination because of our unique history. My wife came up to me tonight, flaming mad, about another example of the mistreatment of, discrimination toward, and prejudice directed at black people in America. It was heartening to see her make an astute connection, and the point of this blog is to elucidate that thesis for you.

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