Cultivating virtue helps us to live well, and within reason. But how are we to understand the kind of guardrails reason provides? Why suppose that reason can govern action and emotion in the way that modern Aristotelian theorists of virtue seem to suggest that it can? After all, there is an impressive body of empirical research suggesting that people frequently fail to live up to their own ideals. In this blog, Professor Candace Vogler writes about reason, virtue, and living wisely.Read More
December 22nd, 2020
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.Read More
May 16th, 2020
I heard the following amazing story the other day while attending church with my wife. The priest shared it, and it felt like it was essentially a long inspirational quote. I came home and was able to find it online, and am happy I did! It tells the story of the amazing life of Roy Campanella, a Hall of Fame catcher for the Brooklyn Dodgers, and fellow African-American player when Jackie Robinson played. Not only was his career remarkable, his spinal injury and the way he lived his life afterward were also deeply significant. He read a long inspirational quote on the wall of a rehab facility one day, and it floored him. In this blog, I share quite a bit of background about the buoyant, heralded player, human being, quadriplegic, and author Roy Campanella.Read More
May 11th, 2020
I was just listening to Bravado, one of Rush’s greatest songs. On their 1998 album Different Stages, it really stood out to me (and the mead probably helped!). I wanted to juxtapose the lyrics to it with some thoughts I have. Maybe listen to it live on Youtube or something, it’s quite a piece. Very aspirational and inspiring. The first two lines feature the pithy line, flying too close to the sun.
It is an amazing song about willingness to risk, courage, vision, sacrifice, dedication, love, sorrow, and meaning.
It has me staring out the window, eyes welled up with tears.Read More
May 3rd, 2020
…along the way.”
That, as you may recognize, is the unparalleled song No Woman, No Cry by Bob Marley and the Wailers. Contrary to what some figure, the title does not mean “If you don’t have a relationship with a woman, that’s great—your heart won’t get broken”; rather, it refers to a “government yard in Trenchtown”, Jamaica where the poor, huddled masses were trying to survive in what was obviously a horrible economy and conditions of stress and privation. The man (the narrator) is looking back on the time he decided he must go find work or some other opportunity, and when he was leaving, his wife or whomever was crestfallen and worried. His reassuring response was, “No woman; no cry!” which is basically a pidgin-type dialect of Caribbean English for “Please do not cry.” The reference to “good friends we had, and good friends we lost along the way” is part of Bob’s reminencence, with his woman, of all the good and bad things that have occurred to them in the refugee camp (or whatever kind of camp it is). It is shortly followed by the inimitable line: “Everything’s gonna be alright!” I picture him wiping her tear and then turning to head off to the “far, unlit unknown” (Rush’s phrasing in Subdivisions, a song that I consider a tear-jerker). No Woman, No Cry is a somber tale about the storm and stress a life tends to bring at one time or another, and the perceptive listener might just feel pangs of empathy and loss in their own memory, as I usually do.Read More
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.
September 8th, 2019
Leo Tolstoy, the Russian author of the epic War & Peace, discovered that “Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.” Tolstoy was an interesting figure. Not only did his belief in passive resistance influence Gandhi later in the twentieth century, Tolstoy contributed to the world’s understanding of meaning in life. Though he was wealthy, noble, and famous, he was not happy. At age 50, according to Irving Singer in the book Meaning in Life, he had a “breakdown,” a mid-life crisis as it were. Singer noted that the conditions that preceded the author’s despair, “in some respects resemble the condition of many affluent baby boomers in present-day America who feel a sense of emptiness even though they may have satisfied their own personal ambitions and lived up to the demands of their society. …they are perturbed by the possibility that their lives may be ‘meaningless.’” I believe Tolstoy’s and others’ quotes on meaning, echoed in his wise words, can be helpful to us as we move through the world.Read More
July 4th, 2019
“Immanuel Kant defined enlightenment as the human being’s emancipation from ‘self-incurred minority’. Minority is defined as a condition in which one’s understanding is used only under the authority and direction of another, and minority is self-incurred when it is due not to the immaturity or impairment of the understanding, but because it refuses to trust itself and prefers the comfort and security of tutelage to the risks and responsibilities of thinking for oneself” ~ Allen Wood. This quote is about willingness to risk. That is, when not taken to extremes, one of the values of the wise. This blog explores exploration – of the literal and the metaphoric types.Read More
June 7th, 2019
Rush is one of the best bands out there not only for instrumentation, virtuosity, and precision, but also lyrics. Amazingly, the lyrics below are a song written by Neil Peart. It’s a haunting piece about aging, success, confidence, sadness, desperation, and suicide. It’s absolutely remarkable. In the end, I have a link to watch it being performed live. For anyone who tries to reach the pinnacle of performance and the zenith of success, you will no doubt resonate with this melancholy song. Alas, death comes for us all, and as soon as we are born we start dying. For some it reaches the point of absurdity and extreme existential angst. I will add a few quotations for your consideration about life, pain, aging, illness, overcoming, meaning, existentailism, hope, and optimism in the end.Read More
June 2nd, 2019
My wife and I donated five thousand dollars to a local no-cost medical clinic, the Barrier Islands Free Medical Clinic. My visit was amazing. It’s a new building, and is at least as nice as my doctor’s. Probably nicer. It was built recently with 100% donations and grants! For an individual making up to about $25,000 a year or a family of four earning around $50,000 annually, primary care and many other specialties are free. Free. It felt like a wonderful asset to our community, which sits in one of the poorest states in the country. Many folks, however, believe that anything “free” is not only a waste of resources, but morally offensive. That is the cult of the individual, and it runs afoul of an important belief underlying progressive politics and moral decency: the responsibility we have for our fellow man (and woman).Read More