April 17, 2018

‘I was a teacher for 17 years, but I couldn’t read or write’

A remarkable story from the BBC  ‘I was a teacher for 17 years, but I couldn’t read or write’

John Corcoran grew up in New Mexico in the US during the 1940s and 50s. One of six siblings, he graduated from high school, went on to university, and became a teacher in the 1960s - a job he held for 17 years. But, as he explains here, he hid an extraordinary secret...."Why didn't I ask for help? Because I didn't believe there was anybody out there who could teach me to read. This was my secret and I guarded that secret."
I was 47 going on 48 when I saw Barbara Bush - then Second Lady of the US - talking about adult literacy on TV. It was her special cause. I'd never heard anybody talking about adult literacy before, I thought I was the only person in the world that was in the situation I was in.
I was at this desperate spot in my life. I wanted to tell somebody and I wanted to get help and one day in the grocery store I was standing in line and there were two women in front of me talking about their adult brother who was going to the library. He was learning to read and they were just full of joy and I couldn't believe it. So one Friday afternoon in my pinstriped suit I walked into the library and asked to see the director of the literacy program and I sat down with her and I told her I couldn't read. That was the second person in my adult life that I had ever told.

I had a volunteer tutor - she was 65 years old. She wasn't a teacher, she was just somebody who loved to read and didn't think anybody should go through life without knowing how to. 

She got me to about sixth-grade-level reading - I thought I'd died and gone to heaven. But it took me about seven years to feel like I was a literate person. I cried, I cried, and I cried after I started learning to read - there was a lot of pain and a lot of frustration - but it filled a big hole in my soul. Adults who can't read are suspended in their childhoods, emotionally, psychologically, academically, spiritually. We haven't grown up yet.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:13 PM | Permalink

September 28, 2017

Virtue is its own reward

6 Ways virtue is its own reward, according to science

Doing the right thing really can be it’s own reward — and it can be a huge help to our mental health. A series of studies recently released reveal that being virtuous, helping others, and expressing gratitude produce positive outcomes not only in the lives of those around us, but also in our own lives, too. Granted, we shouldn’t just be kind for our own health benefit, but there is a beauty in the fact that helping others also can have good side affects in our own lives.

1.  Better sleep habits
....A recent study found that participants who had a purpose for their life experienced fewer sleep disorders and problems and also experienced better quality of rest.

2. Increased general happiness
.....Previous studies have shown that when you spend money on others, you’re happier than when you spent the same amount of money on yourself. In fact, brain scans reveal that small acts of generosity and virtue cause the brain to produce a”warm glow” as a response to boosted happiness levels.

3. A boost in positive emotions
.....Not only does gratitude boost your happiness levels, but it also raises your happiness set-point (the “default” level of happiness you feel independent of circumstances), according to psychologist Robert A. Emmons. Other positive emotions that are increased by living virtuously include joy, optimism, pleasure and enthusiasm. Virtue also suppresses feelings of depression, envy and resentment.

4. A lowered rate of depression
Giving your time, talent, and treasures can lower your chances of depression.....

5. “Helper’s high”
.... some research shows that those who help may actually gain more in terms of mental health than those on the receiving end of their kindness and generosity. Helping others also leaves you with a greater appreciation for what you’ve been blessed with, as well as a sanctification that comes from giving of yourself.

6. Increased self-esteem
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:11 PM | Permalink

August 21, 2017

Some feel-good news

Toronto police officer buys would-be thief the outfit he was trying to steal

 Niran Jeyanesan Toronto Cop

When the officer learned the young man had tried to steal a shirt, tie, and socks for a job interview, he decided to help him out. Not only did Const. Niran Jeyanesan let the man go, he used his own money to pay for the clothes the man had tried to steal.

Meet The Man Who Built A $51 Million Theme Park For His Special-Needs Daughter

 Gordon Harman+Daughter
Gordon Hartman with his daughter Meghan

He then worked with a team of doctors, engineers, and special needs experts to create Morgan’s Wonderland, a theme park tailored to accommodate visitors with special needs. More than one million people have visited the $34 million park since its opening in 2010. Last month, Gordon opened an adjacent waterpark, Morgan’s Inspiration Island, to the tune of $17 million. Morgan’s Inspirational Island is the first handicap-accessible waterpark in the world. The park provides waterproof wheelchairs that run on compressed air for all visitors who need it and many of the attractions feature warm water to soothe pain or calm kids down.

To make the park financially accessible for visitors, admission for individuals with disabilities is free. Tickets for adults and children older than 2 range from $11-$27. Gordon keeps admission prices low even though it means losing about $1 million per year. The park relies on donations to stay afloat.

Retired judge, 94, builds swimming pool for neighborhood kids in his backyard

After his wife passed away last year, a retired district court judge decided to do something about the silence at his home. Keith Davison, 94, installed an in-ground pool in his backyard in Morris, Minnesota, for the neighborhood kids to swim in. He had been lonely after his wife of 66 years, Evy, died from cancer in April 2016.

 Judge 94 Builds Pool Neighborhood

'I'm not sitting by myself looking at the walls,' he said. 'What else would you think of doing where you could have a whole bunch of kids over every afternoon?' The kids aren't the only ones who will enjoy the pool. Davison said he still enjoys swimming when all the kids have gone home.

Neighborhood mom Jessice Huebner said, 'It's him spreading joy throughout our neighborhood for these kids'.  She told Davison: "You kind of adopted our whole neighborhood of kids. These are your grandchildren." Davison has three adult children, but no grandchildren.

Remember that kid who invented a way to clean up ocean plastic? He's back, and it's happening

Boyan Slat was just a regular Dutch high-school student when he went on a diving trip to Greece. Once underwater, he was surrounded by plastic waste. “There were more plastic bags than fish.”...He put off college and his social life to work full time on his idea. ... Now, Boyan Slat's solar-powered booms will soon be in the Pacific Ocean. The design works via massive floating booms that sit on top of the water and act like a mini-coastline. Just like beaches collect our plastic waste, the boom can passively gather plastic waste and pull it to its center. Once a month or so, a boat would go collect the garbage....According to Slat's current estimates, his booms will collect about 50 percent of the Great Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch in just five years.


Georgia Family Adopts 7 Siblings and ‘Prays’ Their Baby Sister Still in Foster Care Can Join Them

After spending three years in foster care, seven Georgia foster siblings found their forever home together. Jessaka and Joshua Clark of Rincon, Georgia, adopted Maria, 14, Elizabet, 11, Guillermo, 10, Jason, 8, Kristina, 7, Katerin, 7, and James, 5. The Clarks are also parents to their 3-year-old biological son, Noah.

Jessaka and Joshua began considering adoption “years ago” after being told by doctors they couldn’t conceive on their own.  “There was a huge need, especially for larger sibling groups,” says Joshua. “They are normally split up and that’s detrimental — it was in our hearts to open our home to them.”
It was only after the adoption was finalized on May 9, that Jessaka and Joshua found out about the eighth sibling, a baby girl, still in foster care. “So our new goal is to bring her into our family, that’s our hope.”

 Clark Family Adopts 7

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:35 AM | Permalink

August 1, 2017

How to survive freak accidents on vacation and how to recover from tragedy

How to survive freak accidents on vacation

A fall off a cruise ship
Remain still, do as little as possible and float.  Do not swim.
Ditch the ski poles and 'swim' sideways
Lean backwards and make like a starfish
Don't fight against the rip. Swim sideways across the current, you will eventually come out of the Rip current. and safety.  Or tread water and conserve energy until the current weakens and they can make it back to shore.
On Safari
Find yourself face-to-face with a lion, for example, and you'll need to make direct eye contact and back away very slowly. Never turn your back, never run.  If you endure a stand-off with a leopard, the reverse is true. Here, you'll need to avoid eye-contact at all costs and hope they lose interest.
Lost on a hike
Stop, stay calm, stay put. The further you walk, the longer it will take rescuers to find you.
All you can do now is solve the problem of getting out of the situation. Next, try to re-trace your steps...... 'If you are confident that you have determined the way to go and have time before dark to reach a known spot, such as the marked trail on your map, then go carefully and obviously mark your route with stacked rocks, sticks stuck in the ground, or strips of cloth from your bandanna. If you are not very, very confident in the route, then it's better to stay put.'
Snake bite
If you come across a snake, back away slowly and change your course. If it looks like it's following you, stamp on the ground to make vibrations in the ground, which should drive it away. If you are bitten, bring your affected body part down lower than your heart to slow the flow of venom in your bloodstream (if it's a limb) and get to the nearest hospital. Try and remember, or better still photograph, the snake so doctors can faster identify which anti-venom you need.

How To Recover From Tragedy: 4 Secrets From Research

1. Avoid personalization, pervasiveness and permanence: It’s not all your fault, it won’t affect every area of your life, and the pain will subside with time.
2. Ask “How much worse could it have been?”: Sheryl lost her husband. Adam reminded her that she could have lost her children too. It can always be worse. It’s not. Be grateful.
3. Get support: Talk to someone, preferably someone who has dealt with a similar problem.
4. Write about it: Thinking about it makes it worse. Writing about it makes it better.

In the past, researchers thought people who came out of tragedy fell into two categories: those who suffered PTSD and those who recovered. They were wrong…
There were actually three categories. Some people experienced “post-traumatic growth.” After tragedy they came out even stronger than they had been.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:59 AM | Permalink

May 24, 2016

Health Roundup: Cheese, potatoes, church, belonging, 'hidden killers', long life personality traits and Oct4, the 'fountain of youth' gene

Cheese triggers the same part of the brain as hard drugs, say scientists

Researchers from the University of Michigan have revealed that cheese contains a chemical found in addictive drugs. Casein, a chemical, which is found in all dairy products, can trigger the brain’s opioid receptors, producing a feeling of euphoria linked to those of hard drug addiction.

Scientists studying dairy products found that in milk, casein has a minuscule dosage. But producing a pound of cheese requires about 10 pounds of milk — with addictive casein coagulating the solid milk fats and separating them from the liquids.  As a result the super-strength chemical becomes concentrated when in solid dairy form, so you’ll get a higher hit of addictive casein by tucking into a cheese sandwich than you will in your morning bowl of cereal.

Eating potatoes four times a week raises risk of high blood pressure: Baked are as bad as fries - but chips  have no effect

Baked, boiled, or mashed potatoes raises the risk of high blood pressure.  Researchers, from Harvard Medical School, think eating any form of potato too often can cause blood pressure problems. They suspect the starch in potatoes is to blame. Because potatoes have a high glycaemic index, these starchy carbohydrates rapidly transform into sugars in the body, triggering a sharp rise in blood sugar levels.  Over time, this may cause blood sugar problems, the researchers said.

The experts, whose work was published in the British Medical Journal, analyzed data from 187,000 men and women tracked in three large US projects for 20 years.  The results suggest women who eat regularly eat potatoes may be at slightly higher risk of suffering high blood pressure than men. Overall, however, they found men or women who ate four or more servings a week of baked, boiled, or mashed potatoes had an 11 per cent increased risk of high blood pressure compared to those who ate potatoes less than once a month.

New Harvard Study: Women Live Longer if They Go to Church

A new Harvard study published in JAMA Internal Medicine shows that women who regularly attend church services live longer. In the study, titled “Association of Religious Service Attendance With Mortality Among Women,” researchers found that women who attended church more than once per week had a 33% lower mortality rate, compared with women who never attended church.  The self-reported research took place over a 20-year period and investigated the church-going habits of 74,534 women who participated in the U.S. Nurses’ Health Study. The average baseline age of the women studied was 60 and most were Catholic or Protestant.

Tyler VanderWeele, Harvard professor and author of the study, said church attendance was an under-appreciated health resource. “Religious attendance is a relatively good determinant of health,” he said. Women who attended church regularly were more optimistic, had greater social support, lower rates of depression, were less likely to smoke and suffered less from anxiety.

A sense of belonging makes you happier:

If you feel you belong with your social group, chances are you are likely to be a happy soul.  Psychologists have found that people the more people feel connected to a group and connect with others, the more satisfied they were with their lives.  The findings show that identifying as part of a group may give people a stronger sense of purpose and security, as well as providing support them when times are tough.

Researchers from Nottingham Trent University focused on how connected people felt to certain groups, measuring the impact this had on their happiness and life satisfaction. They looked at almost 4,000 people, and focused on how much they identified with their family and local community. Additionally, participants added a group of their choice, such as a sports team, or a hobby group.

Managing your emotions can save your heart    The negative impact of emotions when your heart is already vulnerable

There are two kinds of stress that impact your brain. Helpful stress (also known as eustress) can assist you with getting things done by helping you focus your attention. Unhelpful stress (distress), on the other hand, can be so severe that it can lead to fatigue and heart disease.

If you have coronary artery disease (CAD), your heart may be deprived of oxygen. This deprivation of oxygen, called myocardial ischemia, can occur in as many as 30% to 50% of all patients with CAD.  It can be further exacerbated by emotional stress. In fact, if you have any type of heart disease, any strong emotion such as anger may also cause severe and fatal irregular heart rhythms. Expressions like “died from fright” and “worried to death” are not just hyperbole — they are physiologic possibilities. Furthermore, when patients with newly diagnosed heart disease become depressed, that depression increases the risk that a harmful heart-related event will occur within that year.

Revealed, the five 'hidden killers' that could send you to an early grave

Writing in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the Chicago University researchers said we must look at a person as a whole if we are to accurately judge their health. Lead author Martha McClintock said: ‘The new comprehensive model of health identifies constellations of health completely hidden by the medical model.’
The team, which included psychologists, sociologists and doctors specializing in the care of the elderly, analyzed a mountain of data on the health and habits of 3,000 men and women aged between 57 and 85 and discovered the 'hidden killers':

Losing your sense of smell
Broken sleep
Breaking a bone in middle age
Difficulty in walking

The researchers say these factors are just as important as obvious medical conditions such as weight, blood pressure and heart disease.  In fact, being obese won’t necessarily send people to an early grave. And age, it seems, really is just a number. These contained some surprises.  For instance, the members of the healthiest group were all overweight. And despite them having only a 6 per cent chance of dying or becoming very unwell, high blood pressure was also common.However, psychological health, mobility and the sense of smell were all good and the researchers said that if an older adult is otherwise healthy, obesity ‘seems to pose very little risk’.

Scientists have discovered 5 personality traits linked with a long life

For their 75-year study of 300 engaged couples who enrolled in the study in their mid-20s, researchers found that men who were seen by their friends as more conscientious, meaning they were less likely to take risks but also tended to be more thorough and efficient, lived longer.  In sum, the five traits are:

Emotional stability
The ability to express feelings

'Fountain of youth' gene prevents heart attacks, stroke - and could lead to drugs that DELAY aging

A single gene is thought to protect against heart attacks and stroke as well as delay aging, scientists have discovered. The strand of DNA responsible - dubbed the 'fountain of youth' gene - had previously been thought to be inactive in adults.
Scientists believed the gene, named Oct4, was active in embryos but silenced as a person reached adulthood.

However, the new discovery is now hoped to open a new avenue for those battling deadly conditions, and raises the tantalizing prospect that doctors could one day use the gene to protect or delay the effects of aging. Dr Owens and his colleagues have determined the gene plays a crucial protective role in the formation of key plaques inside the blood vessels. The rupturing of these plaques is the underlying cause of many heart attacks and strokes.

The researchers found Oct4 controls the creation of protective fibrous 'caps' inside the plaques - caps that make the plaques less likely to rupture. In addition to this finding, the scientists believe the gene promotes a number of changes in gene expression that help to stabilize these plaques
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:38 PM | Permalink

December 14, 2015

Teaching the value of life by shutting employees inside coffins

From the BBC The employees shut inside coffins

South Korea has one of the highest suicide rates in the world, and workers often report feeling stressed. So in order to make people appreciate life, some companies are making employees take part in their own pretend funerals.

In a large room in a nondescript modern office block in Seoul, staff from a recruitment company are staging their own funerals. Dressed in white robes, they sit at desks and write final letters to their loved ones. Tearful sniffling becomes open weeping, barely stifled by the copious use of tissues.

And then, the climax: they rise and stand over the wooden coffins laid out beside them. They pause, get in and lie down. They each hug a picture of themselves, draped in black ribbon.
 Korean Lyingincoffins
As they look up, the boxes are banged shut by a man dressed in black with a tall hat. He represents the Angel of Death. Enclosed in darkness, the employees reflect on the meaning of life.

The macabre ritual is a bonding exercise designed to teach them to value life. Before they get into the casket, they are shown videos of people in adversity - a cancer sufferer making the most of her final days, someone born without all her limbs who learned to swim.  All this is designed to help people come to terms with their own problems, which must be accepted as part of life.
"After the coffin experience, I realised I should try to live a new style of life," says Cho Yong-tae as he emerges from the casket. "I've realised I've made lots of mistakes. I hope to be more passionate in all the work I do and spend more time with my family."
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:53 PM | Permalink

October 30, 2015

Living in recognition of reality

From Rod Dreher's Into the Dark Wood

Dostoevsky and some of his followers would say ethics is not about good and evil; it’s about truth and falsehood, reality and illusion. The right way to live doesn’t amount to a series of approved actions. It’s about living in recognition of reality.

One psychologist says living in recognition of reality is the key sign you've become an adult

Jeffrey Arnett, Ph.D., a Clark University psychologist who's studied the experiences of emerging adults (between ages 18 and 29) as well as established adults (between ages 25 and 39).

He's found that one key marker of the transition to adulthood is accepting, and being content with, reality. "Part of what it means to be an adult is you make your choices," and you stop constantly hoping for something better. You realize that the range of possibilities that is open to you is not unlimited."

Which brings to mind this post by Robert Royal

Andre Malraux, French novelist and anti-Nazi Resistance fighter, tells a story in the first pages of his Anti-Memoirs ... about putting a question one evening, after a long day of firefights, to a comrade-in-arms, who was also a priest: “You hear confessions, father, you must learn a lot about human nature.” The priest demurred. No it’s Christ, not me there, forgiving. But after a few more glasses of wine, he said: “Actually, there are two things. First, people are much more unhappy they you would think.” Malraux replied that, as a novelist, he already understood that quite well: “And the other thing, mon père?” “There are no real adults.”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:24 PM | Permalink

April 27, 2015

Too much technology is making it hard for children to read facial expressions

Smartphones making children borderline autistic, warns expert

Children struggle to read emotions and are less empathetic than a generation ago because they spend too much time using tablets and smartphones, a leading psychiatrist has warned.

Iain McGilchrist said children as young as five were less able to read facial expressions because of too much interaction with technology.

He added that he had evidence that more pupils were displaying borderline "autistic" behaviour. Dr McGilchrist, a former Oxford literary scholar who retrained in medicine, said he had heard of increasing numbers of teachers who had to explain to their pupils how to make sense of human faces.
“It is hardly surprising that we are not as good as reading human faces and interacting with human beings if we are engaging with the virtual world.”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:19 PM | Permalink

March 18, 2015

Chores and Life Skills

For several days running, the most emailed article from the Wall Street Journal has been Why Children Need Chores  which has several tips on how to get your children properly motivated.

“Parents today want their kids spending time on things that can bring them success, but ironically, we’ve stopped doing one thing that’s actually been a proven predictor of success—and that’s household chores,” says Richard Rende, a developmental psychologist in Paradise Valley, Ariz., and co-author of the forthcoming book “Raising Can-Do Kids.” Decades of studies show the benefits of chores—academically, emotionally and even professionally.

Giving children household chores at an early age helps to build a lasting sense of mastery, responsibility and self-reliance, according to research by Marty Rossmann, professor emeritus at the University of Minnesota…..

Chores also teach children how to be empathetic and responsive to others’ needs, notes psychologist Richard Weissbourd of the Harvard Graduate School of Education.  ….. 

And why not bring Home Economics up-to-date and  back home economics to schools and colleges?  Maybe you have to rename it as well and call it "Life Skills."   


Jennifer Doverspike writes  Five Elements Of An Excellent Home Economics Class

Unlike Betty Crocker-inspired quick meals, though, this class would be an overall life skills class, and would need five basic units.

1. The Pinterest Unit: Cooking, Sewing, and Shop

2. Household Management, Cleaning, and Maintenance

3. Nutritional, Financial, and Sexual Literacy

4. Child Development, Education, and Health

5. Etiquette, Dress, and Habit
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:37 PM | Permalink

"Suddenly we saw our friend from Bucharest in tears"

Post-Communist Traumas East and West  Recovering from Soviet Terror Is Not Easy

During an international conference on political theory several of us were sitting in a restaurant in Tallinn, Estonia. Among us was a participant from Bucharest, Romania, a young woman, who listened as some from the West poked fun at the evident inefficiency of the Russians who still have a significant presence in the Baltic countries and who happened to be running this establishment. We noted the drabness of the decor, the ineptness of the help, the slowness of the service, and reminisced about the even worse olden days when the gray-looking Russians who dominated the Communist culture would run roughshod over everyone in sight.

Suddenly we saw our friend from Bucharest in tears. She was apologizing but unable to keep herself from sobbing.  We were stunned—we didn’t know what we did to upset her. We all searched our minds for what we might have said but could not come up with a sensible answer. In a while she calmed down a bit and told us.

All of this amusing banter called to our friend’s mind not only what she had been living with for all of her life but what in her country is still largely the case, namely, the complete control of the Soviet-type bureaucracy over the society.  She then went on to recount, in halting English and tearfully, how the daily lives of her family and friends had been utterly trapped in the abyss that so many in the West championed as the promising wave of the future. She gave example after example of how people suffered, from moment to moment how every ounce of some modicum of joy and pleasure, never mind genuine happiness, was rendered utterly impossible and inconceivable for them. She noted that people simply lost the will to live, that they could not even smile, not to mention laugh heartily, and how the most minute matters, such as the way in which parents played and talked with their children, suffered from this totalitarian impact.

It is often only when one finds oneself facing the facts directly, inescapably, that one can appreciate their meaning.
People are not simply changing from one game to another when they finally are able to leave the Soviet system behind. They are undergoing recovery from massive and prolonged injury to their whole beings. They and everyone they know and love had been beaten and derided and terrorized by thugs for decades on end. When finally they are left alone, they are expected to, as the song says, just pick themselves up, brush themselves off, and start all over again with cheer in their hearts.

We are seeing some extremely painful recovery as well as relapses in the lives of those who had been the victims of the Soviet experiment that so many of our comfortable intellectuals watched with vile neglect. We will see normal imperfect human beings undergo a slow convalescence or stand around hesitatingly coping with new problems and nearly forgotten ones as well.

For the many people who have given their support to socialism and Communism over the years—if only by not being brutally honest about them on such grounds as that, well, these systems were motivated by compassion for the poor and downtrodden, the failure to see all this is a blatant confession of hypocrisy. The victims of the Soviet vision of human life deserve compassion and caring and yet all they seem to be getting is the callous disregard for their plight and the quick judgment that they are, after all, unable to handle freedom, aren’t they? What the yearning for self-justification will not permit some people to do in the face of the gravest of human tragedies!
Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:40 PM | Permalink

Hope in The Dropbox

‘The Drop Box,’ Where Disabled Babies Go to Live  A new documentary tells the story of ‘The Drop Box,’ where image-conscious South Koreans leave disabled babies to a welcoming pastor and his family.

Life can change in a moment. In June 2011, while eating cereal, Brian Ivie, a film student at the University of California, came across a front-page profile of Lee in the Los Angeles Times. Inspired by the story of the South Korean pastor tending an “unwanted flock” and mindful of how fleeting news can be, Ivie determined to bring Pastor Lee’s story to a broader audience. He contacted Lee and asked if he could make a documentary about his work. Lee responded that although he did not know what a documentary was, Ivie could come to his home in Seoul for a visit.

Lee responded that although he did not know what a documentary was, Ivie could come to his home in Seoul for a visit.  Ivie raised funding for his project on Kickstarter, and six months later, he and a small film crew headed to South Korea.

“We need stories like this one…to assert truth, that there are miracles, that heroes exist, and that love endures even amid daily tragedy,” he told his funders.
“The Drop Box” chronicles Lee’s life and work. Lee, the pastor of Jusarang Community Church in a working-class neighborhood of Seoul, has been taking in unwanted infants since 2009. Lee built his “baby box” after getting a call early one chilly autumn morning. “In front of the door,” said the voice on the other line. When he and his wife went to their front door, they found a baby, cold to the touch, in a cardboard box. Lee worried about what would have happened had they not found her until later.

So he got out his tools and built a heated box on the side of his church, lining it with blankets, rigging it with a bell, and affixing to it a sign that reads, “This is a facility for the protection of life. If you can’t take care of your disabled babies, don’t throw them away or leave them on the street. Bring them here.”
Since 2009, Lee’s baby box has saved 600 children, some of them deposited there only hours after birth. Lee and his staff generally have up to 20 children in their care, and he and his wife have adopted ten (the maximum number of children South Koreans can adopt). They receive a new child through the box every few days, provide initial care for the child, then hand him over to the police, who help place the child in an orphanage.
The Drop Box” reminds us that out of the deepest places of hurt come hope, that every life has dignity, and that it is what we make of the life-changing moments that determines how they shape our lives. As the father of a severely disabled child, Lee could have become resentful and isolated. Instead, Eun-man’s life catalyzed him to serve and love other disabled children in South Korea. His story reminds us, as Ivie said, that there are miracles, there are heroes, and love endures. Someday, perhaps we will live in a world where baby boxes are not needed. Until then, we need stories—and examples—like Pastor Lee’s.

The film opened March 16

You can see the trailer at  thedropboxfilm.com

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:26 AM | Permalink

March 17, 2015

"Black grace"

"Nowadays, chastity is the ultimate rebellion"  Dawn Eden

Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen described a state of disillusioned satedness that he called “black grace” a kind of fed-upness that could open the way for the “white grace” of conversion.  Many who have bought into the lies of the sexual revolution find themselves confronted by the darkness of this black grace. If the truth about chastity is presented to them, they can attain transformation in Christ. I know, because that is what happened to me.
Pope Francis gets this. That is why, when he speaks about chastity, he uses the language of rebellion. Addressing young people on the theme of the diocesan World Youth Day 2015 – “Blessed are the pure in heart” ­– he urged them to “rebel against the widespread tendency to reduce love to something banal, reducing it to its sexual aspect alone … [Rebel] against this culture that sees everything as temporary and that ultimately believes you are incapable of responsibility, that believes you are incapable of true love.”

… Francis encourages us to have faith that our Tannhäusers, too, can reach that point of black grace: the searing recognition that the no-strings-attached “love” that they expected to fulfill  them was, in fact, only an impoverishment of what love is supposed to be.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:30 AM | Permalink

March 13, 2015

Mind your manners

In the New York Times, A Manners Manifesto and a recipe for egg drop soup.

For 4,000 years, humans have implored one another to mind their manners. I am personally invested in the crusade for two reasons. First, my brother and I were raised by a man who, as a child, was sent from the table hungry if he so much as slouched. At my own table growing up, when we small savages a) failed to put our napkins in our laps; b) ate before everyone was served; c) served ourselves first; d) opened our mouths while chewing; e) moved our forks from the left to the right hand; f) ate with our hands; g) failed to say please, thank you or excuse me; h) put our elbows on the table; i) did not ask permission to stand; or j) failed to eat soup properly (a nearly impossible task, requiring always spooning away, sipping noiselessly while sitting bolt upright, obtaining any final spoonfuls by a discreet tip of the bowl), we were ordered to push back from the table and contemplate our philistinism for several monstrous minutes before we could return, rehabilitated, to try again.
In the democratic present, perhaps the way to distinguish useful etiquette from frippery is to discern which rules help us be good rather than seem good. Serving others first is plainly charitable. Filling companions’ glasses, waiting to eat, giving another the last of the stew, chewing with a closed mouth — each is a basic acknowledgment of togetherness. Perhaps the consequential lesson in the matter of holding your fork, etc., is that customs differ at different tables in different lands, and that there is a certain intelligence in doing as is done. In other words, whatever unites merits keeping, and what divides can be folded and stored away with the linen too old and ornamental to use.
True courtesy will instinctively check faddish manners at the door in the interest of kindness — which is the root from which the entire family tree of courteous behavior, from the noble Egyptian’s papyrus on, has sprung.

A few  quotes from Miss Manners

"The dinner table is the center for the teaching and practicing not just of table manners but of conversation, consideration, tolerance, family feeling, and just about all the other accomplishments of polite society except the minuet."

"The lack of agreement about manners results in an anger-ridden, chaotic society, where each trivial act is interpreted as a revelation of the moral philosophy of the individual actor…"

"Ideological differences are no excuse for rudeness."

In a 1995 interview by Virginia Shea, Miss Manners said,

“You can deny all you want that there is etiquette, and a lot of people do in everyday life.  But if you behave in a way that offends the people you're trying to deal with, they will stop dealing with you…There are plenty of people who say, 'We don't care about etiquette, but we can't stand the way so-and-so behaves, and we don't want him around!' Etiquette doesn't have the great sanctions that the law has.  But the main sanction we do have is in not dealing with these people and isolating them because their behavior is unbearable.”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:45 PM | Permalink

March 12, 2015

"Rebellion for grown-ups"

In the NYT,  Arthur C. Brooks writes Lent: It’s Not Just for Catholics

[M]ost people spend their lives trying to avoid physical and psychological suffering. That is how we are wired. …Fear — arguably, the most unpleasant emotion — is learned as a way to avoid all types of pain. …

We don’t want to suffer — we hate it, in fact. Yet it is suffering that often brings personal improvement. Not all pain is beneficial, obviously. But researchers have consistently found that most survivors of illness and loss experience “post-traumatic growth.” Not only do many people find a greater emotional maturity after suffering; they are even better prepared to help others deal with their pain. That is why after a loss we turn for comfort to those who have endured a similar loss.
in this season of Lent, hundreds of millions of Catholics are pondering their own inadequacies and inviting discomfort through abstinence and fasting. In a postmodern era, where death is taboo, pain is pointless, and sin is a cultural anachronism, what could be more rebellious?

But the spirit of these practices is open to everyone, religious or not. Think of it as a personal declaration of independence. The objective is not to cause yourself damage, but to accept the pain and fear that are a natural part of life, and to embrace them as a valuable source of lessons to learn and tests to pass….

To say, “I am dust, and to dust I shall return”: Now that’s rebellion for grown-ups.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:16 PM | Permalink

April 14, 2014

Why daydreaming is important and should not be medicalized in childhood

Scientists Label Childhood a Disorder

Ever daydream as a child? Perhaps you had “sluggish cognitive tempo,” a condition some mental health leaders say affects as many as two million American children. The NYT reports on the campaign to have “SCT” recognized in the medical community as a legitimate and medically treatable disorder. The symptoms include “lethargy, daydreaming and slow mental processing.”  But not everyone is convinced.

I was not because I remembered one of my very first posts, Does Daydreaming Make You Happy?

After finding that about one child in 30 is brilliant and happy, (Harvard psychologist Burton) White did a great deal of research to determine what demographic or psychological characteristics distinguished those children. But the children came from a wide variety of backgrounds -- rich and poor, small families and large, broken and stable homes, poorly and well-educated parents -- and from all parts of the U.S. Finally, through extensive questioning, he determined that the bright and happy children had only one thing in common: All of them spent noticeable amounts of time staring peacefully and wordlessly into space."

And another from 2009,  good news for those who daydream. Stop paying attention all the time. Zoning Out Is a Crucial Mental State  Researchers say a wandering mind may be important to setting goals, making discoveries, and living a balanced life.

The fact that both of these important brain networks become active together suggests that mind wandering is not useless mental static. Instead, Schooler proposes, mind wandering allows us to work through some important thinking. Our brains process information to reach goals, but some of those goals are immediate while others are distant. Somehow we have evolved a way to switch between handling the here and now and contemplating long-term objectives. It may be no coincidence that most of the thoughts that people have during mind wandering have to do with the future.

Even more telling is the discovery that zoning out may be the most fruitful type of mind wandering….In their fMRI study, Schooler and his colleagues found that the default network and executive control systems are even more active during zoning out than they are during the less extreme mind wandering with awareness. When we are no longer even aware that our minds are wandering, we may be able to think most deeply about the big picture.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:17 PM | Permalink

April 1, 2014

5. Watch 'Groundhog Day' Repeatedly

Charles Murray in the Wall Street Journal with Advice for a Happy Life

1. Consider Marrying Young

Merger marriages are what you tend to see on the weddings pages of the Sunday New York Times: highly educated couples in their 30s, both people well on their way to success. Lots of things can be said in favor of merger marriages. The bride and groom may be more mature, less likely to outgrow each other or to feel impelled, 10 years into the marriage, to make up for their lost youth.

What are the advantages of a startup marriage? For one thing, you will both have memories of your life together when it was all still up in the air. You'll have fun remembering the years when you went from being scared newcomers to the point at which you realized you were going to make it.

Even more important, you and your spouse will have made your way together. Whatever happens, you will have shared the experience. And each of you will know that you wouldn't have become the person you are without the other.

Many merger marriages are happy, but a certain kind of symbiosis, where two people become more than the sum of the individuals, is perhaps more common in startups.

2. Learn How to Recognize Your Soul Mate

Marry someone with similar tastes and preferences. Which tastes and preferences? The ones that will affect life almost every day…..What you see is what you're going to get. If something about your prospective spouse bothers you but you think that you can change your beloved after you're married, you're wrong. Be prepared to live with whatever bothers you—or forget it.
It is absolutely crucial that you really, really like your spouse. You hear it all the time from people who are in great marriages: "I'm married to my best friend." They are being literal. A good working definition of "soul mate" is "your closest friend, to whom you are also sexually attracted."…

A good marriage is the best thing that can ever happen to you. Above all else, realize that this cliché is true. The downside risks of marrying—and they are real—are nothing compared with what you will gain from a good one.

3. Eventually Stop Fretting About Fame and Fortune

Fame and wealth do accomplish something: They cure ambition anxiety. But that's all. It isn't much.

4. Take Religion Seriously

Start by jarring yourself out of unreflective atheism or agnosticism. A good way to do that is to read about contemporary cosmology. The universe isn't only stranger than we knew; it is stranger and vastly more unlikely than we could have imagined, and we aren't even close to discovering its last mysteries. That reading won't lead you to religion, but it may stop you from being unreflective.

Find ways to put yourself around people who are profoundly religious. You will encounter individuals whose intelligence, judgment and critical faculties are as impressive as those of your smartest atheist friends—and who also possess a disquieting confidence in an underlying reality behind the many religious dogmas.

They have learned to reconcile faith and reason, yes, but beyond that, they persuasively convey ways of knowing that transcend intellectual understanding. They exhibit in their own personae a kind of wisdom that goes beyond just having intelligence and good judgment.

5. Watch 'Groundhog Day' Repeatedly

The movie "Groundhog Day" was made more than two decades ago, but it is still smart and funny. It is also a brilliant moral fable that deals with the most fundamental issues of virtue and happiness, done with such subtlety that you really need to watch it several times.
Without the slightest bit of preaching, the movie shows the bumpy, unplanned evolution of his protagonist from a jerk to a fully realized human being—a person who has learned to experience deep, lasting and justified satisfaction with life even though he has only one day to work with.

You could learn the same truths by studying Aristotle's "Ethics" carefully, but watching "Groundhog Day" repeatedly is a lot more fun.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:27 PM | Permalink

How history's biggest thinkers spent their days

I found this fascinating.  Memorizing the Bible and drinking 50 cups of coffee a day: From Darwin to Dickens, how history's biggest thinkers spent their days

Using Mason Currey's book Daily Rituals: How Artists Work - which draws on diaries and letters from the thinkers themselves - designer RJ Andrews has mapped out the comings and goings of some of history's most important figures, right down to the hour.

From Mozart to Freud and Darwin to Dickens, the waking, working and, in some cases, procrastinating of history's greatest minds are laid out for scrutiny.

From Balzac drinking 50 cups of black coffee a day, to Milton spending hours memorising the Bible, the results are not always as you would expect. The variation is also surprising, from Freud's 13 hours of work a day to Mozart's four, there is not, alas, a simple recipe for success.

 Charles Dickens Time Spent

 Charles Darwin Spent Time

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:22 PM | Permalink

March 19, 2014

Before and after walking across China in a year

 One-Year Christoph-Rehage

This is Christopher Rehage after spending a year of his life walking 3000 miles across China.

His video The Longest Way via Business Insider shows his transformation day by day and at the end after a trip to the barber.

Personally I like the 'after look'  better.  His eyes are so much bigger and kinder.  Before he looked suspicious that seems to say with testosterone bravado, Don't mess with me and I'm in control.  After he looks so much kinder, compassionate, more experienced in accepting what comes.    He does need a haircut though.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:52 PM | Permalink

February 20, 2014

People to emulate

Tony Tolbert.   An entertainment lawyer in LA whose selfless 'miracle act sparked a chain reaction of good will.

He lent his fully  fully furnished home to a poor family for one year. Now, 12 months later, Tolbert’s gesture has sparked a chain reaction of goodwill.

Felicia Dukes, a mother of four who had been sharing a single room at the shelter with three of her young children; her older son was over 18 and not eligible to stay with his mom and siblings.

So Tolbert offered up the opportunity of a lifetime: one year rent-free at his home so that Dukes could get her life back on track.

Dukes said that the experience of living in Tolbert’s home gave her both “freedom” and “stability,” calling it a “miracle.” She recorded her blessings in a “gratitude journal.”  She has also able to save money so that she will no longer need to live paycheck to paycheck.

Erik Fitzgerald  Widower forges friendship with man in crash that killed his wife and unborn baby

Early one morning in Dacula, Ga., Matt Swatzell was driving home from a 24-hour shift as a firefighter and EMS and had only 30 minutes of sleep. He was less than four miles from his home on October 2, 2006 when he suddenly heard what he calls “the most God awful sound I’ve ever heard.”

Swatzell, then 20, realized he had fallen asleep at the wheel and crashed. When he got out of the car, he saw the car of 30-year old June Fitzgerald. She was pregnant and with her then 19-month-old daughter Faith. Faith survived the crash but her mother and unborn sibling passed away.
Fitzgerald's forgiveness has created a friendship now six years strong. The men stayed connected by meeting at least once every two weeks, attending church together and eating meals at the Waffle House and other restaurants, just the two of them.
To start, Fitzgerald extended his forgiveness to Swatzell's sentencing: As a county officer, he was facing a felony and harsh time. But Fitzgerald pleaded for a lesser sentence.  “I didn’t see why this accident and tragedy needed to ruin any more lives,” said Fitzgerald. Swatzell paid a fine and did community service.
The day before the two-year anniversary of the accident, Swatzell was in the parking lot of a grocery store after buying a greeting card to send to Fitzgerald. Just about to turn on his engine, he saw Fitzgerald walking into the same grocery store.

After an introduction, Fitzgerald told Swatzell, “I have a desire to want to be in your life.”  Part of the tug I felt and draw to Matthew was he was a good guy. He wasn’t a convict or on drugs. He was just a guy who got off a shift,” said Fitzgerald. “I felt it was my responsibility to encourage him and see the big picture.”

“I can honestly say that without this friendship I don’t know where I’d be,” said Swatzell, now 27.

Fitzgerald has watched Swatzell become a family man and helped him raise himself from the abyss of guilt….. Fitzgerald believes he has gotten just as much out the friendship as Swatzell has.  “This has been just as healing for me too,” said Fitzgerald. “I’ve taught on forgiveness and I know that forgiveness is not so much for the other person but for yourself.”

And everyone in the DC neighborhood that rallied to save Frager's Hardware and Eastern Market, all without government help.  It Takes a Certain Kind of Village D.C. neighbors show what real community looks like.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:30 PM | Permalink

January 22, 2014

'Once I started, I thought to myself, ‘Well, gee, why not?"

Why you should heed the tips of a 94-year-old athlete in a new book What Makes Olga Run?  Olga Kotelko from Vancouver, Canada,  took up athletics at the age of 77 and has since scored 26 world records and more than 750 gold medals.

She reveals how she likes to exercise daily, gets eight hours of sleep, keep her brain active with Sudoku puzzles and eat unprocessed foods - with pickled herring, Greek yogurt and the occasional dram of Scotch among her favorite delicacies.

Author Bruce Grierson, spent months meticulously examining Ms Kotelko's lifestyle and told Today.com of the nonagenarian: 'She's having a ball, she's having the best time of her life . . . She thinks of herself as still growing.'

One of the athlete's more bizarre habits is setting her alarm to 2am every morning for stretching and meditation sessions.
After bending, flexing and clearing her mind she then goes back to sleep.
Everything else aside, one necessity Ms Kotelko considers 'a must', is maintaining a positive frame of mind….'Be optimistic and face every day with a smile,' she said.  'Praying, having faith and a good relationship with your family. Friends, a lot of friends.'

She was always active, but didn’t take up track and field until age 77. Her sporting career has seen her travel all over the world.

'Once I started, I thought to myself, ‘Well, gee, why not?"' the grandmother-pf-two recalled.  'I chose to be a young-at-heart athlete rather than an old woman.'  She says that out of the 11 field and track sports she practices, hammer throw is her favorite.

 Olga Kotelko Hammer Throwing

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:36 AM | Permalink

December 20, 2013

"A firm and unshakable belief that all human distress arises from malfunctioning serotonin metabolism"

Theodore Dalrymple hates the DSM (the American Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) and tells you why  in Everyone on the Couch.  It undermines self-reliance and morality and lacks all common sense…

…..the quality that psychiatrists, perhaps more than any other kind of doctor, need. The manual’s lack of common sense would be amusing were it not destined to be taken with superstitious seriousness by psychiatrists around the world, as well as by insurers and lawyers.

To call the habit of losing one’s temper and destroying things or hurting people a medical condition (from which, according to the DSM-5, 2.5 percent or so of the adult population suffers in a given year) empties it both of meaning and moral content, all in the service of a spurious objectivity.
Among the thousands of patients who consulted me over a period of 15 years, only three whom I can recall ever used the word “unhappy” (and one was a prisoner, who told me, “I’m not happy in this prison, Doctor”). By contrast, thousands said that they were “depressed.”

The semantic change is significant. The word “unhappy” is an implicit call to self-examination; the word “depressed” is, at least nowadays, a call to the doctor. It is no coincidence that the age of the DSM should coincide with a tenth of the population’s taking antidepressants—drugs that, for the most part, are placebos when not outright harmful. None of this excludes the possibility, of course, that some diagnoses will run afoul of pressure-group politics by the time the DSM-6 comes out. How long, for example, can gender dysphoria disorder survive every right-thinking person’s moral duty to celebrate transsexualism?

He concludes:

The DSM is ultimately an instrument for weakening human resilience, self-reliance, fortitude, and resolve. It turns human beings into mechanisms, deprives their conduct of meaning, and makes them prey to entrepreneurs of human misery. The authors, one could say, suffer from PNOD—psychiatric nosology overvaluation disorder—the criteria for which are as follows:

A: The grandiose belief that all human weakness can and should be divided into valid diagnostic categories.

B: At least two of the following: a firm and unshakable belief that all human distress arises from malfunctioning serotonin metabolism; a firm and unshakable belief that functional MRI scans will soon teach humans how to live; a firm and unshakable belief that the seven deadly sins have been scientifically superseded by psychiatric diagnoses.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:52 PM | Permalink

November 22, 2013

Seven years of Brain Pickings

Brainpickings  Brain Pickings is a delightful, weekly and free "interestingness digest." that comes out on Sundays.

Maria Popova writes

On October 23, 2006, I sent a short email to a few friends at work — one of the four jobs I held while paying my way through college — with the subject line “brain pickings,” announcing my intention to start a weekly digest featuring five stimulating things to learn about each week, from a breakthrough in neuroscience to a timeless piece of poetry. “It should take no more than 4 minutes (hopefully much less) to read,” I promised. This was the inception of Brain Pickings. At the time, I neither planned nor anticipated that this tiny experiment would one day be included in the Library of Congress digital archive of “materials of historical importance” and the few friends would become millions of monthly readers all over the world…..

Happy Birthday, Brain Pickings: 7 Things I Learned in 7 Years of Reading, Writing, and Living  

Here are seven things I’ve learned in seven years of making those choices, of integrating “work” and life in such inextricable fusion, and in chronicling this journey of heart, mind and spirit — a journey that took, for whatever blessed and humbling reason, so many others along for the ride. I share these here not because they apply to every life and offer some sort of blueprint to existence, but in the hope that they might benefit your own journey in some small way, bring you closer to your own center, or even simply invite you to reflect on your own sense of purpose.

1.  Allow yourself the uncomfortable luxury of changing your mind. 

2.  Do nothing for prestige or status or money or approval alone. 

3.  Be generous

4.  Build pockets of stillness into your life. 

5,  When people try to tell you who you are, don't believe them. 

6.  Presence is far more intricate and rewarding an art than productivity. 

7.  Expect anything worthwhile to take a long time.
………….As I’ve reflected elsewhere, the flower doesn’t go from bud to blossom in one spritely burst and yet, as a culture, we’re disinterested in the tedium of the blossoming. But that’s where all the real magic unfolds in the making of one’s character and destiny.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:08 PM | Permalink

October 4, 2013

Secrets to a Fulfilling Life

I've written often about George Vaillant, the Harvard professor who directed the Harvard Grant Study from 1972-2004 and later wrote several books summarizing the study, but it's always good to revisit the lessons learned.

The 75-Year Study That Found The Secrets To A Fulfilling Life

Love Is Really All That Matters.  It may seem obvious, but that doesn’t make it any less true: Love is key to a happy and fulfilling life. As Vaillant puts it, there are two pillars of happiness. "One is love," he writes. "The other is finding a way of coping with life that does not push love away."  Vaillant has said that the study's most important finding is that the only thing that matters in life is relationships. A man could have a successful career, money and good physical health, but without supportive, loving relationships, he wouldn't be happy.
It’s About More than Money and Power.  The Grant Study's findings echoed those of other studies -- that acquiring more money and power doesn't correlate to greater happiness. That’s not to say money or traditional career success don’t matter. But they’re small parts of a much larger picture -- and while they may loom large for us in the moment, they diminish in importance when viewed in the context of a full life.
Regardless of How We Begin Life, We Can All Become Happier.  A man named Godfrey Minot Camille went into the Grant study with fairly bleak prospects for life satisfaction: He had the lowest rating for future stability of all the subjects and he had previously attempted suicide. But at the end of his life, he was one of the happiest. Why? As Vaillant explains, “He spent his life searching for love.”
Connection Is Crucial  "Joy is connection,” Vaillant says. "The more areas in your life you can make connection, the better."

The study found strong relationships to be far and away the strongest predictor of life satisfaction. And in terms of career satisfaction, too, feeling connected to one's work was far more important than making money or achieving traditional success.

"The conclusion of the study, not in a medical but in a psychological sense, is that connection is the whole shooting match," says Vaillant.
Challenges –- and the Perspective They Give You -- Can Make You Happier  The journey from immaturity to maturity, says Vaillant, is a sort of movement from narcissism to connection, and a big part of this shift has to do with the way we deal with challenges.

Coping mechanisms -- “the capacity to make gold out of shit,” as Vaillant puts it -- have a significant effect on social support and overall well-being. The secret is replacing narcissism, a single-minded focus on one's own emotional oscillations and perceived problems, with mature coping defenses, Vaillant explains, citing Mother Teresa and Beethoven as examples.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:19 PM | Permalink

September 4, 2013

Astonishing story of a man who survived slavery, imprisonment, amputation and 30 years of exile who returned to Sudan to help his people

After a wonderful vacation - almost internet free, I'm back to posting, starting with this astonishing story. 

"Still, God Helps You"  by Melissa Pritchard

Snatched from a marketplace in Sudan and sold into slavery at the age of six, William Mawwin became one of millions of people in the world enduring some form of involuntary servitude. This is his extraordinary story.

I wore black every day to show I was dead but still walking around. I started dressing like this in Africa, after I got out of captivity. Wearing white meant a peaceful day, a better day for me. If I wore black and white, mixed, that meant anything could happen, good or bad. I dressed almost always in black, until the day I became a father.

Today, more human beings suffer enslavement than during the three and a half centuries of the transatlantic slave trade. The International Labor Organization, a United Nations agency focused on labor rights, recently—and some would say conservatively—raised its worldwide estimate of the number of slaves from 12 million to nearly 21 million human beings, individuals unable to escape conditions of forced labor, bonded labor, slavery, and trafficking. Africa and the Asia-Pacific region together account for the largest number, close to 15 million people, but slavery is epidemic around the world and increasing.

In Sudan, slavery is not a new phenomenon. Intertribal slave raids, Sudanese Arabs enslaving southern tribal peoples for personal use and export, and the lucrative 19th-century European slave trade all played tragic parts in Sudanese history. But in the 20th century, during Sudan’s two scarcely interrupted civil wars, slave raids by northern Arab militia became an especially brutal strategy of the north. Murahaleen, white-robed Arabs armed with Kalashnikovs, swept down from the north on horseback, raiding and burning Dinka and Nuer villages, seizing thousands of women and children, decimating southern Sudanese tribes defenseless against modern weaponry and government-supported rape, slavery, and genocide.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:06 AM | Permalink

August 10, 2013

Good Habits

Why is it So Hard to Stick to Good Habits?  by James Clear. 

Have you ever set out with the goal of actually sticking to a new behavior … only to find yourself not doing it at all one week later?
I know I have.

Why is so hard to form good habits? Why is it so difficult to make consistent change? How can we have the best intentions to become better, and yet still see so little progress?  And most importantly, is there anything we can do about it?

Your Life Goals are Not Your Habits
Your audacious life goals are fabulous. We’re proud of you for having them. But it’s possible that those goals are designed to distract you from the thing that’s really frightening you—the shift in daily habits that would mean a re–invention of how you see yourself.
— Seth Godin

Good Habits: Dream Big, But Start Small
If you’re serious about making real change — in other words, if you’re serious about doing things better than you are now — then you have to start small…..I think the following quote from BJ Fogg, a professor at Stanford, sums this idea up nicely.

If you plant the right seed in the right spot, it will grow without further coaxing. I believe this is the best metaphor for creating habits.

The “right seed” is the tiny behavior that you choose. The “right spot” is the sequencing — what it comes after. The “coaxing” part is amping up motivation, which I think has nothing to do with creating habits. In fact, focusing on motivation as the key to habits is exactly wrong.

Let me be more explicit: If you pick the right small behavior and sequence it right, then you won’t have to motivate yourself to have it grow. It will just happen naturally, like a good seed planted in a good spot.
—BJ Fogg

Life goals are good to have because they provide direction, but they can also trick you into taking on more than you can handle. Daily habits — tiny routines that are repeatable — are what make big dreams a reality.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:57 AM | Permalink

"I tell myself a lot of stories"

The Stories We Tell Ourselves
A tool for change

Retrospect is an uncomfortable thing. Looking back at the last five years of my life is a cringe-inducing exercise. All my failings, mistakes and poorly thought out actions are glaringly horrific. The nights I got too drunk. The people I’ve hurt with my selfishness. The time I’ve wasted and the opportunities I’ve missed can all paint a dark picture. It’s a picture many thirty year old American men can paint. Its the picture of trying to figure your shit out in your late twenties. But, luckily, there is some brightness too.

Today, I consider myself a happy person. I love what I do. I love the people in my life. Despite the messiness of the last few years, I’ve been able to create a life that I enjoy. But only recently did I realize that the tool that finally helped me figure it out was one of the oldest practices known to man: storytelling.

I tell myself a lot of stories. These days, I like to tell myself the “anything is possible” story, the “practice makes perfect” story or the “life is short” story. At the time of writing this I’m a big fan of the “it’s 5 o’clock somewhere” story and I can guarantee the “sleep’s the best medicine” story will have me in bed by 9 tonight.

The stories I tell myself are the anchors of my thoughts, my words and my actions. They are the internal narratives that make me who I am. There was a time when I told myself the “get money or die trying” story. Thanks, 50. There was the time I was convinced by the “bugs are scary” story. That was embarrassing. I was even tempted by the “no one understands me” story for a bit; also embarrassing. The stories I tell myself are always changing.

My current narrative is a borrowed set of story lines. They are the narratives I’ve collected from a host of movies, articles, lectures and friends. They are the gathered learnings from my mentors. They are the reciprocal stories of my upbringing, a series of “I’ll never be like them” stories. But it is through the recognition of these story lines, in all their beauty and ugliness, that I’ve seen the potential to guide my narrative towards a particular and positive outcome.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:40 AM | Permalink

July 25, 2013

What the rich do and the poor don't

From Dave Ramsey  20 Things The Rich Do Every Day

1. 70% of wealthy eat less than 300 junk food calories per day. 97% of poor people eat more than 300 junk food calories per day. 23% of wealthy gamble. 52% of poor people gamble. 

2. 80% of wealthy are focused on accomplishing some single goal. Only 12% of the poor do this.

3. 76% of wealthy exercise aerobically 4 days a week. 23% of poor do this. 

4. 63% of wealthy listen to audio books during commute to work vs. 5% for poor people.

5. 81% of wealthy maintain a to-do list vs. 19% for poor. 

6. 63% of wealthy parents make their children read 2 or more non-fiction books a month vs. 3% for poor.

7. 70% of wealthy parents make their children volunteer 10 hours or more a month vs. 3% for poor.

8. 80% of wealthy make hbd (Happy Birthday) calls vs. 11% of poor

9. 67% of wealthy write down their goals vs. 17% for poor
17. 84% of wealthy believe good habits create opportunity luck vs. 4% for poor.

18. 76% of wealthy believe bad habits create detrimental luck vs. 9% for poor.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:30 AM | Permalink

July 24, 2013

Reading Makes Us More Human

 Man Reading John Singer Sargent    In the Atlantic Reading Makes Us More Human by Karen Swallow Prior

A debate has erupted over whether reading fiction makes human beings more moral. But what if its real value consists in something even more fundamental?

What good literature can do and does do -- far greater than any importation of morality -- is touch the human soul.

Reading is one of the few distinctively human activities that set us apart from the rest of the animal kingdom. …Reading, unlike spoken language, does not come naturally to human beings. It must be taught.
...the books I have read over a lifetime have shaped my worldview, my beliefs, and my life as much as anything else. From Great Expectations I learned the power the stories we tell ourselves have to do either harm and good, to ourselves and to others; from Death of a Salesman I learned the dangers of a corrupt version of the American Dream; from Madame Bovary, I learned to embrace the real world rather than escaping into flights of fancy; from Gulliver's Travels I learned the profound limitations of my own finite perspective; and from Jane Eyre I learned how to be myself. These weren't mere intellectual or moral lessons, although they certainly may have begun as such. Rather, the stories from these books and so many others became part of my life story and then, gradually, part of my very soul.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:06 PM | Permalink

July 17, 2013

The Wisdom of the Ancient Greeks To Solve Modern Day Problems

Who knew that cognitive behavioral therapy was based on the philosophy of the Greek Stoic Epictetus?

Anxious? Depressed? Try Greek philosophy
Crippled by social anxiety and burnt out after a decade of hedonism, Jules Evans eventually found inspiration from the ancient Greeks. Here he tells how 2,000-year-old words of wisdom transformed his life and equipped him to help others solve their modern-day problems.

Growing up in the Nineties, my friends and I were amateur neuroscientists. Every weekend, we conducted experiments on our brains with various chemicals, to see what happened: marijuana, LSD, MDMA, amphetamine, mushrooms, all tossed into our system like ingredients in a cauldron. We had some hilarious, beautiful, even spiritual times. Then I noticed my friends beginning to burn out.

My best friend had a psychotic breakdown when he was 16. He’s been in and out of mental care homes ever since (he’s now 35, like me). Other friends developed paranoia, bipolar disorder, depression and anxiety. In my first year at university, I started to get panic attacks, too. My body would be filled with mortal terror, in the most un-mortal of situations. I lost confidence in my ability to know myself or to steer a coherent course through life. I started to distrust myself, to avoid social situations. I was terrified that I had permanently damaged myself before the age of 21.
I investigated these disorders on the internet, and found they could apparently be treated by something called cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT….. I also found there was a CBT support group for people suffering from social anxiety … For 10 weeks, we listened to the course, practised the exercises, and did the “homework”. And for me, it worked. The panic attacks stopped after a few weeks, and I gradually got back my confidence in my ability to steer a course through life. I steered a course to Russia, where I worked as a foreign correspondent for four fun, vodka-soaked years.

When I came back to the UK in 2007, I decided to research CBT. I went to New York to interview the psychologist who’d invented it, Albert Ellis, and asked him where he’d got the idea for it. He told me he’d been directly inspired by ancient Greek philosophy, particularly by a line from the Stoic philosopher Epictetus: “Men are disturbed not by events but by their opinion about events.”


Ellis, like the Greeks, suggested that our emotions always involve beliefs or interpretations of the world. Our interpretations may often be inaccurate, irrational or self-destructive, and this will make us emotionally sick.
The Stoics were aware of how little we control in life. None more so than Epictetus, a Stoic philosopher of the first century AD, who grew up a slave in the Roman Empire (his name means “acquired”). He divided all of life into two categories: the things we control and the things we don’t. We don’t control the economy, the weather, other people, our reputation, our own bodies. We can influence these things, but we don’t have complete control over them. The only thing we do have control over is our own thoughts and beliefs, if we choose to exercise control.
Epictetus suggested that emotional problems arise when we try to exert complete control over something external. When I had social anxiety, for example, I rested all my self-esteem on others’ judgments of me. This made me feel very helpless, anxious and paranoid.
The good news is that we can change our habits. Epictetus said “there is nothing more malleable than the psyche”, and contemporary neuroscience agrees. Every day, we have a choice to either reinforce a habit, or challenge it. The Greeks understood the importance of habits to the good life – their word “ethics” comes from “ethos”, meaning habit – and they developed some great techniques for habit-formation.
Today, CBT is available free on the NHS. It has brought some of the Greeks’ ideas to millions of people. Many people have used it to learn to “take care of their souls”, as Socrates put it – which is where the word “psychotherapy” comes from. I hope some of them might go back to the original source in philosophy, because CBT leaves a lot out – Greek philosophy wasn’t just a feel-good therapy, it was also a road map for the good life, and the good society.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:58 PM | Permalink

July 16, 2013

Self-Control is the Key to Happier Living

Study: People With a Lot of Self-Control Are Happier    Improbably enough, people who are better able to resist impulses report being more satisfied with their lives.

"Among humankind's most valuable assets" is self-control, according to Wilhelm Hofmann and his team of researchers at the University of Chicago. They define it as "the ability to override or change one's inner responses" and to refrain from acting on impulses.

The more self-control people reported having, the more satisfied they reported being with their lives. And contrary to what the researchers were expecting, people with more self-control were also more likely to be happy in the short-term. In fact, when they further analyzed the data, they found that such people's increased happiness to a large extent accounted for the increased life satisfaction.

How exercising self-control is 'the key to happier living', another report on the same University of Chicago study.

Instead of agonizing over whether to indulge in something, those with strong willpower simply found it easier to make the right choices while those who gave into vices were plagued with regret.
Study co-author Kathleen Vohs, a professor of marketing at the University of Minnesota, said people with greater self-restraint are, in essence setting themselves up to be happy.  This is apparently because they learn how to 'avoid problematic desires and conflict.'

Self control predicts success better than IQ

Dozens of studies show that willpower is the single most important keystone habit for individual success.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:51 PM | Permalink

July 11, 2013

Oliver Sachs turns 80

Oliver Sachs on The Joy of Old Age. (No Kidding.)

LAST night I dreamed about mercury — huge, shining globules of quicksilver rising and falling. Mercury is element number 80, and my dream is a reminder that on Tuesday, I will be 80 myself.
Eighty! I can hardly believe it. I often feel that life is about to begin, only to realize it is almost over. My mother was the 16th of 18 children; I was the youngest of her four sons, and almost the youngest of the vast cousinhood on her side of the family. I was always the youngest boy in my class at high school. I have retained this feeling of being the youngest, even though now I am almost the oldest person I know.
At 80, the specter of dementia or stroke looms. A third of one’s contemporaries are dead, and many more, with profound mental or physical damage, are trapped in a tragic and minimal existence. At 80 the marks of decay are all too visible. One’s reactions are a little slower, names more frequently elude one, and one’s energies must be husbanded, but even so, one may often feel full of energy and life and not at all “old.” Perhaps, with luck, I will make it, more or less intact, for another few years and be granted the liberty to continue to love and work, the two most important things, Freud insisted, in life.
When my time comes, I hope I can die in harness, as Francis Crick did. When he was told that his colon cancer had returned, at first he said nothing; he simply looked into the distance for a minute and then resumed his previous train of thought. When pressed about his diagnosis a few weeks later, he said, “Whatever has a beginning must have an ending.” When he died, at 88, he was still fully engaged in his most creative work.

My father, who lived to 94, often said that the 80s had been one of the most enjoyable decades of his life. He felt, as I begin to feel, not a shrinking but an enlargement of mental life and perspective. One has had a long experience of life, not only one’s own life, but others’, too. One has seen triumphs and tragedies, booms and busts, revolutions and wars, great achievements and deep ambiguities, too. One has seen grand theories rise, only to be toppled by stubborn facts. One is more conscious of transience and, perhaps, of beauty. At 80, one can take a long view and have a vivid, lived sense of history not possible at an earlier age. I can imagine, feel in my bones, what a century is like, which I could not do when I was 40 or 60. I do not think of old age as an ever grimmer time that one must somehow endure and make the best of, but as a time of leisure and freedom, freed from the factitious urgencies of earlier days, free to explore whatever I wish, and to bind the thoughts and feelings of a lifetime together.

I am looking forward to being 80.

He's had a most interesting life as you can read at Wikipedia

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:34 PM | Permalink

June 13, 2013

The Nine Factors of Mental Health

“Am I Crazy?” The 9 Components of Mental Health and How You Get Them by Dr Greg

When the human brain is working at its best, it is capable of doing 9 things that contribute to what we might commonly consider, “good mental health.”  They are:

1. Body Regulation—the ability to keep the organs of the body and the autonomic nervous system (e.g, heart rate, respiration, body temperature) coordinated and balanced.  Body regulation isn’t just about physical health.  Emotions begin as an embodied experience.  For example; a racing heart and shallow respiration often precipitate feelings of panic/anxiety.  Feelings of exhaustion or under-stimulation often precipitate depression.

2. Attuned Communication—the ability to pick up on the meaning of subtle, non-verbal, physical cues (facial expressions, tones of voice, posture) that indicate another person’s emotional states and degree of well-being.  People with Autism spectrum disorders especially have a difficult time with this.

3. Emotional Balance—the ability to maintain optimal emotional functioning.  That is, I know how to be emotionally stimulated enough to be aware and engaged in my circumstances and relationships but not so emotionally stimulated that I am regularly flooded by my feelings and carried away by them.

4. Response Flexibility—the ability to pause before acting on my impulses and willfully change the direction of my actions if doing so suits me better than my initial impulses.  People with ADHD, pathological anger, addictions, and other impulse control problems struggle with this skill.

5. Fear Modulation—reducing fear.  Self-explanatory.  People with anxiety and panic disorders, especially, have a difficult time modulating the brain’s fear responses.  They become easily flooded with anxiety where others might just experience nervousness or even excitement.

6. Insight—the ability to reflect on my life experiences in a way that links my past, present, and future in a coherent, cohesive, compassionate manner. In sight helps me make sense of both the things that have happened to me in the past and the things that are happening to me now.

7. Empathy—Essentially, empathy is the ability to have insight (as defined above) into other people.  Empathy is the ability to imagine what it is like to be another person, and to reflect on their experiences in a way that links their past, present, and future in coherent, cohesive. compassionate manner.  Empathy helps you make sense of other people’s lives, the way they think, and their feelings.

8. Morality—the ability to imagine, reason, and behave from the perspective of the greater good.  Includes the ability to delay gratification and find ways to get my needs met while understanding and accommodating the needs of others.

9. Intuition—having access to the input from the body and its non-rational ways of knowing that fuel wisdom.  One’s “gut sense” of things is actually based on a complex process by which  one’s right brain makes ”quick and dirty” global assessments of one’s feelings and circumstances.

We have seen from decades of research that the human brain, when it is experiencing optimal functioning, is able to do all of these things.  The degree to which you can say you are “mentally healthy” is the degree to which you can say these things are true about you.  The exciting thing about this definition of mental health is that a person does not have to wait until their life, work, or relationships are suffering before they get help. A person could reasonably look at this list and say, “I want to do a better job with this mental skill”  enabling them to seek professional help long before their marriage, work, or life begins to fall apart because of those deficits.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:12 PM | Permalink

May 31, 2013


Charm is defined as the power or quality of giving delight or arousing admiration.  Henri Frederic Amiel said, "Charm is the quality in others that makes us more satisfied with ourselves."  Some unknown person said, "Charm is the ability to make someone think that both of you are quite wonderful."  While Oscar Wilde wrote, ""It's absurd to divide people into good and bad. People are either charming or tedious"

Today, few people are charming; most are tediously narcissistic or dully partisan.  It may be an amoral virtue, but I think the world would be better with more charming people in it.

The Rise and Fall of Charm in American Men    Few possess it, and few want to. Explaining men's ambivalent relationship with an amoral virtue

                    -Grant, Cary (Suspicion)

How Cary Grant became charming

Grant had developed a new way to interact with a woman onscreen: he treated his leading lady as both a sexually attractive female and an idiosyncratic personality, an approach that often required little more than just listening to her—a tactic that had previously been as ignored in the pictures as it remains, among men, in real life.
Grant suddenly and fully developed charm, a quality that is tantalizing because it simultaneously demands detachment and engagement. Only the self-aware can have charm: It’s bound up with a sensibility that at best approaches wisdom, or at least worldliness, and at worst goes well beyond cynicism. It can’t exist in the undeveloped personality. It’s an attribute foreign to many men because most are, for better and for worse, childlike.
Male charm is all but absent from the screen because it’s all but absent from our lives. Most men hold charm in vague suspicion: few cultivate it; still fewer respond to it; hardly any know whether they have it; and almost none can even identify it.
Any culture that celebrates youth necessarily provides stony soil for charm, which is by definition a quality reserved for adults: the young can be charming, which is an inadvertent attribute; they cannot have charm.

On wikiHow you can find out how to be charming in 11 steps. -

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:09 PM | Permalink

April 24, 2013

The "War on Wisdom" and why good intentions are not enough

How often have you heard the excuse, But his intentions were good? 

Dennis Prager points out that "good intentions cause much of the world's great evils."

Take communism, for example. The greatest mass-murdering ideology in history, the greatest destroyer of elementary human rights, was an ideology supported by many people who believed in moral progress and human equality. It took Stalin's peace pact with Hitler to awaken many Western leftists to how evil communism was. And still, vast numbers of Westerners went on to support Stalin, Mao, Ho, Castro, Guevara or all of them. Were all these Westerners bad people, i.e., people who reveled in the suffering of others? Of course not.

When Good People Do Bad Things

In order to do good personally and in order to support social policies that do good, what humans need even more than a good heart (as beneficial as that can be) is wisdom.

This explains why we are in the morally confused world that I and other columnists document almost every week (and daily in my other life as a radio talk show host). There has been a war on wisdom.
Western universities have an abundance of people of intellect, people with a vast repository of knowledge and people who mean well. Yet, the Western university is a moral wasteland. Why? Because it lacks wisdom. The university relies on the good intentions of its professors, not on the accumulated wisdom of the past, for answers to society's problems. Thus, the Founding Fathers have little to teach us (they were rich, white men and often slaveholders); the Constitution is what we today say it is (which means it is anything a person with good intentions wants it to be); and the Bible is superstitious nonsense at best, pernicious nonsense at worst.

Instead of wrestling with the great ideas of those who lived before them, the university is dominated by people who are convinced that all one needs to know achieve good is to love equality and social justice, and to regard reliance on the Bible, Judeo-Christian values and the American Founders' values as an indication of moral and intellectual weakness.
The wise -- as opposed to most of the highly educated -- know, among many other things, that when you give people something for nothing, you produce ungrateful people; that when you obscure the differences between men and women, you end up with many aimless men and angry women; that when you give children "self-esteem" without their earning it, you produce narcissists who enter adulthood incapable of handling life; that if you do not destroy evil, it will proliferate; and that if you are kind to the cruel, you will cruel to the kind.

If you really want good to prevail, the key is wisdom, not the heart.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:55 AM | Permalink

April 23, 2013

News is bad for you

I'm a news junkie and consumer way too much news.  After reading what Rolf Dobelli wrote in the Guardian, I am definitely going to cut way back.  When I disconnect,  I'm anxious at first not knowing what's happening.  But then, after a while, I have a fine and lovely time doing whatever for hours, even days.  And I definitely get more done.

News is bad for you – and giving up reading it will make you happier 
News is bad for your health. It leads to fear and aggression, and hinders your creativity and ability to think deeply. The solution? Stop consuming it altogether…

News is to the mind what sugar is to the body. News is easy to digest. The media feeds us small bites of trivial matter, tidbits that don't really concern our lives and don't require thinking. That's why we experience almost no saturation. Unlike reading books and long magazine articles (which require thinking), we can swallow limitless quantities of news flashes, which are bright-coloured candies for the mind. Today, we have reached the same point in relation to information that we faced 20 years ago in regard to food. We are beginning to recognise how toxic news can be.

News is irrelevant. Out of the approximately 10,000 news stories you have read in the last 12 months, name one that – because you consumed it – allowed you to make a better decision about a serious matter affecting your life, your career or your business. The point is: the consumption of news is irrelevant to you. But people find it very difficult to recognise what's relevant. It's much easier to recognise what's new. The relevant versus the new is the fundamental battle of the current age. Media organisations want you to believe that news offers you some sort of a competitive advantage. Many fall for that. We get anxious when we're cut off from the flow of news. In reality, news consumption is a competitive disadvantage. The less news you consume, the bigger the advantage you have.
The more "news factoids" you digest, the less of the big picture you will understand. If more information leads to higher economic success, we'd expect journalists to be at the top of the pyramid. That's not the case.

News is toxic to your body. It constantly triggers the limbic system. Panicky stories spur the release of cascades of glucocorticoid (cortisol). This deregulates your immune system and inhibits the release of growth hormones. In other words, your body finds itself in a state of chronic stress.
News increases cognitive errors. News feeds the mother of all cognitive errors: confirmation bias. In the words of Warren Buffett: "What the human being is best at doing is interpreting all new information so that their prior conclusions remain intact."
News inhibits thinking. Thinking requires concentration. Concentration requires uninterrupted time. News pieces are specifically engineered to interrupt you. They are like viruses that steal attention for their own purposes. News makes us shallow thinkers. But it's worse than that. News severely affects memory… Because news disrupts concentration, it weakens comprehension.
News works like a drug. As stories develop, we want to know how they continue. With hundreds of arbitrary storylines in our heads, this craving is increasingly compelling and hard to ignore.
Most news consumers – even if they used to be avid book readers – have lost the ability to absorb lengthy articles or books. After four, five pages they get tired, their concentration vanishes, they become restless. It's not because they got older or their schedules became more onerous. It's because the physical structure of their brains has changed.
Information is no longer a scarce commodity. But attention is. You are not that irresponsible with your money, reputation or health. Why give away your mind?
News makes us passive. News stories are overwhelmingly about things you cannot influence. The daily repetition of news about things we can't act upon makes us passive. It grinds us down until we adopt a worldview that is pessimistic, desensitised, sarcastic and fatalistic. The scientific term is "learned helplessness".
News kills creativity… I don't know a single truly creative mind who is a news junkie – not a writer, not a composer, mathematician, physician, scientist, musician, designer, architect or painter. On the other hand, I know a bunch of viciously uncreative minds who consume news like drugs. If you want to come up with old solutions, read news. If you are looking for new solutions, don't.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:18 PM | Permalink

April 13, 2013

Ennobling the art of practice

The surprising secrets of great master coaches in Great Teaching and Great Learning

Daniel Coyle, author of The Talent Code, is known for propagating the thesis that the brain substance myelin -- rather than genes or an undefinable innate talent -- is responsible for exceptional human performance. He believes that myelin production -- and consequent excellence, be it in music, sport, writing, or indeed any human endeavor -- can be stimulated by the application of three elements: what he calls "deep practice" (extreme repetition), "ignition" (passionate desire), and "master coaching."

But how to recognize a master coach?

  1. Master teachers love detail. They worship precision. They relish the small, careful, everyday move.
  2. They devise spectacularly repetitive exercises to help develop that detail — and make those exercises seem not just worthwhile, but magical. As Denk writes, “Imagine that you are scrubbing the grout in your bathroom and are told that  removing every last particle of mildew will somehow enable you to deliver the Gettysburg Address.”
  3. They spend 90 percent of their time directing students toward what is plainly obvious. They spend the other 10 percent igniting imagination as to what is possible.
  4. They walk a thin line between challenging and supporting. They destroy complacency without destroying confidence. This is tricky territory, and requires empathy and understanding on both sides — particularly when it comes to understanding the moment when it’s time to move on.
  5. They do not teach lessons; they teach how to work. As Denk writes, they “ennoble the art of practice.” (Isn’t that a fantastic phrase?)
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:50 AM | Permalink

January 25, 2013

The Pied Pipers of Feminism

From Had Enough Therapy? The Pied Pipers of Feminism

It is often noted that teenage girls in America are out of control. Many of them think it’s cool to dress like prostitutes. Many think that the best way to show their love is to sext a picture of their genitals. Far too many of them suffer from eating disorders and other psychological problems.

If you ask who is leading them to these self-destructive behaviors, the answer does not lie in the home. Their mothers are most often horrified by what they see. Young girls and women no longer pay attention to their parents. They allow themselves to be led around by the Pied Pipers of feminism.

Feminist thinkers are telling young girls that they can dress as they please, revealing any or all of their intimacy, to whomever they please, and that anyone who does not like it is a repressive patriarch.
in the hands of one Lindy West, feminist thinking has become self-parody.  … West declared war on modesty. To no one’s surprise she believes that the concept of modesty was invented to subjugate women. Being modest means not having the right to own property and not having the right to an abortion.
Telling girls and young women that they can go through life dressing the way you want and acting the way you want without suffering consequences is mindless and dangerous.

A Millennial Woman's Lament

The feminist life plan has become the norm. Whether it’s ideology or peer pressure or both, Millennial young women—the under-30s-- have been induced to conduct their lives exactly as feminism would have wanted…..

But now, a growing number of Millennial women are beginning to fret over the unanticipated consequences of prioritizing our careers before love. And I only need to look at my group of friends to see this reality.

We are coming to the realization that we were unwittingly playing a game of musical chairs — while everyone was pairing up, those focused on our careers are left standing alone.

Penelope Truck says

people who want to take care of people and can’t stand doing work that doesn’t relate to that should probably be parents. There are very few jobs that are truly just taking care of people. And most of them pay very poorly, if at all. So you may as well do it for your own family, where the pay is not so important. It’s ridiculous that we don’t think of taking care of a family as a career path. That’s a good path for some people. Just like earning a shit-load of money is a good career path for other people. In fact, those two types of people should marry each other.

has 3 Ways to Rectify the miseducation of girls

1. Validate the career goal of being a stay-at-home mom.
2. Help girls cut through the propaganda about what lies ahead.
3. Recognize that women with high-powered careers are outliers. 

In the Atlantic, How I Learned to Stop Criticizing and Be Nice to My Husband

I grew up as a product of second-wave feminism, having learned from the media that men were oppressive, foolish, and incompetent. Perhaps as a result, I spent nearly the first decade of my own marriage "fighting for my rights" with my husband. I criticized him and bossed him around. It wasn't that he was such a bad guy, but rather I was trained to spot potential oppression and domination by the male gender. I took personally his lack of attention to detail around the home or with the baby. I made a practice of letting him know his failings on a regular basis, expecting his behavior to change.

My methods made him feel defensive, and damaged our relationship. I soon found myself in a marriage with a man who stopped sharing his thoughts and feelings with me.
A decade later, I can say that those two concepts--"respect" and "submission"--saved my marriage. And it wasn't because I became a doormat or no longer communicated my feelings. I learned that Biblical submission, boiled down, is basically "don't be a contentious competitor to him." After learning that, I argued with him less. I stopped rolling my eyes with disgust when he had something to say - even if I thought it was not such a great idea at the time. I started practicing the Bible verse which reads, "Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and even slower to become angry."

I started asking him questions about his life. I started being interested in him again as a person. I decided he was more important to me than whether or not a dish made it into the dishwasher or his socks were left on the floor. There were even a few things he did that could be considered big mistakes that just didn't seem to matter as much when I viewed him as a person of worth. I could forgive him - and I saw my own flawed nature clearly.
I chose to give respect a chance because I am a Christian and try (emphasis on try) to follow the Bible's teachings on how to live. But even if I did not trust the Bible as much as I do, learning how to effectively communicate respect and love deeply impacts marriages.

We see these Biblical principles show up in marital success, as a recent (2005) study funded by a grant from the US Department of Justice demonstrates.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:23 AM | Permalink

January 15, 2013

News you can use

Literature has therapeutic value, and the more challenging it is, the better.  We're better for verse.

Penelope Trunk on How to pick a husband if you want to have kids

Why a glass of red wine with your steak can LOWER cholesterol

Red wine helps to prevent release of damaging compounds in dark meat that can raise cholesterol….researchers, from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, found that after eating red or dark meat, compounds called malondialdehyde accumulate in the blood stream. These can help to form the type of cholesterol that can raise the risk of heart disease.

But when volunteers drank red wine, these compounds were not absorbed into the blood stream. The researchers say this is because antioxidants in the wine - known as polyphenols - prevented these harmful compounds from being absorbed.

Proven: Pruney Fingers Give You a Better Grip 

Hacking the Hyperlinked Heart.  She found her husband online but only after she learned not to be too stuffy and professional in her profile.

In the Huffington Post, 10 Things Happy People Do Differently

What is the Secret to Aging Gracefully and Happily

From research in psychology and other fields–and from the work Cole is doing–the key to aging gracefully and happily seems to lie in at least three factors:
1) working into old age rather than retiring
2) finding love and community and
3) accepting old age.

13 Amazing Uses for WD-40
Protecting a bird feeder, separating stuck glassware, exterminating roaches, repelling insects and keeping wasps from building nests.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:01 PM | Permalink

Teaching children

Are we ever to be done with the nonsense of teaching self-esteem instead of self-respect and self-control?  Here's yet another study that shows  Teaching Self-Esteem Undermines Students’ Academic Achievement

‘An intervention that encourages [students] to feel good about themselves, regardless of work, may remove the reason to work hard,’” notes “Roy Baumeister, a Florida State professor who’s studied the topic for years. ‘Self-control is much more powerful and well-supported as a cause of personal success,’ he says.”

Inflated self-esteem is why American students think they are doing much better than they are.  I trace it back to the pernicious notion that everyone must 'feel' good all the time.It's real achievement that leads to self-esteem.

Kids are not dumb.  Why praising your child may do more harm than good: Psychologist claims 'empty' comments makes them unhappy

Mr Grosz – who has practised as a psychoanalyst, a type of psychologist, for 25 years – said: ‘Empty praise is as bad as thoughtless criticism – it expresses indifference to the child’s feelings and thoughts."

The government (HHS) releases a study that shows: Head Start , the pre-school program federally funded for the past 48 years to the tune of $8 billion/year, has had no good effect once the students reach first grade.    A sad and costly secret.

According to the congressionally-mandated report, Head Start has little to no impact on cognitive, social-emotional, health, or parenting practices of its participants. In fact, on a few measures, access to the program actually produced negative effects.

The HHS’ scientifically-rigorous study tracked 5,000 children who were randomly assigned to either a group receiving Head Start services or a group that did not participate in Head Start. It followed their progression from ages three or four through the end of third grade

At last, an Education Hero, David Coleman

Our hero is David Coleman, president of the College Board, a Rhodes Scholar, and a former McKinsey & Company consultant.
Coleman used a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to mold the requirements for the Common Core States Standards in English -- adopted by 46 states to be implemented in 2014 -- to mandate that 50% of reading assignments are non-fiction "informational text" in elementary school, and 70 percent by grade 12.
Coleman does not mince his words: "People (employers) don't give a damn about what you feel and what you think. What they instead care about is, can you make an argument with evidence, is there something verifiable behind what you are saying or what you think or feel that you can demonstrate to me?"
In addition to the inclusion of quality non-fiction, changes in fiction selections suggestions indicate a shift back to standards: Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales; F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby; William Faulkner's As I Lay Dying; Thomas Paine's Common Sense; The Declaration of Independence; Frederick Douglass's "What to the Slave is the 4th of July?:," Allen Paulo's Innumeracy: Mathematical Illiteracy and its Consequences; Mark Fischetti's Working Knowledge: Electronic Stability Control; and George Orwell's "Politics and the English Language."

Another government study released in the dead of night by the Department of Justice on Dec 20th.  Violent Crime Against Youth, 1994-2010.

A new Justice Department study looking at violent crimes committed against “youth”—defined as Americans from 12 to 17 years of age—discovered that the rate of "serious violent crime" committed against youth by a perpetrator using a firearm dropped 95 percent from 1994 to 2010.
American youth who were victims of a serious violent crime in 2010 were six times more likely to have been attacked by a perpetrator wielding a knife than one wielding a gun.
An American youth was 3.8 times more likely to become the victim of a serious violent crime if he or she lived in a home where the householder was unmarried than if he or she lived with married parents
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:57 AM | Permalink

January 13, 2013

“Every age, we think we’re having the last laugh, and at every age we’re wrong…”

Self-Perception, Past and Future  You Won't Stay the Same, Study Finds

When we remember our past selves, they seem quite different. We know how much our personalities and tastes have changed over the years. But when we look ahead, somehow we expect ourselves to stay the same, a team of psychologists said Thursday, describing research they conducted of people’s self-perceptions.

They called this phenomenon the “end of history illusion,” in which people tend to “underestimate how much they will change in the future.” According to their research, which involved more than 19,000 people ages 18 to 68, the illusion persists from teenage years into retirement.
“Middle-aged people — like me — often look back on our teenage selves with some mixture of amusement and chagrin,” said one of the authors, Daniel T. Gilbert, a psychologist at Harvard. “What we never seem to realize is that our future selves will look back and think the very same thing about us. At every age we think we’re having the last laugh, and at every age we’re wrong.”

Other psychologists said they were intrigued by the findings, published Thursday in the journal Science, and were impressed with the amount of supporting evidence.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:52 PM | Permalink

November 21, 2012

What George Vaillant has to teach us about aging happily

David Brooks,  The Heart Grows Smarter

But as this study — the Grant Study — progressed, the power of relationships became clear. The men who grew up in homes with warm parents were much more likely to become first lieutenants and majors in World War II. The men who grew up in cold, barren homes were much more likely to finish the war as privates.

Body type was useless as a predictor of how the men would fare in life. So was birth order or political affiliation. Even social class had a limited effect. But having a warm childhood was powerful. As George Vaillant, the study director, sums it up in “Triumphs of Experience,” his most recent summary of the research, “It was the capacity for intimate relationships that predicted flourishing in all aspects of these men’s lives.”
In case after case, the magic formula is capacity for intimacy combined with persistence, discipline, order and dependability. The men who could be affectionate about people and organized about things had very enjoyable lives.

But a childhood does not totally determine a life. The beauty of the Grant Study is that, as Vaillant emphasizes, it has followed its subjects for nine decades. The big finding is that you can teach an old dog new tricks. The men kept changing all the way through, even in their 80s and 90s.

The secret to a longer life? A puppy, a happy marriage and plenty of good friends

Owning a dog, and having a happy marriage and plenty of good friends are key to longevity, according to a landmark study.

The Grant study found all these are more important than where you were born, whether you were born into a wealthy or poor family or what social class you are in.
George Vaillant,  "Having a loving family is terribly important, but from 70 to 90 years old you'd be surprised at the people who, despite enormous deprivation, manage to find love later on.    If you want to be happy, and don't have a six-month-old baby to trade smiles with, get yourself a puppy.  The finding on happiness is that happiness is the wrong word. The right words for happiness are emotional intelligence, relationships, joy, connections and resilience."

At Amazon Triumphs of Experience: The Men of the Harvard Grant Study

For Older Adults, Close Connections are Key to Healthy Aging

The study shows that relationships are the key to healthy aging, said Dr. Vaillant, who advised cultivating younger friends for their energy and fresh perspective. “You must have somebody outside yourself to be interested in — not hobbies or crossword puzzles or your stock account — but flesh and blood,” he said. “That’s why volunteerism is so important — the only way to stop thinking of your own unique wonderful self is to think of others.”
“In the same way you exercise, pay your taxes and eat a healthy diet, you need to start replacing friends as soon as you lose them, particularly around retirement age,”

At the Harvard University Press, a short video of George Vaillant and his new book

Begun in 1938, the Grant Study of Adult Development charted the physical and emotional health of over 200 men, starting with their undergraduate days. The now-classic Adaptation to Life reported on the men’s lives up to age 55 and helped us understand adult maturation. Now George Vaillant follows the men into their nineties, documenting for the first time what it is like to flourish far beyond conventional retirement.

Reporting on all aspects of male life, including relationships, politics and religion, coping strategies, and alcohol use (its abuse being by far the greatest disruptor of health and happiness for the study’s subjects), Triumphs of Experience shares a number of surprising findings. For example, the people who do well in old age did not necessarily do so well in midlife, and vice versa. While the study confirms that recovery from a lousy childhood is possible, memories of a happy childhood are a lifelong source of strength. Marriages bring much more contentment after age 70, and physical aging after 80 is determined less by heredity than by habits formed prior to age 50. The credit for growing old with grace and vitality, it seems, goes more to ourselves than to our stellar genetic makeup.

Andrew Stark reviews in The Wall Street Journal

If a lifetime of achievement is your goal, then it is better to have had an emotionally supportive childhood than a socially privileged upbringing. Pragmatic and practical men are more likely to be politically conservative, while sensitive and intuitive men lean liberal. Other findings upset conventional wisdom (Republican men are no less altruistic than Democratic men) or proved to be just downright confounding: The longer-lived a man's maternal grandfather, the more likely it is that he will enjoy mental health.
Gradually, though, the study acquired a more literary quality as the men's lives and characters unfolded in deeply individual ways. And with this change came another: Instead of trying to predict the futures of the study's subjects, attention turned to how well they were coming to terms with their lengthening pasts.

The surviving men are now all around 90. For them, the question of the moment is "so—what'd you think?" And the answer is surprisingly complex. Harvard psychiatry professor George Vaillant tells us in "Triumphs of Experience"—the latest installment in the series of Grant Study books he has written since taking leadership of the project 40 years ago—that what a man thinks at a late stage of life much depends on how successfully he has come to terms with life's regrets.

Christopher Caldwell reviews the book in The Weekly Standard

The study does deliver surprises in describing the effects of alcoholism. Vaillant may be boasting when he writes that his work was able “to disprove the illusion that securely diagnosed alcoholics can return to successful social drinking” since that illusion had been long-dispelled by the 1980s. But he is right that alcoholism is “the most ignored causal factor in modern social science.” In this study, alcoholism is the most important factor in divorce. (Certainly it causes marital problems; it may also cause problem marriages in the first place.) Booze also affects longevity considerably more than total cholesterol, frequent exercise, and obesity do.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:19 AM | Permalink

November 10, 2012

Friends in the real world

Human nature doesn't change; people need other people.  Bonding with a friend is not the same as connecting on Facebook and more and more teenagers don't know how to do it. 

Mark Tapson explores the phenomenon and several new books about it in Alone, together

She relates to her friends through the network, while practically ignoring whomever she is with at the moment. She relates to the places and people she is actually with only insofar as they are suitable for transmission to others in remote locations. The most social girl in her class doesn’t really socialize in the real world at all.

In this era of easy worldwide connectedness, our youth are suffering an unprecedented degree of emotional detachment, depression and loneliness. “The more connected we become, the lonelier we are,” argues Atlantic writer Stephen Marche.
These kids have grown up barely experiencing friendship without an online component, and that element actually detracts from rather than supplements their real human interaction. “It’s hard to know how to act around people now,” says Phil Gibson, a sophomore at University of San Francisco, “because the only thing kids know is how to act on Facebook.”

A surprising percentage of teenagers are beginning to get this and want out. A study by Common Sense Media found that 43 percent of teens wished they could unplug from their technology. Nearly half of teens say they get frustrated with friends for texting, surfing the net, or checking their Facebook when they hang out together.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:14 AM | Permalink

August 31, 2012

A Remarkably Good Man

Congratulations to Governor Romney and Congressman Ryan for  a well-run convention with some great speeches.  I watched the convention last night on streaming video because I wanted to see what the delegates saw and I've had enough pundits and opinionaters to last me for quite  a while.

The two most affecting speeches were by people you never heard and who didn't leave a dry eye in the house.  You wouldn't have seen them unless you watched CSpan

First Pat and Ted Oparowski share the story of Mitt Romney's kindness towards their son diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease, first 
buying him fireworks and later writing the will of the dying 14-year-old boy, and then at his funeral delivering the eulogy.

When Pam Finlayson, a newcomer to Massachusetts,  joined a new church and Romney the pastor visited her at home and helped with the laundry and visited her in the hospital after her daughter was born prematurely.

Other stories of a remarkably good man here, Joey's Park, Romney the firefighter, Christmas spirit and the search for Melissa, all at Little known facts about Mitt Romney 

In Slate

One of my personal friends, Kenneth Hutchins, the former chief of police in a Boston suburb who also worked closely with Romney at church, shares: “I’ve seen him visit with needy families in gang-ridden neighborhoods, show up in his jeans to help a family move, counsel with individuals who were grieving. I’m also confident that he helped many financially, but he has never disclosed his generosity, nor would he.”

Mark Krikorian comments on 'With No Cameras and No Reporters'

Romney sees it as unseemly to boast about them. As one of his sons said, “but when it comes to personal stories, especially the ones where he rescued someone or helped people, it feels like he is bragging, and he is a little reluctant to tell them.”

It’s that reticence to talk about acts of Christian charity that I find most encouraging. We’re never going back to the days of John Quincy Adams, who thought “the Presidency of the United States is not an office to be either sought or declined.” But the idea of a nominee who is uncomfortable prostituting every aspect of his life in order to gain office is deeply reassuring.

It somehow reminds me of the scene in Sergeant York where Gary Cooper, presented with numerous offers to be a celebrity endorser, tells the Cordell Hull character, “What we done in France is something we had to do. Some fellows done it ain’t a-comin’ back. So, the way I figure, things like that ain’t for buying’ and sellin’.”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:06 PM | Permalink

August 23, 2012

Emerging Adulthood, 18-29

Delayed Development: 20-Somethings Blame the Brain

"Until very recently, we had to make some pretty important life decisions about education and career paths, who to marry and whether to go into the military at a time when parts of our brains weren't optimal yet," says neuroscientist Jay Giedd at the National Institute of Mental Health, whose brain-imaging studies of thousands of young people have yielded many of the new insights. Postponing those decisions makes sense biologically, he says. "It's a good thing that the 20s are becoming a time for self-discovery."

Such findings are part of a new wave of research into "emerging adulthood," the years roughly from 18 to 29, which psychologists, sociologists and neuroscientists increasingly see as a distinct life stage.
"It should be reassuring for parents to know that it's very typical in the 20s not to know what you're going to do and change your mind and seem very unstable in your life. It's the norm," says Jeffrey J. Arnett, a professor of psychology at Clark University in Worcester, Mass., who coined the term "emerging adulthood" in 2000.

For young adults, it can be a stressful time. High rates of anxiety, depression, motor-vehicle accidents and alcohol use are at their peak from 18 to 25, trends that tend to level out by age 28, studies show. And a recent survey by Clark University, which polled more than 1,000 young adults nationwide, found that 72% said this time of life was stressful and 33% said they were often depressed. Still, 89% believed they would eventually get what they want out of life.
The fact that the brain stays unfinished during early adulthood "is the best thing that ever happened to humans" because it allows us to adapt to changing environments, says Dr. Giedd. "We can figure out what kind of world we live in and what we need to be really good at."
Rates of depression, anxiety and other mental-health issues are higher in the teens and 20s than in any other decade except the 80s. Some experts blame the roller coaster of change and uncertainty during the youthful years. "Most emerging adults find it very exciting to be in this time of life, but some find it overwhelming. They wonder, 'How do I find out who I am, or what I want to do?' Or they want to be a doctor or own a business and they find the doors closed to them," says Dr. Arnett.

"There's also a lot of loneliness and making and breaking of romantic relationships in this period."

I've always thought that the 20s are the most difficult time of all.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:54 PM | Permalink

July 20, 2012

Michael Hersh

A man who has found his calling is one happy man. His Own Drum

The story of Michael Hersch is one of the most amazing you’ll ever hear — in music or out. He is an American composer, born in 1971. He is one of the most honored and lauded composers before the public today. He deserves this recognition too (say I, as a critic who has covered him for years). Why is his story so amazing? First, there is his extraordinary talent. Second, there is the fact that he started in music at a late age — and rapidly soared to something like the top.
Hersch is extremely reluctant to talk about his abilities, but Jamie has talked about them, publicly: If Michael heard a song, even once, he knew all the words, forever. And all the notes, forever. He could also draw things with photographic realism. Jamie was progressing on the French horn, and is, in fact, a professional today. He pestered his older brother to listen to some classical music, which he finally did — at age 18. It was Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, in a videotaped performance by Georg Solti and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Michael knew what his life would be.
I was just overjoyed at my luck. I had found this world, and I had it all to explore.”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:06 AM | Permalink

July 2, 2012

Crazy Busy and Summer Idling

Tim Kreider on The 'Busy' Trap

The present hysteria is not a necessary or inevitable condition of life; it’s something we’ve chosen, if only by our acquiescence to it. …
It’s not as if any of us wants to live like this, any more than any one person wants to be part of a traffic jam or stadium trampling or the hierarchy of cruelty in high school — it’s something we collectively force one another to do

Busyness serves as a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness; obviously your life cannot possibly be silly or trivial or meaningless if you are so busy, completely booked, in demand every hour of the day.
Idleness is not just a vacation, an indulgence or a vice; it is as indispensable to the brain as vitamin D is to the body, and deprived of it we suffer a mental affliction as disfiguring as rickets. The space and quiet that idleness provides is a necessary condition for standing back from life and seeing it whole, for making unexpected connections and waiting for the wild summer lightning strikes of inspiration — it is, paradoxically, necessary to getting any work done. “Idle dreaming is often of the essence of what we do,” wrote Thomas Pynchon in his essay on sloth.

What better time than summer to indulge in idleness?

 Summer Idling

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:13 AM | Permalink

June 13, 2012

The Mastery of Rescue

Atul Gawande on Failure and Rescue

In commencement addresses like this, people admonish us: take risks; be willing to fail. But this has always puzzled me. Do you want a surgeon whose motto is “I like taking risks”? We do in fact want people to take risks, to strive for difficult goals even when the possibility of failure looms. Progress cannot happen otherwise. But how they do it is what seems to matter. The key to reducing death after surgery was the introduction of ways to reduce the risk of things going wrong—through specialization, better planning, and technology. They have produced a remarkable transformation in the field. Not that long ago, surgery was so inherently dangerous that you would only consider it as a last resort. Large numbers of patients developed serious infections afterward, bleeding, and other deadly problems we euphemistically called “complications.” Now surgery has become so safe and routine that most is day surgery—you go home right afterward.
Researchers at the University of Michigan discovered the answer recently, and it has a twist I didn’t expect. I thought that the best places simply did a better job at controlling and minimizing risks—that they did a better job of preventing things from going wrong. But, to my surprise, they didn’t. Their complication rates after surgery were almost the same as others. Instead, what they proved to be really great at was rescuing people when they had a complication, preventing failures from becoming a catastrophe.
So you will take risks, and you will have failures. But it’s what happens afterward that is defining. A failure often does not have to be a failure at all. However, you have to be ready for it—will you admit when things go wrong? Will you take steps to set them right?—because the difference between triumph and defeat, you’ll find, isn’t about willingness to take risks. It’s about mastery of rescue.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:36 AM | Permalink

May 22, 2012

Why you should read more novels

Jonathan Gottschall  writes Why Fiction is Good for You

Does fiction build the morality of individuals and societies, or does it break it down?
Until recently, we’ve only been able to guess about the actual psychological effects of fiction on individuals and society. But new research in psychology and broad-based literary analysis is finally taking questions about morality out of the realm of speculation.

This research consistently shows that fiction does mold us. The more deeply we are cast under a story’s spell, the more potent its influence. In fact, fiction seems to be more effective at changing beliefs than nonfiction, which is designed to persuade through argument and evidence. Studies show that when we read nonfiction, we read with our shields up. We are critical and skeptical. But when we are absorbed in a story, we drop our intellectual guard. We are moved emotionally, and this seems to make us rubbery and easy to shape.
So those who are concerned about the messages in fiction — whether they are conservative or progressive — have a point. Fiction is dangerous because it has the power to modify the principles of individuals and whole societies.

  Ship Of Books

But fiction is doing something that all political factions should be able to get behind. Beyond the local battles of the culture wars, virtually all storytelling, regardless of genre, increases society’s fund of empathy and reinforces an ethic of decency that is deeper than politics.

For a long time literary critics and philosophers have argued, along with the novelist George Eliot, that one of fiction’s main jobs is to “enlarge men’s sympathies.” Recent lab work suggests they are right.
Reading narrative fiction allows one to learn about our social world and as a result fosters empathic growth and prosocial behavior.”
While fiction often dwells on lewdness, depravity, and simple selfishness, storytellers virtually always put us in a position to judge wrongdoing, and we do so with gusto. As the Brandeis literary scholar William Flesch argues, fiction all over the world is strongly dominated by the theme of poetic justice. Generally speaking, goodness is endorsed and rewarded and badness is condemned and punished. Stories — from modern films to ancient fairy tales — steep us all in the same powerful norms and values. True, antiheroes, from Milton’s Satan to Tony Soprano, captivate us, but bad guys are almost never allowed to live happily ever after. And fiction generally teaches us that it is profitable to be good.
Fiction is often treated like a mere frill in human life, if not something worse. But the emerging science of story suggests that fiction is good for more than kicks. By enhancing empathy, fiction reduces social friction. At the same time, story exerts a kind of magnetic force, drawing us together around common values. In other words, most fiction, even the trashy stuff, appears to be in the public interest after all.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:14 PM | Permalink

May 11, 2012

'Earned Success' Makes You Happier than 'Learned Helplessness'

Arthur Brooks quit his government paid job as a French horn player in the Barcelona Symphony and pulled up stakes to emigrate to America.  He didn't have a college degree and his wife's English was 'limited'.  Today he is President of the American Enterprise Institute and this article published in the Wall St Journal.

America and the Value of 'Earned Success' 

To friends in Barcelona, this move was ridiculous. Quitting a job in Spain often meant permanent unemployment. As we departed, my in-laws tearfully gave us a gold bracelet which, they said, we could pawn in the coming hard times.
In the end, I concluded, what set the United States apart from Spain was the difference between earned success and learned helplessness.

Earned success means defining your future as you see fit and achieving that success on the basis of merit and hard work. It allows you to measure your life's "profit" however you want, be it in money, making beautiful music, or helping people learn English. Earned success is at the root of American exceptionalism.
The opposite of earned success is "learned helplessness," ...refers to what happens if rewards and punishments are not tied to merit: People simply give up and stop trying to succeed.
Learned helplessness was what my wife and I observed then, and still do today, in social-democratic Spain. The recession, rigid labor markets, and excessive welfare spending have pushed unemployment to 24.4%, with youth joblessness over 50%. Nearly half of adults under 35 live with their parents. Unable to earn their success, Spaniards fight to keep unearned government benefits.

Meanwhile, their collective happiness—already relatively low—has withered. According to the nonprofit World Values Survey, 20% of Spaniards said they were "very happy" about their lives in 1981. This fell to 14% by 2007, even before the economic downturn.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:13 PM | Permalink

February 20, 2012

Stand up straight to strengthen your willpower

An easy way to increase self-control

From Willpower: Resdiscovering the Greatest Human Strength:

Unexpectedly, the best results came from the group working on posture. That tiresome old advice—“Sit up straight!”—was more useful than anyone had imagined. By overriding their habit of slouching, the students strengthened their willpower and did better at tasks that had nothing to do with posture. The improvement was most pronounced among the students who had followed the advice most diligently (as measured by the daily logs the students kept of how often they’d forced themselves to sit up or stand up straight).

And it's not the posture aspect that does it -- it's consistently working to change a habit that improves self control:

 Before After Posture

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:05 AM | Permalink

January 30, 2012

Her "lack of ego would become the paradoxical secret of her greatness"

The "distinguished royal writer" Robert Lacey describes how the down-to-earth childhood of Queen Elizabeth prepared her for 60 glorious years on the throne.

How a singular lack of ego became the secret of her greatness

The future Elizabeth II was brought up in the deepest of Britain’s many 20th century recessions, and it was thanks to Bobo that she retained some contact with the frugal habits of working and middle-class families as they struggled to survive in the Thirties. She learned how to recycle paper, almost as if she, too, had been born the daughter of an Inverness railwayman.

To this day, the Queen keeps her breakfast cereal in Tupperware boxes, and is eagle-eyed in switching off unnecessary lights in Buckingham Palace.  She was not born in the main line of succession to the throne. For the first ten years of her life, her position in the Royal Family was the same as Princess Beatrice’s today — a daughter of a younger son, destined to flutter on the royal fringes.

Brought up with an almost religious respect for the Crown, there seemed no prospect of her inheriting it. Her young head was never turned by the prospect of grandeur — which is why she would prove so good at her job. Elizabeth II’s lack of ego would become the paradoxical secret of her greatness. 

 Young Princess Elizabeth

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:31 AM | Permalink

January 21, 2012

What makes a good coach?

He had seen enough coaching to break even their performance down into its components. Good coaches, he said, speak with credibility, make a personal connection, and focus little on themselves. Hobson and Harding “listened more than they talked,” Knight said. “They were one hundred per cent present in the conversation.” They also parcelled out their observations carefully. “It’s not a normal way of communicating—watching what your words are doing,” he said. They had discomfiting information to convey, and they did it directly but respectfully.

Coaches are not teachers, but they teach. They’re not your boss—in professional tennis, golf, and skating, the athlete hires and fires the coach—but they can be bossy. They don’t even have to be good at the sport. The famous Olympic gymnastics coach Bela Karolyi couldn’t do a split if his life depended on it. Mainly, they observe, they judge, and they guide.

Read more http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2011/10/03/111003fa_fact_gawande?printable=true&currentPage=all#ixzz1k3G1zGEH

Atul Gawande on Coaching a Surgeon: What Makes Top Performers Better in The New Yorker

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:37 AM | Permalink

December 30, 2011


Pico Iyer on The Joy of Quiet

In barely one generation we’ve moved from exulting in the time-saving devices that have so expanded our lives to trying to get away from them — often in order to make more time. The more ways we have to connect, the more many of us seem desperate to unplug. Like teenagers, we appear to have gone from knowing nothing about the world to knowing too much all but overnight.
We have more and more ways to communicate, as Thoreau noted, but less and less to say. Partly because we’re so busy communicating. And — as he might also have said — we’re rushing to meet so many deadlines that we hardly register that what we need most are lifelines.

The urgency of slowing down — to find the time and space to think — is nothing new, of course, and wiser souls have always reminded us that the more attention we pay to the moment, the less time and energy we have to place it in some larger context. “Distraction is the only thing that consoles us for our miseries,” the French philosopher Blaise Pascal wrote in the 17th century, “and yet it is itself the greatest of our miseries.

-Aurora And Trees

The central paradox of the machines that have made our lives so much brighter, quicker, longer and healthier is that they cannot teach us how to make best use of them; the information revolution came without an instruction manual. All the data in the world cannot teach us how to sift through data; images don’t show us how to process images. The only way to do justice to our onscreen lives is by summoning exactly the emotional and moral clarity that can’t be found on any screen.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:46 PM | Permalink

October 30, 2011

Life reports for those lost in transition

David Brooks is asking people over 70 to send him their Life Reports.

I’d like you to write a brief report on your life so far, an evaluation of what you did well, of what you did not so well and what you learned along the way. You can write this as a brief essay or divide your life into categories — career, family, faith, community, and self-knowledge — and give yourself a grade in each area.

--  First, we have few formal moments of self-appraisal in our culture. Occasionally, on a big birthday people will take a step back and try to form a complete picture of their lives, but we have no regular rite of passage prompting them to do so.

More important, these essays will be useful to the young. Young people are educated in many ways, but they are given relatively little help in understanding how a life develops, how careers and families evolve, what are the common mistakes and the common blessings of modern adulthood. These essays will help them benefit from your experience.

I'll be very interested in the series of essays he plans to write around Thanksgiving about the life reports he gets.  Life reports are very much the sort of thing I have envisioned that people would leave in their personal legacy archives.
This may be the most important way you can pass on what you've learned about life.  In A Generation Detached, Naomi Schaefer Riley reviews Lost in Transition by Christian Smith

According to sociologists, what we used to think of as adolescence has been extended now through one’s twenties, thanks to higher rates of college attendance, greater job insecurity, a longer period of financial dependence on parents, reliable contraception, and (relatedly) delayed marriage. Perhaps the delayed age of marriage (now a median of twenty-six for women and twenty-eight for men) is the most symbolic of these elements. This postponement of marriage is a sign, we say colloquially, that men and women are afraid of commitment. And according to Lost in Transition these young people are unwilling or unable to commit to anything at all.

Lost in Transition provides a detailed cultural profile of a generation that is completely disengaged.  In addition to being detached from their romantic (or simply sexual) partners, most of these young adults are also detached from their churches, their local communities, and their country.

According to the authors,
  they are not only not engaged in politics, they are also not big on volunteering and voluntary financial giving. . . . They are so focused on their own personal lives, especially on trying to stand on their own two feet, that they seem incapable of thinking more broadly about community involvement, good citizenship, or even very modest levels of charitable giving. -- Despite their lack of understanding and interest in the world around them, these emerging adults, Smith and his collaborators insist, are not unintelligent. Rather, the authors argue, no one has taught them to ask questions about morality or to think about what is important in life. Smith and his coauthors blame, at least in part, “the tolerance-promoting, multiculturalist educational project” for some of these problems.
It’s not surprising that emerging adults have been so taken with materialism. As the authors explain, “Having freed people from the formative influences and obligations of town, church, extended family, and conventional morality, American individualism has exposed those people to the more powerful influences and manipulations of mass consumer capitalism.”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:34 PM | Permalink

Remarkable story of redemption

The white supremacist gang leader who turned back time: Remarkable results after heavily tattooed criminal went through 16 months of agonizing laser surgery

The tattoos that covered a man's face show the hate that was once in his heart.

Bryon Widner was one of America's most violent and well known white supremacists, and his heavily-tattooed face displayed it proudly.

After shunning his racist beliefs, he was still unable to hold work because of his facial scarring, and went through a long and complicated journey to have the tattoos removed, in hopes of truly starting his life anew.

 Widner Tattoo Redemption

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:34 PM | Permalink

October 25, 2011

"The Temptation of the Lonely" - Pornography under examination

Psychology Today reports Porn numbs body’s response to sexual pleasure

Robinson explains that the brain can become desensitized to dopamine, the neurotransmitter that activates the body’s reaction to sexual pleasure, through the kind of over-stimulation readily available via the internet’s porn culture.
The article cites one recovered porn addict who lays down three facts that other addicts should be aware of: “1. This is 100% fixable; 2. It will likely be one of the most difficult things you’ve ever done; 3. If you ever want a normal sex life again, you kinda don’t have another choice.”

Simcha Fisher in Pornography Addiction, Documented,  points to the award-winning documentary, Out of Darkness, by Sean Finnegan that features stories of people who escaped from the prison-like world of pornography. 

Judith Reisman, a world-renowned authority on the fraudulent world of popular sex science, gives her testimony, which is both academic and personal. Her own daughter was raped at the age of 10. She searched frantically for guidance, but got the same advice from everyone. They told her, “Well, children are sexual beings from birth” and “Your daughter was probably sending out vibes that she wanted it.”
Horrified, she searched for the source of these ideas. “I know a party line when I hear it,” she says cannily, in the film. Her research led her to Alfred Kinsey as the impetus for the sexual revolution, and she now works to expose what she sees as both his shoddy and perverse research and the damage done by his influence.\

Another expert, psychiatrist Richard Fitzgibbons, also offers insight which is both professional and personal. An experienced family therapist, he was baffled at the increase in young patients who were narcissistic and desperately lonely, suffering great emotional pain. Fitzgibbons found a common thread: His patients all sought “a temporary lift of spirits” through pornography. “It’s the temptation of the lonely,” he says in the documentary, but these young people “have no idea how to have a friendship.” 

You can see a trailer at Anteroom Pictures.    On the same page are links to the The Pink Cross Foundation,  a 501(c)(3) organization that reaches out to adult industry workers to offer healing from porn  and The Porn Effect.

established to expose the reality of porn for what it is; a weak and whimpering counterfeit of love which is emasculating men, degrading women and destroying marriages.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:45 AM | Permalink

October 24, 2011

Doing good versus doing nothing

The opportunities to make grand heroic gestures are rare while we can, if we choose, do simple acts of kindness everyday.

A good rule of life.  Always Go to the Funeral

By the time I was 16, I had been to five or six funerals. I remember two things from the funeral circuit: bottomless dishes of free mints and my father saying on the ride home, “You can’t come in without going out, kids. Always go to the funeral.”

Sounds simple — when someone dies, get in your car and go to calling hours or the funeral. That, I can do. But I think a personal philosophy of going to funerals means more than that.

Always go to the funeral” means that I have to do the right thing when I really, really don’t feel like it. I have to remind myself of it when I could make some small gesture, but I don’t really have to and I definitely don’t want to. I’m talking about those things that represent only inconvenience to me, but the world to the other guy. You know, the painfully under-attended birthday party. The hospital visit during happy hour. The Shiva call for one of my ex’s uncles. In my humdrum life, the daily battle hasn’t been good versus evil. It’s hardly so epic. Most days, my real battle is doing good versus doing nothing.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:15 PM | Permalink

October 20, 2011

"We can choose to overcome bad news by living better lives"

This is the best retirement advice I've even read.    Walter Russell Mead writes And Now For The Really Bad News.

The bad news is that corporate and public pension plans are horribly and perhaps irredeemably underfunded. ,,,That’s the bad news.  The really bad news is worse.  According to the same issue of the Economist, returns on all classes of assets — stocks, bonds, real estate, commodities — could be depressed for years.
So your pension is in jeopardy, your portfolio has taken some big hits, and no matter how much you (or your employer) socks away, you won’t get much return on your savings.
What to do?
The best and perhaps only real choices that most of us have involve two changes.  First, save more and make realistic assumptions about your future rate of return.  There is no way around it; if you want to be financially secure or even sort of secure in the future, you must sock more money away now.  Nobody cares as much about your retirement as you do; if you don’t save for yourself you can’t count on the government or a benevolent employer to do it for you.  Save, save, save.  This is true whether you are twenty or whether you are seventy; Americans have let themselves get out of the habit of saving, and we need to get back to it.  Whether your income is large or small, you need to look for ways to cut expenses.  That will help you save now; it will also mean you will know how to retire more cheaply.  We need less Martha Stuart and more Ben Franklin in our national character these days.  Thrift, friends.  It’s a virtue.
Second, and perhaps even more important, adopt reasonable goalsStop thinking that the goal of your working life is to get rich enough to quit at 65 and have fifteen years of active leisure. The goal of a working life is to find ways of contributing to the common welfare that sustain you and your family, that fulfill you and help you to grow.  As you go on in life, you should be looking to keep contributing. The goal isn’t to play golf at Palm Beach or veg out in front of the tube.  Retirement is a time to change careers: work part time, or work at something you love that pays less — but that still contributes something to your income.

You want a working life that pays the bills but keeps you connected to the world in interesting and useful ways. These don’t have to be big earth shaking jobs; it can be healthier, more satisfying and morally better to work a few hours a week as a crossing guard keeping in touch with the kids in your neighborhood than to sit around watching daytime TV.  A partial retirement where you work part time and at more user-friendly jobs can be better and more rewarding than total idleness and empty leisure.  Many people with fully funded pensions and ample savings volunteer or go back to work because the boredom and feeling of uselessness become unbearable.

Think of your goal as a long period of partial retirement involving part time and/or community focused work followed by a short period in much older age of living entirely off your savings.  This is a goal that many of us can achieve more easily than the old style of retirement — and makes for a richer, more interesting and quite possibly longer and healthier life.
Slow, gradual retirement isn’t just more affordable; it is a better way to live and a more noble goal.  We can choose to overcome bad news by living better lives.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:22 PM | Permalink

September 25, 2011

You deserve nothing. Remember that.”

What your grandfather learned from the school of hard knocks. 

The 4 Personal Finance Principles That Would Make Your Grandfather Proud from The Art of Manliness

Grandpa learned his financial lessons from the school of hard knocks. He lived through the Great Depression, which taught him to live leanly, to save, and to be grateful for what he had. And he lived in a time where staying out of debt was a matter of independence, pride, and self-reliance, something he believed reflected on a man’s most precious resource–his character.

1. Resourcefulness - 

the intersection of self-sufficiency and creativity.

2. Awareness -

Consciousness of what he was spending by noting all purchases in a pocket notebook.

3. Comfortable negotiating. -

Negotiation is simply when communication and problem solving collide. Anytime there is a problem–and you use communication to solve that problem–you are negotiating.

4, Non-Entitlement Attitude -

“You deserve nothing. Remember that.”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:34 PM | Permalink

September 14, 2011

Dealing with Regret

 Regret Statue

James Altucher regrets a lot

I regret losing all of my money and then losing my house. I regret not spending  more time with my kids when they were little and I regret not saving the life of my dad when I could’ve. 

And much, much more.

Here are his 20 Ways to Deal with Regret

A)    Ask yourself, “What am I doing TODAY?” Today is the day we care about. Where we can improve ourselves, help people. Move forwards. What are you doing today?  This is a good mental discipline. WHEN Regret comes up about yesterday, ASK yourself,  “What am I doing TODAY?” Practice this. Then practice it again.
F)      Honesty.  Honesty can lead to wealth.  Being honest also helps you avoid denial about your regrets. Stop blaming others. It’s important to realize that both Most things don’t work out AND most of the time, It’s Your Fault.  I was often in denial about both of those things. They are both truths.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:00 PM | Permalink

September 2, 2011

"Create your own grad school. Open your own doors"

Penelope Trunk's Best alternative to grad school strikes me as quite good advice.

If you are thinking of going to graduate school, you need to understand that the process of discovering what value you bring to the adult world is a very hard process to endure. Because you are probably smart, and you like to learn, and most jobs are not about paying you to learn. You have to create that for yourself.
Life should be a process of learning and doing, learning and doing. Grad school is all learning. It’s an imbalance that is not fair to you, and not right for you. Create your own grad school.  Open your own doors.
Find a foot in a door and then start learning everything you can to open that door wider.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:24 AM | Permalink

September 1, 2011

Back to school advice

Walter Russell Mead very good Back to School advice to returning students and to their parents.

And so, dear students, welcome back!  Your generation is going to have dig its own way out of the hole my generation has dug for you (thanks for the Medicare, kids, and sorry about the deficit!), but here are a few tips that may help you get the best out of your college years.

1.  The real world does not work like school.
2.  Most of your elders know very little about the world into which you are headed.
3.  You are going to have to work much, much harder than you probably expect.
4.  Choosing the right courses is more important than choosing the right college.
5.  Get a traditional liberal education; it is the only thing that will do you any good.
6.  Character counts; so do good habits.
7.  Relax.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:42 PM | Permalink

August 29, 2011

The Importance of Willpower to Individual Flourishing

In The Will in the World   Cordelia Fine reviews

Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength by Roy Baumeister and John Tierney.

'If there were an Olympics of desiring," the philosopher William B. Irvine once observed, "we would all make the team." Desire animates us: What, quite literally, would we do without it? Yet all too often—for about four hours a day, according to one estimate—unwanted impulses (to eat a doughnut, check Facebook, have sex with someone else's spouse) clash with our long-term goals (to be healthy, professionally productive, of good moral character). In "Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength," Roy F. Baumeister, a psychologist at Florida State University, joins forces with the New York Times science columnist John Tierney to provide an accessible, empirically grounded guide to willpower and how best to deploy it to overcome temptation.
an individual who is systematically unable to bring her behavior in line with her "real," carefully considered preferences lacks not just willpower but autonomy. She may enjoy an abundance of discrete freedoms: to choose between 12 kinds of doughnut and 20 kinds of fruit; to spend money she doesn't yet have or wait to earn it; to watch one of 100 TV channels or none. But if she lacks the willpower to restrain the desires that conflict with her overall blueprint of self-governance, then she is a slave to her urges and hardly free at all.

Messrs. Baumeister and Tierney point to empirical work showing its over-riding importance for academic, personal, career and financial success. (Remarkably, for example, self-control is a better predictor of students' college grades than IQ or SAT scores.) So crucial is self-discipline to individual flourishing, the authors suggest, that "research into willpower and self-control is psychology's best hope for contributing to human welfare."


This moral muscle has three important similarities to its flesh-and-blood counterpart. The first is that it becomes temporarily worn out with use.
The second muscle-like quality of willpower is that it is fueled by glucose.
..The only bright side to this research, it seems, is the vindication it offers to those of us who find that our sedentary but mentally taxing occupations make us ravenously hungry.
Finally, the moral muscle, like a real one, can be built up through training. Even trivial acts of self-control—like avoiding slouching—can strengthen the capacity for self-discipline in the long term
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:51 PM | Permalink

August 24, 2011

Need wise counsel? Try a philosophical counselor

Going through a difficult transition? Need some life advice?  Not satisfied with what your therapist can give you?  Don't need or want medication?  You just want wise counsel?

You may want to consider a philosophical counselor, one who relies on the eternal wisdom of great thinkers.

Patricia Anne Murphy is a philosopher with a real-world mission.

 Patricia Anne Murphy

Murphy is one of an increasing number of philosophical counselors, practitioners who are putting their esoteric learning to practical use helping people with some of life’s persistent afflictions. Though they help clients cope with many of the same issues that conventional therapists do — divorce, job stress, the economic downturn, parenting woes, chronic illness and matters of the heart — their methods are very different.

They’re like intellectual life coaches.
Not everyone needs to be medicated,” said Murphy, a thin woman with long, gray hair. “Whereas drugs can treat the body,” she said, “there may be other things that the soul needs.”

in her snug Takoma Park bungalow, she’s helping a broken-hearted patient struggle through a divorce.  Instead of offering the wounded wife a prescription for Effexor — which she’s not licensed to do anyway — she instructs her to read Epictetus, the original cognitive therapist, who argued that humans often mistake their feelings for facts and suffer as a result.
In 2010, the philosophy department at City College approved the creation of a master of arts degree in applied philosophy, which will include a specialization in philosophical counseling. It will be at least a year before the program starts accepting students. It is the first such program in the United States and the second in the world; the University of Sevilla in Spain instituted the first master of arts degree in philosophical counseling.
One 35-year-old District woman, who sought treatment because she was trapped in a tortured marriage and having an affair, described herself as the perfect patient for Marinoff’s band of philosophers.

“I wasn’t depressed or fighting bipolar disorder. I didn’t need Paxil. I just needed the skills to think clearly about what went wrong, said the woman, who works in graphic art. “I heard online about these shrink-thinker types who used John Milton, Adam Smith and Socrates, and I called right away. I wanted to know how our greatest minds would see my situation.”
“You can go on the Internet and find 100 people who are giving you advice,” Barnhill said. “But there are thinkers who are recognized for their knowledge, and ignoring them in our generation just seems like such a loss.”

Sean Holland, 37, is a self-described “philosopher in pinstripes” who has a PhD from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and now works for a corporation based in New York. His focus is on ethical issues for companies. He also hopes to one day be a philosophical counselor.

“I was trying to find a decent job in this economy, and I found that philosophy is actually back as a respected profession,” Holland said. “We are trained problem-solvers and, in a way, we can launch a return to an old set of skills that are very much needed today.”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:36 PM | Permalink

Turning a generation of young people into debtors

Student loan debt is approaching $1 trillion, more than what all households owe on their credit cards.  This is disastrous for students who may not find  a job or take the job they really love instead of the one that pays the most or buy their first house.    They will be "hounded for life" and may  never be able to pay back all that they owe. 

Nathan Harden on The next debt bubble: college loans 

Moody’s rating agency recently issued a report that should be a wake-up call to every student now considering taking out large loans to pay for college.

Total student debt is at an all-time high -- and may top $1 trillion this year. Meanwhile, default rates are rising alarmingly. Skyrocketing tuition, lax lending standards and high rates of unemployment have created the perfect financial storm.

Some advice to college students: Learn from our government’s mistakes and avoid borrowing your way into a hole.

The Student Loan Bubble: Only Stupid People Will Be Surprised When It Bursts

Today we have more evidence that the student loan market is headed for disaster. We live in a world where the cost of education has become completely disassociated from the value that the education provides. The tuition is too damn high, and there aren’t enough high paying jobs available for all of the young people with enormous debt.  For many recent college graduates, default is inevitable.

Huffington Post

Outstanding student debt has climbed 25 percent since the start of the financial crisis in 2008, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York — an increase from $440 billion then to $550 billion now. By contrast, every other major category of consumer debt, including mortgage debt, credit card debt, auto loans and home equity loans, is lower today than it was in the fall of 2008.
Not only has student debt risen precipitously, but more and more of those loans aren’t getting paid off on time.
The problems of student-loan delinquency and default are only expected to get worse. Salaries and employment rates for recent college graduates have dropped, 

The Atlantic has a good article on The Debt Crisis at American Colleges, calling it a "pernicious trend that the colleges themselves are encouraging."

How do colleges manage it? Kenyon has erected a $70 million sports palace featuring a 20-lane olympic pool. Stanford's professors now get paid sabbaticals every fourth year, handing them $115,000 for not teaching. Vanderbilt pays its president $2.4 million. Alumni gifts and endowment earnings help with the costs. But a major source is tuition payments, which at private schools are breaking the $40,000 barrier, more than many families earn. Sadly, there's more to the story. Most students have to take out loans to remit what colleges demand. At colleges lacking rich endowments, budgeting is based on turning a generation of young people into debtors.

Worse still is that college loans are not dischargeable in bankruptcy.

So even if you file for bankruptcy, the payments continue due. Hence these stern word from Barmak Nassirian of the American Association of College Registrars and Admissions Officers. "You will be hounded for life," he warns. "They will garnish your wages. They will intercept your tax refunds. You become ineligible for federal employment." He adds that any professional license can be revoked and Social Security checks docked when you retire. We can't think of any other statute with such sadistic provisions.

At Inside Higher Ed, James Miller advises professors, Get Out While You Can

Tenure won’t save us from a higher education collapse. Start making alternative career contingency plans now because this collapse could be sudden and catastrophic.

Biggest college regrets

The day that I signed on the dotted line of my promissory note, I didn’t even understand what it would mean to have to pay back more than $40,000 in student loans. I’ll tell you what it means: living in a crappy apartment in Queens well into my 30s. I vaguely remember my dad trying to get the message through to me, but I must have had cotton in my teenage ears.

via Instapundit who said "As stories like this spread, the higher education bubble will deflate.

He says, "Something that can’t go on forever, won’t. This can’t go on forever."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:26 AM | Permalink

August 23, 2011

Decision Fatigue

We only have a finite amount of willpower each day writes John Tierney in The New York Times who asks Do You Suffer from Decision Fatigue?

Decision fatigue helps explain why ordinarily sensible people get angry at colleagues and families, splurge on clothes, buy junk food at the supermarket and can’t resist the dealer’s offer to rustproof their new car. No matter how rational and high-minded you try to be, you can’t make decision after decision without paying a biological price. It’s different from ordinary physical fatigue — you’re not consciously aware of being tired — but you’re low on mental energy. The more choices you make throughout the day, the harder each one becomes for your brain, and eventually it looks for shortcuts, usually in either of two very different ways. One shortcut is to become reckless: to act impulsively instead of expending the energy to first think through the consequences. (Sure, tweet that photo! What could go wrong?) The other shortcut is the ultimate energy saver: do nothing. Instead of agonizing over decisions, avoid any choice. Ducking a decision often creates bigger problems in the long run, but for the moment, it eases the mental strain. You start to resist any change, any potentially risky move — like releasing a prisoner who might commit a crime. So the fatigued judge on a parole board takes the easy way out, and the prisoner keeps doing time.

A form of ego depletion, "Decision Fatigue" is now the subject of  scientific study and the results of the experiments are fascinating.

These experiments demonstrated that there is a finite store of mental energy for exerting self-control. When people fended off the temptation to scarf down M&M’s or freshly baked chocolate-chip cookies, they were then less able to resist other temptations...Willpower turned out to be more than a folk concept or a metaphor. It really was a form of mental energy that could be exhausted. The experiments confirmed the 19th-century notion of willpower being like a muscle that was fatigued with use, a force that could be conserved by avoiding temptation.
Part of the resistance against making decisions comes from our fear of giving up options.
Once you’re mentally depleted, you become reluctant to make trade-offs, which involve a particularly advanced and taxing form of decision making.
Spears and other researchers argue that this sort of decision fatigue is a major — and hitherto ignored — factor in trapping people in poverty. Because their financial situation forces them to make so many trade-offs, they have less willpower to devote to school, work and other activities that might get them into the middle class. It’s hard to know exactly how important this factor is, but there’s no doubt that willpower is a special problem for poor people.  Study after study has shown that low self-control correlates with low income as well as with a host of other problems, including poor achievement in school, divorce, crime, alcoholism and poor health.
The cumulative effect of these temptations and decisions isn’t intuitively obvious. Virtually no one has a gut-level sense of just how tiring it is to decide. Big decisions, small decisions, they all add up. Choosing what to have for breakfast, where to go on vacation, whom to hire, how much to spend — these all deplete willpower, and there’s no telltale symptom of when that willpower is low
people with the best self-control are the ones who structure their lives so as to conserve willpower. They don’t schedule endless back-to-back meetings. They avoid temptations like all-you-can-eat buffets, and they establish habits that eliminate the mental effort of making choices. Instead of deciding every morning whether or not to force themselves to exercise, they set up regular appointments to work out with a friend. Instead of counting on willpower to remain robust all day, they conserve it so that it’s available for emergencies and important decisions.

It's called risk avoidance in AA.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:19 AM | Permalink

July 6, 2011

The Diamond Path

From the Anchoress

Grandpa Garfinkle was a master in healthy teaching. When we children next encountered him, he noted our discomfort and did not try to excuse us. The juice had been meant for others, and we had been thoughtless and selfish. But the old man knew how to reinforce a lesson with kindness.

“Now, listen all of you, because your priest is going to tell you this too: there is one very best way to live your life. First, you love and serve God, and you keep the commandments. Then, you look around at everyone else and see where you can love and serve them. Then, if you have any energy left over, you can think about yourself. This,” he said, raising his finger to emphasize the point, “is the way you walk on a road made with diamonds, by forgetting yourself, and what you want. It is the diamond path.”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:18 AM | Permalink

June 4, 2011

"It has to do with a child's happiness, moral development and tenderness of heart"

Meghan Cox Gurdon on young adult fiction, Darkness Too Visible

Contemporary fiction for teens is rife with explicit abuse, violence and depravity. Why is this considered a good idea?

How dark is contemporary fiction for teens? Darker than when you were a child, my dear: So dark that kidnapping and pederasty and incest and brutal beatings are now just part of the run of things in novels directed, broadly speaking, at children from the ages of 12 to 18.

Pathologies that went undescribed in print 40 years ago, that were still only sparingly outlined a generation ago, are now spelled out in stomach-clenching detail. Profanity that would get a song or movie branded with a parental warning is, in young-adult novels, so commonplace that most reviewers do not even remark upon it.

If books show us the world, teen fiction can be like a hall of fun-house mirrors, constantly reflecting back hideously distorted portrayals of what life is. There are of course exceptions, but
a careless young reader—or one who seeks out depravity—will find himself surrounded by images not of joy or beauty but of damage, brutality and losses of the most horrendous kinds.

Now, whether you care if adolescents spend their time immersed in ugliness probably depends on your philosophical outlook. Reading about homicide doesn't turn a man into a murderer; reading about cheating on exams won't make a kid break the honor code. But
the calculus that many parents make is less crude than that: It has to do with a child's happiness, moral development and tenderness of heart. Entertainment does not merely gratify taste, after all, but creates it.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:13 AM | Permalink

May 14, 2011

"The struggle of the Left to rationalize its positions is an intolerable Sisyphean burden. I speak as a reformed Liberal."

David Mamet is the foremost American playwright today.  He's several years along in a political conversion from left to right and Andrew Ferguson tells the tale of the playwright's progress in Converting Mamet and it's a fine read.

That’s the way it is with conversion experiences: The scales fall in a cascade. One light bulb tends to set off another, until it’s pop-pop-pop like paparazzi on Oscar night.

His last play, a comedy called November was a 'love letter' to America.

One of the themes of the play was that the country itself is much too good for politics, especially when politicians seek to govern it by serving their own selfish ends.

“I wondered, How did the system function so well? Because it does—the system functions beautifully.” How did the happiest, freest, and most prosperous country in history sprout from the Hobbesian jungle?

“I realized it was because of this thing, this miracle, this U.S. Constitution.” The separation of powers, the guarantee of property, the freedoms of speech and religion meant that self-interested citizens had a system in which they could hammer out their differences without killing each other. Everyone who wanted to could get ahead. The Founders had accepted the tragic view of life and, as it were, made it pay. It’s a happy paradox: The gloomier one’s view of human nature—and Mamet’s was gloomy—the deeper one’s appreciation of the American miracle.

Ferguson observes that Mamet's disdain for consensus, for received wisdom of every kind is evident in nearly every aspect of his career.

One of Mamet’s favorite books has been Instincts of the Herd in Peace and War, published during the First World War by the British social psychologist Wilfred Trotter, inventor of the term “herd instinct.”

“Trotter says the herd instinct in an animal is stronger even than the preservation of life,” Mamet said. “So I was watching the [2008] debates. My liberal friends would spit at the mention of Sarah Palin’s name. Or they would literally mime the act of vomiting. We’re watching the debates and one of my friends pretends to vomit and says, ‘I have to leave the room.’ I thought, oh my god, this is Trotter! This is the reaction of the herd instinct. When a sheep discovers a wolf in the fold, it vomits to ward off the attacker. It’s a sign that their position in the herd is threatened.”

His rabbi Mordecai Finley sent him books to read.

“He came back to me stunned. He said, ‘This is incredible!’ He said, ‘Who thinks like this? Who are these people?’ I said, ‘Republicans think like this.’ He said, ‘Amazing.’ ”
Finley piled it on, from the histories of Paul Johnson to the economics of Milton Friedman to the meditations on race by Shelby Steele.

“He was haunted by what he discovered in those books, this new way of thinking,” Finley says. “It followed him around and wouldn’t let him go.”

Mamet's new book , The Secret Knowledge On the Dismantling of American Culture, will be published on June 2 with a quote from Mamet on the cover:

"The struggle of the Left to rationalize its positions is an intolerable Sisyphean burden.    I speak as a reformed Liberal."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:35 PM | Permalink

April 1, 2011

True Grit and a Grain of Sand

In Fast Company, Why True Grit Matters in the Face of Adversity

In fact, new psychological research suggests that grit -- defined as endurance in pursuit of long-term goals and an ability to persist in the face of adversity -- is a key part of what makes people successful. In a culture that values quick results -- this quarter's numbers, this week's weight loss, this month's click-throughs -- grit can be an underappreciated secret weapon.
Grit is not synonymous with hard work. It involves a certain single-mindedness. ...Grit is often undervalued in business, because businesspeople like breakthroughs, which are good ideas that you'll have next week.

Single-mindedness and persistence because of an idea that you just can't get out of your head.    Listen to what Rummer Godden has to say about grit. 

“Every piece of writing... starts from what I call a grit... a sight or sound, a sentence or happening that does not pass away... but quite inexplicably lodges in the mind.”

We think of grit, physical grit, as nothing more than grains of sand, too often found in shoes and on newly mopped floors. 

It took Gary Greenberg to show me the secret beauty and wonder of each sand grain. 


On an ordinary day, sand is just that brown stuff you walk on by the water.  Up close, each grain is a small jewel. unique in all the world.  Like God sees us.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:49 AM | Permalink

March 16, 2011

This explains a lot

Reynolds' Law

“The government decides to try to increase the middle class by subsidizing things that middle class people have: If middle-class people go to college and own homes, then surely if more people go to college and own homes, we’ll have more middle-class people.

But homeownership and college aren’t causes of middle-class status, they’re markers for possessing the kinds of traits — self-discipline, the ability to defer gratification, etc. — that let you enter, and stay, in the middle class.
Subsidizing the markers doesn’t produce the traits; if anything, it undermines them.

–Glenn Reynolds, aka Instapundit

HT Jim Bass.  Philo of Alexandria discusses Reynolds' Law

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:59 PM | Permalink

February 23, 2011

"Sneer at faith all you like. Just don’t assume science is on your side."

Tom Knox in the Daily Mail, The tantilising proof that belief in God makes you happier and healthier

I am not a religious zealot. On the contrary, I was a teenage atheist. And although in adulthood I have had a vague and fuzzy feeling that ‘there must be something out there’, I was never a regular church-goer. But what I have discovered, on my voyage through the science of faith, has astonished me.

From Britain, he traveled to Salt Lake City.

Why did I feel safe? Because I was in a largely Mormon city, and Mormons are never going to mug you. They might bore or annoy you when they come knocking on your door, touting their faith, but they are not going to attack you.

The Mormons’ wholesome religiousness, their endless and charitable kindliness, made their  city a better place. And that made me think:  Why was I so supercilious about such happy, hospitable people? What gave me the right to sneer at their religion?

From that moment I took a deeper, more rigorous interest in the possible benefits of religious faith. Not one particular creed, but all creeds. And I was startled by what I found.

For a growing yet largely unnoticed body of scientific work, amassed over the past 30 years, shows religious belief is medically, socially and psychologically beneficial.

He reviewed many recent studies and found that  believers have

  • lower blood pressure
  • better mental and emotional health
  • longer life - about 7 years
  • less depression
  • faster recovery from illness, broken hips, cancer, heart disease etc etc
  • greater happiness

These results appear  not just among Americans, but among Europeans as well. 

In 2008, Professor Andrew Clark of the Paris School of Economics and Doctor Orsolya Lelkes of the European Centre for Social Welfare Policy and Research conducted a vast survey of Europeans. They found that religious believers, compared to non-believers, record less stress, are better able to cope with losing jobs and divorce, are less prone to suicide, report higher levels of self-esteem, enjoy greater ‘life purpose’ and report being more happy overall.
What is stunning about this research is that the team didn’t go looking for this effect — it came to them unexpectedly.

Why might we be hard-wired to be religious? Precisely because religion makes us happier and healthier, and thus makes us have more children.

In the purest of Darwinian terms, God isn’t just good for you, He’s good for your genes, too.

All of which means that, contrary to expectation, it is the atheists who are eccentric, flawed and maladaptive, and it’s the devout who are healthy, well-adjusted and normal.
Sneer at faith all you like. Just don’t assume science is on your side. 
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:38 PM | Permalink

January 22, 2011

Test-taking, memorization and handwriting

Test-Taking Cements Knowledge Better than Studying, researchers say.

Taking a test is not just a passive mechanism for assessing how much people know, according to new research. It actually helps people learn, and it works better than a number of other studying techniques. M

The research, published online Thursday in the journal Science, found that students who read a passage, then took a test asking them to recall what they had read, retained about 50 percent more of the information a week later than students who used two other methods.

One of those methods — repeatedly studying the material — is familiar to legions of students who cram before exams. The other — having students draw detailed diagrams documenting what they are learning — is prized by many teachers because it forces students to make connections among facts.

--“I think that learning is all about retrieving, all about reconstructing our knowledge,” said the lead author, Jeffrey Karpicke, an assistant professor of psychology at Purdue University. “I think that we’re tapping into something fundamental about how the mind works when we talk about retrieval.”

Several cognitive scientists and education experts said the results were striking

--Why retrieval testing helps is still unknown. Perhaps it is because by remembering information we are organizing it and creating cues and connections that our brains later recognize.

--But “when we use our memories by retrieving things, we change our access” to that information, Dr. Bjork said. “What we recall becomes more recallable in the future. In a sense you are practicing what you are going to need to do later.”

We are relearning that old-fashioned things like memorization of poetry and rhetoric

From The Cat in the Hat on up, verse teaches children something about the patterns and relationships that bind together the words of which it is composed. Poetry sets up an abstract system of order and harmony; the rhythm and the rhyme scheme are logical structures that a child can comprehend even before he understands the words themselves, just as he can grasp the rhythmic and harmonic relations of a piece of music.

What the child discovers, in other words, is not only aesthetically pleasing, but important to cognitive development. Classic verse teaches children an enormous amount about order, measure, proportion, correspondence, balance, symmetry, agreement, temporal relation (tense), and contingent possibility (mood). Mastering these concepts involves the most fundamental kind of learning, for these are the basic categories of thought and the framework in which we organize sensory experience.

---The student “who memorizes poetry will internalize” the “rhythmic, beautiful patterns” of the English language. These patterns then become “part of the student’s ‘language store,’ those wells that we all use every day in writing and speaking.” Without memorization, the student’s “language store,” Bauer says, will be limited: memorization stocks “the language store with a whole new set of language patterns.”

even handwriting boosts the brain

Using advanced tools such as magnetic resonance imaging, researchers are finding that writing by hand is more than just a way to communicate. The practice helps with learning letters and shapes, can improve idea composition and expression, and may aid fine motor-skill development.

--Other research highlights the hand's unique relationship with the brain when it comes to composing thoughts and ideas.

They are not 'oppressive acts' but cognitive development in ways we never thought.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:02 AM | Permalink

January 13, 2011

President Obama in Tucson

Suffering from a bad cold, I've been able to read but not write about the horrific shootings in Tucson last Saturday. What I did read left me so dispirited, even discouraged, that I was driven back to bed.

I wanted to read about the victims, those dead and those wounded and about the heros who wrestled the crazy shooter down to the ground. I wanted to know how this tragedy was affecting people who lived in Tucson.   

Instead the news everywhere was not based on facts but on wild speculation and the unhinged political rants of too many people who ought to have known better.   Even the memorial service seemed a raucous event, more a pep rally with shout-outs and T-shirts, hooping and hollering than a solemn occasion to express solidarity in grief.   

Last to speak, President Obama ennobled the entire event with dignity and grace, in what I think was the finest speech of his presidency. He paid tribute to the lives lost, to the heroes, and to the grieving families.   

He was moving, eloquent, and powerful.

But at a time when our discourse has become so sharply polarized -– at a time when we are far too eager to lay the blame for all that ails the world at the feet of those who happen to think differently than we do -– it’s important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we’re talking with each other in a way that heals, not in a way that wounds. (Applause.)

Scripture tells us that there is evil in the world, and that terrible things happen for reasons that defy human understanding. In the words of Job, “When I looked for light, then came darkness.” Bad things happen, and we have to guard against simple explanations in the aftermath.


For the truth is none of us can know exactly what triggered this vicious attack. None of us can know with any certainty what might have stopped these shots from being fired, or what thoughts lurked in the inner recesses of a violent man’s mind. Yes, we have to examine all the facts behind this tragedy. We cannot and will not be passive in the face of such violence. We should be willing to challenge old assumptions in order to lessen the prospects of such violence in the future. (Applause.) But what we cannot do is use this tragedy as one more occasion to turn on each other. (Applause.) That we cannot do. (Applause.) That we cannot do.

As we discuss these issues, let each of us do so with a good dose of humility. Rather than pointing fingers or assigning blame, let’s use this occasion to expand our moral imaginations, to listen to each other more carefully, to sharpen our instincts for empathy and remind ourselves of all the ways that our hopes and dreams are bound together. (Applause.)


So sudden loss causes us to look backward -– but it also forces us to look forward; to reflect on the present and the future, on the manner in which we live our lives and nurture our relationships with those who are still with us. (Applause.)


We recognize our own mortality, and we are reminded that in the fleeting time we have on this Earth, what matters is not wealth, or status, or power, or fame -– but rather, how well we have loved — (applause)– and what small part we have played in making the lives of other people better. (Applause.)

And that process — that process of reflection, of making sure we align our values with our actions –- that, I believe, is what a tragedy like this requires.

He was inspiring and powerfully consoling, just what we, as a nation, needed. If you didn't see it, take the time to do so here
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:40 PM | Permalink

December 10, 2010


I have too much to do that I've been putting off for too long. So expect light blogging until the end of the year.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:20 AM | Permalink

December 2, 2010

In a kingdom called Fletcher High

More often than you would think, I come across a story that shows how wonderful people, even teen-agers, can be.

In a kingdom called Fletcher High, she defies Down label, and is elected Homecoming Queen.


Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:35 AM | Permalink

November 26, 2010

Thanksgiving leftovers worth keeping

Now that Thanksgiving is past, the mad rush towards Christmas begins. But before we start driving ourselves crazy with how much we have to do and how little time we have to do it in, why don't we pause a moment and reflect on some of the Thanksgiving stories and posts worth keeping.

John Murray writes of Strangers, Saints and Indians and finds the divine hand of Providence in the story of Squanto, who Pilgrim Governor William Bradford wrote was 'sent of God'.  

John Stossel writes of A Lost Thanksgiving Lesson and the tragedy of the commons.

Thank You. No, Thank You. Grateful people are happier, healthier long after the leftovers are gobbled up.

It turns out, giving thanks is good for your health.
A growing body of research suggests that maintaining an attitude of gratitude can improve psychological, emotional and physical well-being.
Adults who frequently feel grateful have more energy, more optimism, more social connections and more happiness than those who do not, according to studies conducted over the past decade. They're also less likely to be depressed, envious, greedy or alcoholics. They earn more money, sleep more soundly, exercise more regularly and have greater resistance to viral infections.
Now, researchers are finding that gratitude brings similar benefits in children and adolescents. Kids who feel and act grateful tend to be less materialistic, get better grades, set higher goals, complain of fewer headaches and stomach aches and feel more satisfied with their friends, families and schools than those who don't, studies show.
I love it when social science research confirms what we were taught at our parents' knees.
Gratitude: The Wonder Drug. Indeed.
And the Thanksgiving photo that makes me laugh year after year.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:03 AM | Permalink

November 15, 2010

The displacement of public virtue

Frank Furedi put his finger on something I've sensed but have been unable to articulate - how bureaucratization of every day life threatens vital public virtues.

It's time to stand up for courage and conviction.

Historically, a public referred to a group of people with an idea of themselves as distinct and independent, as having something in common, and a sense that it had some power and influence. So therefore the idea of empowering the public is a contradiction in terms: power is gained, not granted. When you ‘empower’ people, you’re not empowering them, you’re enfeebling them.
Today, it seems that almost every form of public engagement – of public relations – is a kind of impression management. People make a lot of money out of it, but it really doesn’t bear upon everyday life. I think the problem is a cultural one and that’s the domain we should be addressing.

The cultural problem that we have today is something that Machiavelli identified over 500 years ago. He grasped that the strength of a body politic is determined by the extent to which it was infused by public spirit. As far as Machiavelli was concerned, a real public spirit accounted for the strength of the Roman Empire – the Roman republic specifically – and also the incredible things that were going on in Florence, Sienna and so on during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.
I would argue that almost every single virtue that makes for public spirit is stigmatised by our society. Having recently been listening to people’s recollections at the inquiry into the 7/7 bombings about what happened that terrible day in London in 2005, what really struck me was that you had stories of people wanting to do things for the hurt and injured but who were being told by fire officers that for health and safety reasons they could not go anywhere near these people.

Just imagine: here are all these people, they’re trying to help others, they’re trying to do the right thing, but to do so they have to adhere to a very clear process. All these processes, all these procedures, serve to displace public interaction. They make public virtue dependent on adhering to different codes of conduct.
And most importantly, instead of culturally validating people’s active, positive side – all the good things about human beings – what we’ve done is subjugate them to the most boring, flattened out form of bureaucratic rule. As long as that’s the case, any form of public engagement will simply be a caricature of itself.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:30 PM | Permalink

October 27, 2010

Modern Sloth = "Unregulated curiosity"

Greg Gutfield is exactly right about modern sloth of which I am very guilty.

So I've been working on a book proposal, but going nowhere. I start the thing, then I stop. Instead of loafing around- I move into a more deceptive realm: I pretend to do something.

In the old days, this was called "sloth." We used to link sloth with lying around in one's own filth. But that's wrong. I read a bunch on sloth - which, I know, may defeat the purpose of sloth - but, according to Daniel Rosenberg, in a magazine called Cabinet, sloth was originally defined as
"unregulated curiosity." That sloppy need ends up as pointless work - which is worse than doing nothing, because you think you're doing something.

You know that guy you know who has a crapload going on - from decoupage to reiki therapy - but he's always broke? If you tell him to focus, he'll tell you he does more in a week than you do in a month. But nothing he does matters - he just created a schedule to make distractions seem important. They're called adult education classes.
I write this as someone who sits behind a desk doing lots of things. But it's sloth. I will never call it multitasking. You cannot do more than one thing at once, without, in the end accomplishing a few things very badly.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:00 PM | Permalink

September 7, 2010

Thinking of study as packing a neural suitcase

Some good and surprising advice for young and old on how to study.

Research Upends Traditional Thinking on Study Habits.

Cognitive scientists do not deny that honest-to-goodness cramming can lead to a better grade on a given exam. But hurriedly jam-packing a brain is akin to speed-packing a cheap suitcase, as most students quickly learn — it holds its new load for a while, then most everything falls out.

“With many students, it’s not like they can’t remember the material” when they move to a more advanced class, said Henry L. Roediger III, a psychologist at Washington University in St. Louis. “It’s like they’ve never seen it before.”

When the neural suitcase is packed carefully and gradually, it holds its contents for far, far longer. An hour of study tonight, an hour on the weekend, another session a week from now: such so-called spacing improves later recall, without requiring students to put in more overall study effort or pay more attention, dozens of studies have found.

No one knows for sure why. It may be that the brain, when it revisits material at a later time, has to relearn some of what it has absorbed before adding new stuff — and that that process is itself self-reinforcing.
That’s one reason cognitive scientists see
testing itself — or practice tests and quizzes — as a powerful tool of learning, rather than merely assessment. The process of retrieving an idea is not like pulling a book from a shelf; it seems to fundamentally alter the way the information is subsequently stored, making it far more accessible in the future.
“Testing has such bad connotation; people think of standardized testing or teaching to the test,” Dr. Roediger said. “Maybe we need to call it something else, but this is one of the most powerful learning tools we have.”
The more mental sweat it takes to dig it out, the more securely it will be subsequently anchored.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:31 AM | Permalink

September 1, 2010

Ora et labora and the revalorization of the trades

I thought One of my favorite writers, Camille Paglia,  on a subject dear to my heart, Revalorizing the Trades

Having taught in art schools for most of my four decades in the classroom, I am used to having students who work with their hands—ceramicists, weavers, woodworkers, metal smiths, jazz drummers. There is a calm, centered, Zen-like engagement with the physical world in their lives. In contrast, I see glib, cynical, neurotic elite-school graduates roiling everywhere in journalism and the media. They have been ill-served by their trendy, word-centered educations.
Jobs, jobs, jobs: We need a sweeping revalorization of the trades. The pressuring of middle-class young people into officebound, paper-pushing jobs is cruelly shortsighted. Concrete manual skills, once gained through the master-apprentice alliance in guilds, build a secure identity. Our present educational system defers credentialing and maturity for too long. When middle-class graduates in their mid-20s are just stepping on the bottom rung of the professional career ladder, many of their working-class peers are already self-supporting and married with young children.

The elite schools, predicated on molding students into mirror images of their professors, seem divorced from any rational consideration of human happiness.

One of my earlier posts also quoted Paglia on the same subject.   

Perhaps there's hope of change because of the tens of thousands of liberal arts graduates with expensive degrees who are finding themselves out of work and depressingly marginalized in a society where the manual trades offer guaranteed employment at relatively high wages. A dose of Buddhism might do people good: Sweeping garden sand into oceanic designs around ornamental rocks is considered a spiritual exercise in Asia. I say that landscaping, construction, carpentry, metalworking and all the other trades should be promoted by primary education as worthy careers for both men and women. The pre-college rat race is a sadomasochistic imposition on the young that robs them of free will and saps their vital energies. When will they rebel?

But my favorite old post on this subject is Happy Like the Muffler Man. 

When St. Benedict, later credited as the father of Western monasticism, wrote his rule back in the sixth century, he dignified manual labor and required it of all the monks.  Work was holy and  he believed a balanced life of prayer and work was ideal for the happiness, bonding and contemplative life of the small monasteries then beginning  to spread across Europe.  Ora et labora became the Benedictine  motto.      Even today, monasteries derive their income from physical and manual labor.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:21 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

August 31, 2010


Lars Tornstam coined the word "gerotransendence" to describe a state in later life.

Simply put, gerotranscendence is a shift in meta perspective, from a materialistic and rational view of the world to a more cosmic and transcendent one, normally accompanied by an increase in life satisfaction.

Gerotranscendence is regarded as t
he final stage in a possible natural progression towards maturation and wisdom. According to the empirically based theory, the individual moving towards gerotranscendence may experience a series of gerotranscendental changes or developments. These typically include a redefinition of the Self and of relationships to others and a new understanding of fundamental existential questions. The individual becomes, for example, less self occupied and at the same time more selective in the choice of social and other activities. There is an increased feeling of affinity with past generations and a decreased interest in superfluous social interaction. The individual might also experience a decreased interest in material things and a greater need for solitary "meditation". Positive solitude becomes more important. There is also often a feeling of cosmic communion with the spirit of the universe, and a redefinition of time, space, life and death

I wouldn't have known about gerotranscendence, although I've experienced some of it, it were it not for Paula Span. Nor would I know that this is so contrary to what people expect about old age, that many children and caretakers often label this behavior as "pathological."

Take for example the fact that some elderly people confuse past and present. Are they improperly oriented in time and place? Or are they experiencing a transcendence of the borders of time? Dr Tornstam argues

old people who experience these changes (including greater spontaneity and playfulness, less self-absorption, and feelings of “cosmic transcendence”) take greater satisfaction in their lives.

Her post on Aging's Misunderstood Virtues in in the New York Times includes an interview with Lars Tornstam.

But perhaps there’s nothing wrong, said Dr. Tornstam, who has been investigating aging for more than 25 years. Our values and interests don’t usually remain static from the time we’re 20 years old until the time we’re 45, so why do we expect that sort of consistency in later decades?
“We develop and change; we mature,” he told me in a phone interview from his home in Uppsala, Sweden. “It’s a process that goes on all our lives, and it doesn’t ever end. The mistake we make in middle age is thinking that good aging means continuing to be the way we were at 50. Maybe it’s not.”

An increased need for solitude, and for the company of only a few intimates, is one of the traits Dr. Tornstam attributes to this continuing maturation. So that elderly mother isn’t deteriorating, necessarily — she’s evolving. “People tell us they are different people at 80,” Dr. Tornstam explained. “They have new interests, and they have left some things behind.”
When he began publishing his work in the mid 1980s, it made a bit of a splash. “It was so unusual,” recalled Merril Silverstein, a social gerontologist at the University of Southern California, who teaches about Dr. Tornstam’s theory, though he remains somewhat skeptical about it. “It turns on its head the current ideas about ‘successful aging’ — avoiding disease, remaining productive, forming social relationships. This advocates the opposite, a retreat into your own consciousness.”.

If you're interested in learning more about Gerotranscendence, you can download Tornstam's 2 page pamphlet here.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:22 PM | Permalink

August 26, 2010

LIfe 101

Doing Good and Doing Well - teaching virtue to a skeptical generation

After a few years of teaching the course, I’ve begun to think of it as lessons in “Life 101” — how to boost your well-being through a modern understanding of virtue. Many young adults are struggling with the ethical challenges of the real world not because they aren’t good people, but because they need a refresher course on how to live an honest, successful, and productive life. The motto of my high school was “not for school, but for life we learn.” That’s how I see my course on the Sociology of Everyday Life.   ---------

Some might argue that I'm devaluing the intrinsic truth of the virtues by focusing on their instrumental benefits — that is, conflating what’s good with what works. But teaching students the practical benefits of living virtuously is the most realistic first step to inculcating them with virtue. We all know that it’s good to be honest, generous, self-controlled, tenacious, and thrifty, but it’s the doing that dogs us.

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit - Aristotle
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:05 AM | Permalink

August 24, 2010

Elegy to Lost Possibilities

Poet and philosopher David Whyte on Regret from The School of Life

Regret is a short, evocative and achingly beautiful word; an elegy to lost possibilities even in its brief annunciation. It is also a rarity and almost never heard except where the speaker insists that they have none, that they are brave and forward looking and could not possibly imagine their life in any other way than the way it is. To admit regret is to understand we are fallible: that there are powers in the world beyond us: to admit regret is to lose control not only of a difficult past but of the very story we tell about our present; to admit sincere and abiding regret is one of our greatest but unspoken contemporary sins.

The rarity of honest regret may be due to our contemporary emphasis on the youthful perspective; it may be that a true, useful regret is not a possibility or a province of youth; that it takes a hard-won maturity to experience the depths of the emotion in ways that do not overwhelm and debilitate us but put us into a proper, more generous relationship with the future. Except for brief senses of having missed a tide, having hurt another, having taken what is not ours, youth is not yet ready for the rich current of abiding regret that runs through and can even embolden a mature human life.

Sincere regret may in fact be a faculty for paying attention to the future, for sensing a new tide where we missed a previous one, for experiencing timelessness with a grandchild where we neglected a boy of our own. To regret fully is to appreciate how high the stakes are in even the average human life; fully experienced it turns our eyes, attentive and alert to a future possibly lived better than our past.

I used to say that I had no regrets in my life, but now, after many years, I can think of a number of things that I have done that I now regret.

Whyte is right when he says that the young couldn't bear such self knowledge except in small doses. It may be that you can't become wise until you've experienced regrets.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:53 PM | Permalink

August 18, 2010

Amusing ourselves to death

What good is boredom?   

George Will looks at "the chaos of constant communication" and those Lost in Electronica

Adam J. Cox is a clinical psychologist worried about the effect of today’s cornucopia of electronic stimuli on the cognition of young boys. Writing in The New Atlantis, he says human beings evolved in a world of nutritional scarcity and have responded to the sudden abundance of salt, sugar, and fat by creating an epidemic of obesity. And, he says, the mind, too, now craves junk nourishment:

“Fifty years ago, the onset of boredom might have followed a two-hour stretch of nothing to do. In contrast, boys today can feel bored after thirty seconds with nothing specific to do.”

The ubiquitous barrage of battery-powered stimuli delivered by phones, computers, and games makes “the chaos of constant connection” an addictive electronic narcotic. As continuous stimulation becomes the new normal, “gaps between moments of heightened stimulation” are disappearing; amusement “has squeezed the boredom out of life.” For the hyperstimulated, “the synaptic mindscape of daily life” becomes all peaks and no valleys.
But valleys can be good for us. Cox believes that a more common occurrence of boredom in the young would be welcome evidence of “the presence of available resources for thought, reflection, and civil behavior.” Cox notes that “being civil is rarely fun—it requires patience, forethought, and some willingness to tolerate tedium.” So for the overstimulated, “civility feels like submission.”

Cox worries about the deficits in the communication abilities of young males for whom a “womb of all-encompassing stimulation” induces “a pleasant trance from which they do not care to be awakened.” Hence, perhaps, the “failure to launch” of many young males who, “preoccupied with self-amusement,” struggle to make the transition from adolescence to adulthood. What Cox calls “the unbearable lightness of adolescence” is not new; what is new is an “excess of amusement” producing a deficient sense of gravity.


Unlike reading and listening to stories,” Cox warns, “the blitz of electronica doesn’t build deeper listening skills or a greater range of emotional expression.” Self-absorption, particularly among young males, may be the greatest danger of immersion in the bath of digital amusement:
“Not only does withdrawal into electronica enable them to bypass the confusion and pain of trying to give their emotions some coherence, it also helps them avoid the realities of being a flawed, vulnerable, ordinary human being.

So boredom has important benefits after all. Yet most of us are enthralled with electronica.   We are all - in Neil Postman's immortal phrase - "Amusing ourselves to death".   His insight that we are entering an age where our brains are formed by images rather than ideas came twenty-five years ago has proving prophetic. Today, the image, the brand, the narrative and the optics bury any serious discussion of policies and ideas.

"Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business" (Neil Postman)

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:48 PM | Permalink

August 17, 2010

Girls being girls

Here's a great example of why religion is good for kids. Look at these talented girls and the fun they are having.

While Felicita wrote the song she sings with her sisters, her father taped it all to present a thoroughly engaging video of girls acting like real girls, playing and praying perfectly naturally without any self-consciousness.

Wholesome never looked so good.

Particularly when compared to the lives too many young girls now live in our over-sexualized culture, as Mary Rose Somarriba writes in A Girl's Life in the Cyberbubble.

Girls who dress sexy before puberty, are putting themselves on display like objects, not for themselves but for others. As Sax sees it, “our culture pushes girls to define themselves in terms of how they look instead of helping them to develop a sense of who they are,” and this sets them up for depression, anxiety, and unsatisfying relationships in the future.

In concluding, she plaintively asks

How did we get here? And where do we go from here?

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:18 AM | Permalink

July 27, 2010


The fashionable attitude among too many is that to believe in truth is to be hopelessly naive.    Unless, of course, they themselves have fallen victim to falsehoods. lies and injustice in which case truth suddenly becomes very important.   

No one wants to fly in a plane if the pilot doesn't believe in the truth of aerodynamics and what his instruments report.  No one wants a court system that isn't founded on the principles of justice, truth and the rule of law, no matter how often judges and lawyers stray from those principles.  No one wants scientists who fake results.
No one wants pharmaceutical companies who don't disclose the truth about the side effects as they learn them about the medicine they make.  No one wants banks that don't care about the accuracy of the money in your account.  No one wants friends who lie to them. 

We depend on truth in small matters and in large, far more than we think.

Is there anything worse than believing lies and falsehoods?  RR. Reno says yes, there is An Error Worse Than Error

For a long time as a young teacher, I believed the danger of prostituting their minds by believing falsehoods was the preeminent, or even singular, intellectual danger my students faced. So I challenged them and tried to teach them always to be self-critical, questioning, skeptical. What are your assumptions? How can you defend your position? Where’s your evidence? Why do you believe that?

I thought I was helping my students by training them to think critically. And no doubt I was. However, reading John Henry Newman has helped me see another danger, perhaps a
graver one: to be so afraid of being wrong that we fail to believe as true that which is true. He worried about the modern tendency to make a god of critical reason, as if avoiding error, rather than finding truth, were the great goal of life.

If we see this danger—the danger of truths lost, insights missed, convictions never formed—then the complexion of intellectual inquiry changes, and the burdens of proof shift. We begin to cherish books and teachers and friends who push us and romance us with the possibilities of truth.

The life of the mind turns into an adventure. Errors risked seem worthy gambles for the sake of the rich reward of engrossing, life-commanding truths that are only accessible to a mind passionate with the intimacy of conviction rather than coldly [and] critically distant.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:50 PM | Permalink

July 14, 2010

Moral capital for the whole of life

There is nothing which is more necessary and more precious in the experience of human childhood than parental love.... nothing more precious, because the parental love experienced in childhood is moral capital for the whole of life.... It is so precious, this experience, that it renders us capable of elevating ourselves to more sublime things -- even divine things. It is thanks to the experience of parental love that our soul is capable of raising itself to the love of God.

The anonymous author of Meditations on the Tarot via Gaghdad Bob at One Cosmos

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:54 AM | Permalink

June 28, 2010

"The nature of parenting is to beat that out of you"

Tony Woodlief presents a parent's Case Against Happiness

Any parent will tell you children are difficult, and they wear you out, and they likely will just break your heart in the end. And who knows -- maybe when we believe we are feeling deep joy from parenthood (usually over a glass of wine, after all the little stinkers are finally in bed), we are simply sentimentalizing the whole ordeal to keep ourselves from rooting out our unused passports from the sock drawer and dashing off to Europe, never to be heard from again. Or perhaps we just feel too guilty to admit that, while we couldn't bear losing them now that we have them, we very well could have been delightfully satisfied had we never met them.

And here's where I wonder if we ought to re-examine our commitment to happiness. It seems to me that there's possibly some merit -- if we persevere and have the sense to learn from it -- in the other-orientation that is (good) parenting. It's fine to go through life happy, in other words, but I suspect we also want to go through life without becoming big fat self-absorbed jackasses. Children really help in that regard.

To be sure, there are too many parents who, despite their children, remain narcissistic nimrods. But the nature of parenting is to beat that out of you.
Instead of asking parents and non-parents whether they are happy right now, we might ask whether they are becoming more like the people they want to be. And then we might see children not as factors that may or may not be contributing to our happiness, but as opportunities to practice what most of us -- perhaps me most of all -- need to do more often, which is to put someone else before ourselves.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:16 PM | Permalink

June 2, 2010

To hear for the first time

The moment when young Jonathan hears for the first time.

Cochlear implants are still a relatively new technology.  Here are 9 more people hearing for the first time.

And there's Harold Whittle who long ago heard sound for the first time after being fitted with a hearing aid.


Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:58 AM | Permalink

May 21, 2010

The new forgotten and voiceless are donor sperm children

Alana writes in Taboos and the New Voiceless Americans

But you know what I am afraid to tell people? I’m afraid to tell them that my dad was a sperm donor. To me, that is creepy. To me, that sounds disgusting. To me, there is something wrong with that. It embarrasses me. So for the most part, I don’t tell anyone. I tell them my dad is dead. And when they ask me if I knew anything about him like, how did he die? or how did he meet your mom? I say: “I don’t want to talk about it.” And they shut up. Because death is a concept people understand as tragic. But “Assisted Reproductive Technology” or what I like to call “Deliberate Spiritual Robbery” doesn’t receive the same kind of sympathy.

Fertility technologies represent a new taboo. And kids like me don’t have a parade, nor a long line of celebrities eager to advocate for us. We don’t have a Lady Gaga on our side. It’s not cool to be one of us- which is one of the reasons we don’t speak up and announce to the world who we are. Our fight is much lonelier and much less colorful.

I enormous sympathy for the complexity of life for sperm children.  As I wrote in "Life Debt" of Donor Conceived Children

What seemed to be an easy answer for the mother has created a complex "life debt" for the children, burdening them in unexpected ways as they struggle to make sense of their genetic heritage.

What do sperm babies do on Father's Day

One commenter said.

well, it seems no one was really thinking of the children when the whole spermbank thing started. Gee, you mean an industry that's almost entirely dependent on college students masturbating for beer money doesn't think much about the future consequences? There's a surprise.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:47 PM | Permalink

May 10, 2010

Babies and Good and Evil

Before they can even crawl, Babies know the difference between good and evil at six months.

At the age of six months babies can barely sit up - let along take their first tottering steps, crawl or talk.

But, according to psychologists, they have already developed a sense of moral code - and can tell the difference between good and evil.

An astonishing series of experiments is challenging the views of many psychologists and social scientists that human beings are born as 'blank slates' - and that our morality is shaped by our parents and experiences.

Instead, they suggest that the difference between good and bad may be hardwired into the brain at birth.


Professor Paul Bloom, a psychologist at Yale University in Connecticut, whose department has studied morality in babies for years, said: 'A growing body of evidence suggests that humans do have a rudimentary moral sense from the very start of life.

'With the help of well designed experiments, you can see glimmers of moral thought, moral judgment and moral feeling even in the first year of life.

'Some sense of good and evil seems to be bred in the bones.'

This is very much in accord with Catholic teaching on The Natural Moral Law

The natural law expresses the original moral sense which enables man to discern by reason the good and the evil, the truth and the lie:

The natural law, present in the heart of each man and established by reason, is universal in its precepts and its authority extends to all men. It expresses the dignity of the person and determines the basis for his fundamental rights and duties:


As usual, I never got around to reading the NYT Sunday magazine so I missed the cover story on The Moral Life of Babies

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:23 AM | Permalink

April 9, 2010

"Pro-gay" attitude toward gender confusion damages children.

A letter sent to 14,800 school superintendents across the nation warns that "pro-gay" attitude toward gender confusion damages children

From a Letter to School Officials from the President of the American College of Pediatricians

...it is clear that when well-intentioned but misinformed school personnel encourage students to “come out as gay” and be “affirmed,” 8 there is a serious risk of erroneously labeling students (who may merely be experiencing transient sexual confusion and/or engaging in sexual experimentation).  Premature labeling may then lead some adolescents into harmful homosexual behaviors that they otherwise would not pursue.

Optimal health and respect for all students will only be achieved by first respecting the rights of students and parents to accurate information and to self-determination.  It is the school’s legitimate role to provide a safe environment for respectful self-expression for all students.
It is not the school’s role to diagnose and attempt to treat any student’s medical condition, and certainly not a school’s role to “affirm” a student’s perceived personal sexual orientation.

It is critical to the health of your students that you and your staff rely on accurate information regarding sexual orientation and gender confusion issues.  We urge you to review the enclosed information card, What You Should Know, and distribute it and this letter to your staff and to all interested parents and students. For more information, please visit www.FactsAboutYouth.com

I wonder how the Safe Schools Czar Kevin Jennings will respond.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:59 PM | Permalink

"Self-esteem is but a division of self-importance, which is seldom an attractive quality."

Theodore Darlrymple on Self-Esteem vs Self-Respect

That self-esteemists mostly know that they are about as sincere as Marie Antoinette playing shepherdess is illustrated by the following: When patients pretended to confide in me that they were suffering from low self-esteem, I used to reply that at least, then, they had got one thing right: they had valued themselves at their true worth. ....

Far from becoming angry, most patients - previously wretched - would begin to laugh, like those caught out in an obvious but relatively innocent attempt at a practical joke. Indeed, they were relieved: they no longer had to pretend anything, either to themselves or to others. We could then talk about the manifest deficiencies of their lives without resort to a vocabulary that acted as a smoke screen.

The problem with low self-esteem is not self-dislike, as is often claimed, but self-absorption. However, it does not follow from this that high self-esteem is not a genuine problem. One has only to go into a prison, or at least a prison of the kind in which I used to work, to see the most revoltingly high self-esteem among a group of people (the young thugs) who had brought nothing but misery to those around them, largely because they conceived of themselves as so important that they could do no wrong. For them, their whim was law, which was precisely as it should be considering who they were in their own estimate. It need hardly be said that this degree of self-esteem is certainly not confined to young thugs. Most of us probably suffer from it episodically, as any waiter in any restaurant would be able to tell us.

In short, self-esteem is but a division of self-importance, which is seldom an attractive quality. That person is best who never thinks of his own importance: to think about it, even, is to be lost to morality.
Self-respect requires fortitude, one of the cardinal virtues; self-esteem encourages emotional incontinence that, while not actually itself a cardinal sin, is certainly a vice, and a very unattractive one. Self-respect and self-esteem are as different as depth and shallowness.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:49 PM | Permalink

January 2, 2010

Aging brains are set up for the next developmental stage

The New York Times advises us in How to train an aging brain

Recently, researchers have found even more positive news. The brain, as it traverses middle age, gets better at recognizing the central idea, the big picture. If kept in good shape, the brain can continue to build pathways that help its owner recognize patterns and, as a consequence, see significance and even solutions much faster than a young person can.

The trick is finding ways to keep brain connections in good condition and to grow more of them.

“The brain is plastic and continues to change, not in getting bigger but allowing for greater complexity and deeper understanding,” says Kathleen Taylor, a professor at St. Mary’s College of California, who has studied ways to teach adults effectively. “As adults we may not always learn quite as fast, but we are set up for this next developmental step.”

Alexej Von Assaulenko Aging Brain
                    the painter Alexej von Assaulenko

Jack Mezirow, a professor emeritus at Columbia Teachers College, has proposed that adults learn best if presented with what he calls a “disorienting dilemma,” or something that “helps you critically reflect on the assumptions you’ve acquired.”

Dr. Mezirow developed this concept 30 years ago after he studied women who had gone back to school. The women took this bold step only after having many conversations that helped them “challenge their own ingrained perceptions of that time when women could not do what men could do.”

Such new discovery, Dr. Mezirow says, is the “essential thing in adult learning.”

Could it be the good news is that aging boomers will be better off if they critically examine their ingrained perceptions of the world as being all about them?


Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:10 PM | Permalink

November 20, 2009

Unlikely and inspiring Odyssey

IN 1975 Hung Ba Lee was only 5 when he fled Vietnam in a fishing boat piloted by his father,  a commander in the South Vietnamese Navy and the rest of his family and 400 other refugess.  They were rescued at sea by the US navy, taken to a U.S. base in the Philippines, then a refugee camp in California and finally to Virginia where the family rebuilt their lives.

Last week, Le returned to Vietnam as commander of a Navy warship.

Unique homecoming to Vietnam for US commander.

 Unique Homecoming Vietnam Usnavycommander

Le returned on the Lassen, an $800 million, 509-foot destroyer equipped with Tomahawk missiles and a crew of 300. The ship and the USS Blue Ridge, the command vessel for the U.S. Navy's 7th Fleet, are making the latest in a series of goodwill visits to Vietnam, which began in 2003 when the USS Vandergriff paid a port call to Ho Chi Minh City, the former Saigon.

"I thought that one day I would return but I really didn't expect to be returning as the commander of a Navy warship," Le said after stepping ashore Saturday. "It's an incredible personal honor."

"I'm proud to be an American, but I'm also very proud of my Vietnamese heritage," said Le, who spoke a few halting words in Vietnamese.
Le has few memories of his three-day journey on the fishing trawler, which ended just as they were running out of food, water and fuel.

But he has vivid memories of the example set by his father, Thong Ba Le, who is now 69 and has never returned to Vietnam. After the family settled in northern Virginia, he took a job in a supermarket, where he worked his way up from bag boy to manager.

"I always wanted to be like my dad," Le said. "He persevered and overcame many challenges."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:36 AM | Permalink

October 2, 2009

Asperger Syndrome at work

Penelope Trunk, the Brazen Careerist, has Asperger's Syndrome. 

 Penelope Trunk

This week she is offering career advice on How to deal with Asperger Syndrome at work.

People often tell me that I should write career advice for people with Asperger Syndrome. This is because I am surrounded by people who have Asperger’s, and I have it myself.  Please, do not tell me I don’t have it. First of all, it looks very different in men and women, and most of you have experience with men. Second, I’m way more weird in person than I am on the blog. And surely you thought it was the other way around.

So, anyway, the reason I’m good at giving career advice is because I had to learn things systematically, which helps me break it down for everyone else.

For example, I had to learn that a candy dish on someone’s desk means “I like to talk with people.” Other people read this cue instinctively.

I don’t really do career coaching. I don’t have patience. But often career coaches send people with Asperger’s to me, because mostly, these people are extremely difficult to coach.

They are difficult to coach because the biggest problem is that non-verbal cues that are obvious to everyone else are totally lost on people with Asperger’s. For example, you can tell when you are boring someone, but someone with Asperger’s cannot—we just keep talking.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:18 AM | Permalink

August 2, 2009

"Grit, it turns out, is an essential (and often overlooked) component of success"

Jonah Lehrer tells us The Truth about Grit in today's Boston Globe

In recent years, psychologists have come up with a term to describe this mental trait: grit. Although the idea itself isn’t new - “Genius is 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration,” Thomas Edison famously remarked - the researchers are quick to point out that grit isn’t simply about the willingness to work hard. Instead, it’s about setting a specific long-term goal and doing whatever it takes until the goal has been reached. It’s always much easier to give up, but people with grit can keep going.
Grit, it turns out, is an essential (and often overlooked) component of success.
The new focus on grit is part of a larger scientific attempt to study the personality traits that best predict achievement in the real world. While researchers have long focused on measurements of intelligence, such as the IQ test, as the crucial marker of future success, these scientists point out that most of the variation in individual achievement - what makes one person successful, while another might struggle - has nothing to do with being smart. Instead, it largely depends on personality traits such as grit and conscientiousness. It’s not that intelligence isn’t really important - Newton was clearly a genius - but that having a high IQ is not nearly enough.

Grit meaning "pluck"  and "spirit" in addition to perseverance is an American word describing a certain American type we don't see much of anymore,

 True Grit

What happened?

Lewis Terman, the inventor of the Stanford-Binet IQ test, ...spent decades following a large sample of “gifted” students, searching for evidence that his measurement of intelligence was linked to real world success. ... Terman also found that other traits, such as “perseverance,” were much more pertinent.  Terman concluded that one of the most fundamental tasks of modern psychology was to figure out why intelligence is not a more important part of achievement: “Why this is so, and what circumstances affect the fruition of human talent, are questions of such transcendent importance that they should be investigated by every method that promises the slightest reduction of our present ignorance.”
Unfortunately, in the decades following Terman’s declaration, little progress was made on the subject. Because intelligence was so easy to measure - the IQ test could be given to schoolchildren, and often took less than an hour - it continued to dominate research on individual achievement.

The end result, says James J. Heckman, a Nobel Prize-winning economist at the University of Chicago, is that “there was a generation of social scientists who focused almost exclusively on trying to raise IQ and academic test scores. The assumption was that intelligence is what mattered and what could be measured, and so everything else, all these non-cognitive traits like grit and self-control, shouldn’t be bothered with.”

Angela Duckworth, a psychologist at UPenn is a pioneer in the study of grit says

“I’d bet that there isn’t a single highly successful person who hasn’t depended on grit.  Nobody is talented enough to not have to work hard, and that’s what grit allows you to do.”

But grit isn’t just about stubborn perseverance - it’s also about finding a goal that can sustain our interest for years at a time. Consider two children learning to play the piano, each with the same level of raw talent and each expending the same effort toward musical training. However, while one child focuses on the piano, the other child experiments with the saxophone and cello. “The kid who sticks with one instrument is demonstrating grit,” Duckworth says. “Maybe it’s more fun to try something new, but high levels of achievement require a certain single-mindedness.”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:14 PM | Permalink

July 7, 2009

Ecce Home

Xavier Le Pichon has a remarkable article up (Speaking of Faith @American Public Media), Ecce Home (Behold Humanity)

A geophysicist, Le Pichon writes of the fragility and evolution of our humanity beginning with a small child dying in Calcutta through the poignant tale of his father taking care of his mother through her long and painful decline.

Who is this child that the tidal wave of human misery has deposited among the dozens of other “dying destitutes”, as announced on the board at the entrance: “Home for dying destitutes”. Why did I have to travel over ten thousand kilometers to meet him so that he would completely reorient my life?

Suffering has suddenly swept my soul: it has washed away everything in me. How so much suffering that I had not even noticed could be present next to me? As I had been standing on the crest of the advancing wave of our scientific and technologic civilization, I did not even glance at the debris left over by its flow. I was looking ahead. And suddenly, among the debris of my civilization, this child becomes for me a person, the most important person in my life.

Contrarily to what is often assumed, the weak and imperfect parts are often those that allow the evolution to occur without any revolution. This is true for the evolution of life, which is in great part based on the occurrence of coding errors during the duplication of the genetic information. One can ask whether it is not also true of our societies. We tend to dissociate the individuals who are well adapted to our social life from those that have difficulties to follow the pace that is imposed on them by our life style. Yet a society that separates the producers from the others considered as dead weight, even as marginal or excluded individuals, is a hard society, characterized by conflicts and often by complete rejection of minorities. It is sad and pessimistic. On the contrary a society where all are well integrated has a much more adaptable structure, with a different, easier and more conciliatory mode of life. It is often happier and more optimistic

He finds that even Neanderthals fed and looked after severely handicapped members of their communities who were too disabled to contribute to the quest for food. 

this experience of welcoming the suffering of our neighbor is at the very heart of our identity of humans since the origin.
Thus human societies have reorganized themselves about a new pole governed by the presence of suffering and death, which is related to the realization of the fragility and vulnerability of its members. Actually, we tend to judge the degree of humanity of a society through the way in which it takes into account in its organization the presence of suffering and death.
Taking care of fragile and vulnerable individuals has revealed to humans their own fragility and vulnerability. It has forced them to enter this dark world of fear in order to learn to live with it. They have realized that the human individual is a unique reality that keeps its unity under widely changing aspects from the fetus to the aged person at the end of his life.
Father Thomas Philippe co-founder of L’Arche with Jean Vanier said: “If we take away from someone who is suffering, any meaning to his suffering, if we make him feel even indirectly that his suffering is useless and is a burden to the community, what is left for him? Despair.” We must welcome each person in such a way that she retains her full dignity and still have a sense of having something to offer to the community.

He learned from the deep transformation of his father's heart and the suffering humanity of his mother a deep mystery

What my mother and father experienced together during her long and painful illness helps us to understand a little better the nature of this mysterious transformation of relationships which comes when we welcome handicap, suffering and illness. If this welcome is made with dignity and love, the person we welcome becomes the one who leads us into a new deepening of our true humanity. That person changes us deeply as she also changes the nature of the community around them. My mother who had played such an important role during her active life to form the bonds that unified our family had at the end of her painful life an even greater influence in maintaining our unity and in deepening the heart of my father while she appeared to be utterly powerless. One can say that she radiated much more love than what she had received. She had revealed to those who had welcomed her with love a new depth of their humanity. They now better understood that they had a heart and could only find happiness in love.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:21 PM | Permalink

May 27, 2009

Being a sacred witness to the elderly people you meet

There will not be enough doctors, heath care or money when we boomers get old.  We will have to take care of each other.    Time we started learning how by paying attention to what our elderly people need most and that is to be seen and appreciated. 

Mother Theresa, beatified by Pope John Paul II said "There is  more hunger for love and appreciation in this world than for bread."

True Grit : Growing Old in America by Jude Acosta

Ours is one of the few civilizations in recorded history that not only ignores the aged but devalues them. The way we have placed such emphatic priority on youthful sexuality, incessant and needless entertainment, and endless consumerism has in effect put the accrued wisdom of the elderly at philosophical and spiritual odds with everything the modern American marketplace stands for. We are a nation of Peter Pans and we believe that somehow we can avoid growing up if we just pretend that aging, like death, is for someone else, not us. And like very young children we cover our eyes and make believe the aged are not there.
The irony is that while the increasing number of elderly in America may need more care and companionship than ever before, many, like my friend, Mr. Garry, will in fact be more alone. With less family living nearby, fewer social invitations, and little or no value in a world that places material success on par with spiritual salvation, they are often stuck at home, unable to care for themselves well or at all, and dependent upon government services instead of family. For many Americans, particularly those who live in front of the television, the aged and infirm are all but invisible.
According to a growing number of mental health experts, loneliness is the greatest contributing factor to all manner of illness in our culture. University of Chicago psychologist John Cacioppo and writer William Patrick in their book Loneliness (WW Norton, 2008) state that loneliness is so serious a condition that it puts people at risk for heart disease, cancer and respiratory and gastrointestinal ailments. Citing three decades of research, they point out that loneliness can disturb our levels of stress hormones, immune function, and even gene expression, while positive human interaction increases levels of oxytocin, a bonding hormone that reduces blood pressure and cortisol levels. In this sense, loneliness is transformed from a purely "emotional" state to a measurable biochemical one.
Contrary to current media spin,
it does not take a whole village to change the situation of the elderly in this country. It takes one person, one moment, one conversation at a local park, and, like a sacred witness, the willingness to see them.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:23 PM | Permalink

May 20, 2009

New Look at What Babies Think

Everything we think we know about babies is wrong

In The Philosophical Baby developmental psychologist Alison Gopnik compiles the latest in her field’s research to paint a new picture of our inner lives at inceptionone in which we are, in some ways, more conscious than adults.
Alison Gopnik: One of the things we discovered is that imagination, which we often think of as a special adult ability, is actually in place in very young children, as early as 18 months old. That ability is very closely related to children’s ability to figure out how the world works.
Both Piaget and Freud thought that the reason children produced so much fantastic, unreal play was that they couldn’t tell the difference between imagination and reality. But a lot of the more recent work in children’s theory of mind has shown quite the contrary. Children have a very good idea of how to distinguish between fantasies and realities. It’s just they are equally interested in exploring both.
They already seem to appreciate the difference between the kinds of morality that comes from empathy and the kind that comes from our conventional rules. From the time they are two, they recognize both are important but in different ways. That’s pretty amazing

"The Philosophical Baby: What Children's Minds Tell Us About Truth, Love, and the Meaning of Life" (Alison Gopnik)

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:53 PM | Permalink


A new mental illness that is so destructive that some psychiatrists are urging that bitterness be considered a mental illness  - post traumatic embitterment disorder.  I think we all know or have met people of this sort.

"They feel the world has treated them unfairly. It's one step more complex than anger. They're angry plus helpless," says Dr. Michael Linden, a German psychiatrist who named the behavior.

Embittered people are typically good people who have worked hard at something important, such as a job or a relationship or activity, Linden says. When something unexpectedly awful happens -- they don't get the promotion, the wife files for divorce or they fail to make the Olympic team -- a profound sense of injustice overtakes them. Instead of dealing with the loss with the help of family and friends, they cannot let go of the feeling of being victimized. Almost immediately after the traumatic event, they become angry, pessimistic, aggressive, hopeless haters.

There are only a handful of studies on the behavior, but psychiatrists meeting Monday were in agreement that much more research is needed on identifying and helping these people. One estimate is that 1% to 2% of the population are embittered, says Linden, who has published several studies on the behavior.

"These people usually don't come to treatment because 'the world has to change, not me,' " Linden says. "They are almost treatment resistant.... Revenge is not a treatment."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:34 AM | Permalink

May 19, 2009

“It’s bad for us, but it sure is fun”

From the heart of Silicon Valley, eighth graders say that the negative effects of technology vastly outweighs the benefits.

“It’s bad for us, but it sure is fun.”

Through young eyes by Michael Malone reveals remarkable self knowledge by children who lived all their lives in an ocean of technological games and devices.

When asked what they find wrong with living in our modern Wired Web World, the students had no shortage of answers, most of which fell into a half-dozen categories. I’ll let the students largely speak for themselves - voices describing the dark side of the tech revolution with a sincerity few of us adults have ever heard before:

Loss of motivation:

Addictive: “The Internet is like a gateway drug,” says Christine Doan, 13.

 Teen Illuminated Screen

Second Hand Knowledge: This answer was probably the biggest surprise. The eighth graders seemed to intuitively appreciate that the experiences and information they received from the Web and other digital sources was essentially a simulacrum of reality - a re-creation on a glowing flat screen of the three dimensional natural world . . .and that something was being lost in the translation. “We don’t get as much out of things if we don’t experience them ourselves,” says Lauren Fahey, 13. “We seem to spend a lot of our lives as bystanders,” adds Katherine Wu, 13.
Disturbed Values: All of these forces can’t help but affect a young person’s sense of values. The eighth graders, in some ways sophisticated beyond their years, instinctively understand that. “We can’t respect anything anymore,” says Eric Bautista. Adds Jenna Kunz, “You don’t care about things as much; you aren’t as passionate as you should be.”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:47 AM | Permalink

April 29, 2009

8-hour workday is in your genes

Biological Clock

You've heard about circadian cycles but did you know that the thousands of genes in the body switch on and off over the 12-hour cycles governed by light and dark that set our waking an sleeping hours and eating habits.

Now scientists are finding that shorter cycles are also biologically encoded. 8 hour workday biologically wired

New research from the University of Pennsylvania and the Salk Institute for Biological Studies suggests that humans are biologically hard-wired to work only eight hours a day.

The standard work cycle appears to be programmed in the genes.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:49 PM | Permalink

April 23, 2009

Cultivating Friendship

Close friendships often have a greater effect on health than a spouse or a family member.  They will shape your life, sustain it and make it better.

What Are Friends For?  A Longer Life

Researchers are only now starting to pay attention to the importance of friendship and social networks in overall health. A 10-year Australian study found that older people with a large circle of friends were 22 percent less likely to die during the study period than those with fewer friends. A large 2007 study showed an increase of nearly 60 percent in the risk for obesity among people whose friends gained weight. And last year, Harvard researchers reported that strong social ties could promote brain health as we age.

“In general, the role of friendship in our lives isn’t terribly well appreciated,” said Rebecca G. Adams, a professor of sociology at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro. “There is just scads of stuff on families and marriage, but very little on friendship. It baffles me. Friendship has a bigger impact on our psychological well-being than family relationships.”


The only reward of virtue is virtue; the only way to have a friend is to be one.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

It is one of the blessings of old friends that you can afford to be stupid with them.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

If a man does not make new acquaintance as he advances through life, he will soon find himself left alone. A man, Sir, should keep his friendship in constant repair.
- Samuel Johnson (1709 - 1784) British lexiographer.

My friends are my estate.
- Emily Dickinson

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:43 PM | Permalink

April 16, 2009

The Neural Patterns of Unconditional Love

'Unconditional love, extended to others without exception, is considered to be one of the highest expressions of spirituality, said Professor Mario Beauregard, of Montreal University’s centre for research into neurophysiology and cognition.

Professor Beauregard used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) on low paid assistants looking after people with learning difficulties, as examples of people with proven ability to feel strong unconditional love:

When the subjects were asked to evoke feelings of unconditional love, the scans showed seven brain areas that became active, three were similar to those of romantic love. The others were different, suggesting a separate kind of love.

Prof Beauregard’s discoveries showed that some of the areas activated when experiencing unconditional love were also involved in releasing dopamine - the chemical involved in sensing pleasure.

The greatest love of all: Study shows why humans are capable of caring unconditionally

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:34 AM | Permalink

April 7, 2009

The Healthy Side of Pride

The fine art of keeping up appearances may seem shallow and deceitful, the very embodiment of denial. But many psychologists beg to differ.

To the extent that it sustains good habits and reflects personal pride, they say, this kind of play-acting can be an extremely effective social strategy, especially in uncertain times.

“I have a new client, a laid-off lawyer, who’s commuting in every day — to his Starbucks,” said Robert C. Chope, a professor of counseling at San Francisco State University and president of the employment division of the American Counseling Association. “He gets dressed up, meets with colleagues, networks; he calls it his Western White House. I have encouraged him to keep his routine.”

When All You Have Left Is Your Pride

Pride, in short, begets perseverance. All of which may explain why, when the repo man is at the door, people so often remind themselves that they still have theirs, and that it’s worth something. Because they do, and because it is.

However much pride may go before a fall, it may be far more useful after one.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:43 AM | Permalink

March 3, 2009

Babies and TV commercials

A baby may look helpless. It can’t walk, talk, think symbolically or overhaul the nation’s banking system. Yet as social emulsifiers go, nothing can beat a happily babbling baby. A baby is born knowing how to work the crowd. A toothless smile here, a musical squeal there, and even hard-nosed cynics grow soft in the head and weak in the knees.

In the view of the primatologist Sarah Blaffer Hrdy, the extraordinary social skills of an infant are at the heart of what makes us human. Through its ability to solicit and secure the attentive care not just of its mother but of many others in its sensory purview, a baby promotes many of the behaviors and emotions that we prize in ourselves and that often distinguish us from other animals, including a willingness to share, to cooperate with strangers, to relax one’s guard, uncurl one’s lip and widen one’s pronoun circle beyond the stifling confines of me, myself and mine.

In a Helpless Baby, the Roots of Our Social Glue

I like this theory, but I haven't a clue how to pronounce the scientist's name "Hrdy".

The next article in the Science section of the New York Times is more baffling. Commercials make TV shows more enjoyable.

“The punch line is that commercials make TV programs more enjoyable to watch. Even bad commercials,” said Leif Nelson, an assistant professor of marketing at the University of California, San Diego, and a co-author of the new research. “When I tell people this, they just kind of stare at me, in disbelief. The findings are simultaneously implausible and empirically coherent.”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:03 AM | Permalink

January 15, 2009

Re-valorization of the trades

I can't resist quoting Camille Paglia.  She says things no one else dares. 

 Camille Paglia

Last month she wrote this

Computers alone will never solve the educational crisis in this country: They are tools and facilitators, not primary conveyors of knowledge. Packing his team with shiny Harvard retreads, Obama missed a golden opportunity to link his public works project with a national revalorization of the trades. Practical training in hands-on vocational skills is desperately needed in this country, where liberal arts education has become a soggy boondoggle, obscenely expensive and diluted by propaganda and groupthink.

A reader wrote her back

"Revalorization of the trades": You've perfectly articulated what I've thought for years. Time to remove the stigma and recognize trades for the skilled and professional work they are (and to bring that level of professionalism to them).

As a college writing professor, I see many students who clearly don't want to be on the university path but are there because their parents want them to be and are willing to foot the bill. It's all so misdirected. Wouldn't our society and citizens be better served if we quit thinking of vo-tech types as "flunkies" and second-stringers?

Marna Krajeski

Paglia responds.

I agree with you completely!
The American system of higher education has become an insane assembly line -- bankrupting families to process hapless students through an incoherent, haphazard and mediocre liberal arts curriculum. In the '60s, there was a brief moment when middle-class young men were dropping out of college to become silversmiths or leather workers in San Francisco or Greenwich Village. As the product of an Italian-American immigrant family where the crafts were honored, I cheered that development and prayed that it would continue. But it sputtered out -- probably because the recession of the 1970s was a cold dose of reality.

Perhaps there's hope of change because of the
tens of thousands of liberal arts graduates with expensive degrees who are finding themselves out of work and depressingly marginalized in a society where the manual trades offer guaranteed employment at relatively high wages. A dose of Buddhism might do people good: Sweeping garden sand into oceanic designs around ornamental rocks is considered a spiritual exercise in Asia. I say that landscaping, construction, carpentry, metalworking and all the other trades should be promoted by primary education as worthy careers for both men and women. The pre-college rat race is a sadomasochistic imposition on the young that robs them of free will and saps their vital energies. When will they rebel?

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:20 AM | Permalink

January 10, 2009

The Welcome Return of an Old Virtue - Thrift

Ruth Graham on Pennies Earned

Like piety and self-denial, however, thrift now seems more quaint than urgent. We can blame formerly easy credit for that, perhaps, or a creeping conventional wisdom that says that shopping is the only response to national troubles. ....

But if there was a sliver of good news coming out of autumn’s Wall-Street-to-Main-Street bloodletting, it was that thrift, despite its unfashionable status, is poised for a comeback. In October, the John Templeton Foundation hosted a forum to discuss an important new report,
“For a New Thrift: Confronting the Debt Culture,” which begins with a call to give more Americans “opportunities to save and build wealth.” Sixty-two scholars signed on to the report, which was produced by the Institute for American Values and several other think tanks from across the ideological spectrum. Panelist David Blankenhorn, one of the report’s authors, organized thrift into three qualities: industry, or work ethic; frugality, or spending less than we earn; and trusteeship, or wisely giving back to worthy causes. Together, they make for a life not of grim tightfistedness, but of generosity, fulfillment, and eventual abundance.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:38 AM | Permalink

December 7, 2008


Having grown up in a family of teasers, I'm glad some one has come out  In Defense of Teasing

In teasing, we learn to use our voices, bodies and faces, and to read those of others — the raw materials of emotional intelligence and the moral imagination. We learn the wisdom of laughing at ourselves, and not taking the self too seriously. We learn boundaries between danger and safety, right and wrong, friend and foe, male and female, what is serious and what is not. We transform the many conflicts of social living into entertaining dramas. No kidding.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:17 PM | Permalink

November 29, 2008

Singing for a Good Life

Via Kottke comes the news that Brian Eno believes in singing is the key to a good life.

Well, there are physiological benefits, obviously: You use your lungs in a way that you probably don't for the rest of your day, breathing deeply and openly. And there are psychological benefits, too: Singing aloud leaves you with a sense of levity and contentedness. And then there are what I would call "civilizational benefits." When you sing with a group of people, you learn how to subsume yourself into a group consciousness because a capella singing is all about the immersion of the self into the community. That's one of the great feelings — to stop being me for a little while and to become us. That way lies empathy, the great social virtue.

The critical thing turns out to be the choice of songs. The songs that seem to work best are those based around the basic chords of blues and rock and country music. You want songs that are word-rich, but also vowel-rich because it's on the long vowels sounds of a song such as "Bring It On Home To Me" ("You know I'll alwaaaaays be your slaaaaave"), that's where your harmonies really express themselves. And when you get a lot of people singing harmony on a long note like that, it's beautiful.

So I believe in singing to such an extent that if I were asked to redesign the British educational system, I would start by insisting that group singing become a central part of the daily routine. I believe it builds character and, more than anything else, encourages a taste for co-operation with others. This seems to be about the most important thing a school could do for you.

Group singing in chapel and assembly was always part of education until a comparatively short time ago.  I remember singing together throughout my school years, at camp and at family get-togethers when my grandparents were alive.  When people got together they would sing, be it at church, at work or in a friendly gathering.  Sadly,  with fewer people going to church and no singing at work, that experience has been lost.


So a few weeks ago when I went to a concert We the People by the Mystic Chorale, I was delighted that the conductor Nick Page expected the audience to join the 200+ members of the chorus to join in singing many of the songs. 


So enjoyable was it, I've decided to join the chorale for their winter gospel concert. 

The Mystic Chorale is a non-profit, volunteer organization that accepts anyone who loves to sing.  The commitment for each concert is short, only 8 weeks, a perfect antidote to the winter blues.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:46 AM | Permalink

October 21, 2008

The Soul must be disciplined

I found Brain Science and the Soul by R.R. Reno most interesting.

These days, cognitive scientists are doing experiments that use MRI technology to visualize the brain while subjects undergo experiences, solve problems, and make decisions. This approach allows scientists to see and theorize about the significance and sources of patterns in our brains, patterns that shape the way we respond to the world. We are learning about the highway system of neurological movement, which turns out to be decisive for the way our minds work.

The new emphasis on patterns of neural activity suggests an important support for the traditional Christian understanding of the soul.
St. Thomas drew on Aristotle’s philosophy to define the soul as the form of the body. The soul is the pattern or highway system that organizes our bodies, including, of course, our brains.
Princeton brain scientist Jonathan D. Cohen has looked at patterns of brain activity while subjects respond to moral dilemmas and make moral decisions. It turns out that the brain patterns related to moral decisions need to be trained. The soul must be disciplined.
Now, contemporary brain science and Cohen’s picture of the vulcanized brain lead pretty much to the same, Aristotelian vision of the soul shaped by virtues—or vices.
Precisely because a human soul is unstable, and subject to influence, and hardening over time, the Christian tradition has put a great deal of weight on moral and spiritual discipline in order to “vulcanize” the networks that lead to properly ordered emotions, thoughts, and decisions. Now it seems that brain science is showing that the traditional emphasis on moral and spiritual discipline was exactly right.
The neural patterns between the frontal lobe and the brain stem do not know nice distinctions between the private morality and public morality. It’s a distinction much insisted upon by modern liberal antinomians who want to reassure us that the liberated id will not threaten the public good.

Maybe the intense moral pressure of traditional morality is necessary in order to achieve the stable neural patterns that prevent our instinctual responses from overwhelming our reasoned responses. Perhaps the common good depends on the presence of virtuous, disciplined citizens who have been habituated to deny themselves immediate, instinctual satisfactions.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:15 AM | Permalink

October 18, 2008

Late Bloomers

Malcolm Gladwell on Late Bloomers.  Why do we equate genius with precocity?

The freshness, exuberance, and energy of youth did little for Cézanne. He was a late bloomer—and for some reason in our accounting of genius and creativity we have forgotten to make sense of the Cézannes of the world.
Late bloomers, Galenson says, tend to work the other way around. Their approach is experimental. “Their goals are imprecise, so their procedure is tentative and incremental.
Mark Twain was the same way. Galenson quotes the literary critic Franklin Rogers on Twain’s trial-and-error method: “His routine procedure seems to have been to start a novel with some structural plan which ordinarily soon proved defective, whereupon he would cast about for a new plot which would overcome the difficulty, rewrite what he had already written, and then push on until some new defect forced him to repeat the process once again.” Twain fiddled and despaired and revised and gave up on “Huckleberry Finn” so many times that the book took him nearly a decade to complete. The Cézannes of the world bloom late not as a result of some defect in character, or distraction, or lack of ambition, but because the kind of creativity that proceeds through trial and error necessarily takes a long time to come to fruition.
On the road to great achievement, the late bloomer will resemble a failure: while the late bloomer is revising and despairing and changing course and slashing canvases to ribbons after months or years, what he or she produces will look like the kind of thing produced by the artist who will never bloom at all. Prodigies are easy. They advertise their genius from the get-go. Late bloomers are hard. They require forbearance and blind faith.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:44 AM | Permalink

October 7, 2008

What is Good Character?

A question of character.  The idea of 'good character' sounds old-fashioned and patronizing, but it may be the answer to some of our most entrenched social problems writes Richard Reeves.

The first headmaster of Stowe school, JF Roxburgh, declared his goal to be turning out young men who would be "acceptable at a dance and invaluable in a shipwreck." A mixture of courtesy and courage used to be essential to the idea of a British citizen's character. Brits were the sort of people who knew both how to survive a Blitz and queue politely. Similarly, Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of the scout movement, aimed to induce in his young charges "some of the spirit of self-negation, self-discipline, sense of humour, responsibility, helpfulness to others, loyalty and patriotism which go to make 'character.'" He described his movement as nothing less than a "character factory."

But in the postwar shift towards a less constrained and judgemental society—"character-talk" in Stefan Collini's phrase—dropped out of public discourse, except when considering someone's suitability for high office. The idea of good character came to sound old-fashioned and patronising.

The three key ingredients of a good character are: a sense of personal agency or self-direction; an acceptance of personal responsibility; and effective regulation of one's own emotions, in particular the ability to resist temptation or at least defer gratification.
inequality of character may now be as important as inequality of economic resources.

The Research Digest of the British Psychological Society hails The return of 'good character' and its importance for a successful society while our fave Sissy Willis writes It's the character, stupid.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:15 AM | Permalink

September 2, 2008

Failure to Launch

How life for men has changed.

Newsweek looks at Why young Men Delay Adulthood to Stay in "Guyland."  The never-ending party of delayed adulthood  does not bode well.

 Leaving Guyland

Tony Dokoupil, 28, engaged to be married, examines the 20 something scene and reads the new book Guyland by the sociologist Michael Kimmel.

the traditional markers of manhood—leaving home, getting an education, finding a partner, starting work and becoming a father—have moved downfield as the passage from adolescence to adulthood has evolved from "a transitional moment to a whole new stage of life." In 1960, almost 70 percent of men had reached these milestones by the age of 30. Today, less than a third of males that age can say the same.
he found that the lockstep march to manhood is often interrupted by a debauched and decadelong odyssey, in which youths buddy together in search of new ways to feel like men. Actually, it's more like all the old ways—drinking, smoking, kidding, carousing—turned up a notch in a world where adolescent demonstrations of manhood have replaced the real thing: responsibility.

Today's guys are perhaps the first downwardly mobile—and endlessly adolescent—generation of men in U.S. history. They're also among the most distraught—men between the ages of 16 and 26 have the highest suicide rate for any group except men above 70—and socially isolated, despite their image as a band of backslapping buddies.
The happy family man, on the other hand, is an alien concept in Guyland, and all too scarce in popular culture. Men like me, who actually embrace married life in their 20s, are seen as aberrations—or just a bit odd.

"Guyland: The Perilous World Where Boys Become Men" (Michael Kimmel)

What came to my mind was Kathleen Parker whose book Save the Males is causing a furor.

From the London Times, Where have all the real men gone?

The reality is that men already have been screwed – and not in the way they prefer. For the past 30 years or so, males have been under siege by a culture that too often embraces the notion that men are to blame for all of life’s ills. Males as a group – not random men – are bad by virtue of their DNA.

While women have been cast as victims, martyrs, mystics or saints, men have quietly retreated into their caves.
NOTHING quite says “Men need not apply” like a phial of mail-order sperm  and a turkey-baster. In the high-tech nursery of sperm donation and self-insemination – and in the absence of shame attached to unwed motherhood – babies can now be custom-ordered without the muss and fuss of human intimacy.
By elevating single motherhood from an unfortunate consequence of poor planning to a sophisticated act of self-fulfilment, we have helped to fashion a world in which fathers are not just scarce but in which men are also superfluous.

As luck would have it, a Cub Scout’s father was semi-retired or between jobs or something – we didn’t ask – and could attend the meetings. He didn’t have to do a thing. He just had to be there and respire testosterone vapours into the atmosphere.

His presence shifted the tectonic plates and changed the angle of the Earth on its axis. Our boys were at his command, ready to disarm landmines, to sink enemy ships – or even to sit quietly for the sake of the unit if he of the gravelly voice and sandpaper face wished it so...

But, of course, boys don’t stay Cub Scouts for long. We’ve managed over the past 20 years or so to create a new generation of child-men, perpetual adolescents who see no point in growing up. By indulging every appetite instead of recognising the importance of self-control and commitment, we’ve ratified the id.

Our society’s young men encounter little resistance against continuing to celebrate juvenile pursuits, losing themselves in video games and mindless, “guy-oriented” TV fare – and casual sex.

In the coming years we will need men who are not confused about their responsibilities. We need boys who have acquired the virtues of honour, courage, valour and loyalty. We need women willing to let men be men – and boys be boys. And we need young men and women who will commit and marry and raise children in stable homes.

Unprogressive though it sounds, the world in which we live requires no less.

"Save the Males: Why Men Matter Why Women Should Care" (Kathleen Parker)

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:06 AM | Permalink

August 21, 2008

You Got to Have Hope

Science Day reports on a growing body of research that suggests 'Hope" Therapy Fights Depression.

We’re finding that hope is consistently associated with fewer symptoms of depression.  And the good news is that hope is something that can be taught, and can be developed in many of the people who need it,” said Jennifer Cheavens, assistant professor of psychology at Ohio State University.

“If you feel you know how to get what you want out of life, and you have that desire to make that happen, then you have hope,” Cheavens said.

Hope is different from optimism, which is a generalized expectancy that good things will happen, she said.  Hope involves having goals, along with the desire and plan to achieve them.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:20 PM | Permalink

August 13, 2008

Sleep on It.

From Scientific American, How Snoozing Makes Your Smarter 

Whether deciding to go to a particular college, accept a challenging job offer or propose to a future spouse, “sleeping on it” seems to provide the clarity we need to piece together life’s puzzles. But how does slumber present us with answers?
As exciting findings such as these come in more and more rapidly, we are becoming sure of one thing: while we sleep, our brain is anything but inactive. It is now clear that sleep can consolidate memories by enhancing and stabilizing them and by finding patterns within studied material even when we do not know that patterns might be there. It is also obvious that skimping on sleep stymies these crucial cognitive processes: some aspects of memory consolidation only happen with more than six hours of sleep. Miss a night, and the day’s memories might be compromised—an unsettling thought in our fast-paced, sleep-deprived society.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:02 PM | Permalink

June 24, 2008

Wonder Drug 'Cures' Shyness

Oxytocin, the natural hormone that assists childbirth bonding the mother to the infant, and dubbed the 'love drug' because it also bonds lovers together is now being considered for use in the U.K. to treat shyness.

Produced naturally in the brain during social interactions, it promotes romantic feelings, helps mothers bond with babies and makes people more sociable.

Oxytocin is released during orgasm and is also the key birthing hormone that enables the cervix to open and the contractions to work. Where labour has to be induced, it is often given to the mother intravenously to kick-start contractions.

Professor Zak said: 'We've seen that it makes you care about the other person. It also increases your generosity towards that person. That's why (the hormone) facilitates social interaction.'

Scientists find childbirth wonder drug that can 'cure' shyness

Autistic patients given oxytocin as part of a study in New York found their ability to recognise emotions such as happiness or anger in a person's tone of voice - something which usually proved difficult - also improved.

Experiments by Dr Eric Hollander at the city's Mount Sinai School of Medicine found a single intravenous infusion of the chemical triggered improvements that lasted for two weeks.

Previous research has revealed autistic children have lower than usual levels of oxytocin in their blood.

Professor Zak said: 'Oxytocin does not cure autism, but it does reduce the symptoms.'

My earlier post on oxytocin, A Wash of Love

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:08 AM | Permalink

May 18, 2008

"Most Geeks Well-Adjusted"

How a teen-ager feels about himself is the best indicator of his future social functioning.

Revenge of the Nerds: Most Geeks Well-Adjusted

Kathleen Boykin McElhaney, lead study investigator and research associate in psychology at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville,

"I think our study shows that popularity doesn't really matter a whole heck of a lot," McElhaney said. "Our data suggests that finding a social niche and a place where you can be comfortable being yourself is most important."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:37 AM | Permalink

May 4, 2008

"Why can't people just see the best in things?"

A wonderful story about a 18 year-old boy, struck with a terminal cancer,  who is wise beyond his years. 

John Challis.

Teen is running out of innings, but the game still isn't over.

After the walk, John addressed the crowd.

"He spoke from his heart," Mr. Wetzel, the coach, said. "He said, 'I've got two options. I know I'm going to die, so I can either sit at home and feel sorry, or I could spread my message to everybody to live life to the fullest and help those in need.' After hearing that, I don't know if there were many people not crying."

Later in an interview he was asked where he gained his wisdom.

Through cancer.

"They say it takes a special person to realize this kind of stuff," he said. "I don't know if I'm special, but it wasn't hard for me. It's just my mind-set. A situation is what you make of it. Not what it makes of you."
"I guess I can see why people see me as an inspiration," he said. "But why do people think it's so hard to see things the way I do? All I'm doing is making the best of a situation."

John then raises his voice.

"Why can't people just see the best in things? It gets you so much further in life. It's always negative this and negative that. That's all you see and hear."

Through his own thoughts and through his deep Catholic beliefs, John believes he has "figured it out." He answers questions with maturity, courage and dignity, traits that have become his trademarks.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:49 PM | Permalink

May 2, 2008

Lessons in Manliness

There's a fine, new-to-me blog on  The Art of Manliness where lessons in manliness are next to practical tips like Nine ways to start a fire without matches.   

When all else fails, a coke can and bar of  chocolate will do

Some like John McCain need no lessons but can teach some.  Of course, he'll never do it and so it rests on others to tell. 

Mr. Day relayed to me one of the stories Americans should hear. It involves what happened to him after escaping from a North Vietnamese prison during the war. When he was recaptured, a Vietnamese captor broke his arm and said, "I told you I would make you a cripple."

The break was designed to shatter Mr. Day's will. He had survived in prison on the hope that one day he would return to the United States and be able to fly again. To kill that hope, the Vietnamese left part of a bone sticking out of his arm, and put him in a misshapen cast. This was done so that the arm would heal at "a goofy angle," as Mr. Day explained. Had it done so, he never would have flown again.

But it didn't heal that way because of John McCain. Risking severe punishment, Messrs. McCain and Day collected pieces of bamboo in the prison courtyard to use as a splint. Mr. McCain put Mr. Day on the floor of their cell and, using his foot, jerked the broken bone into place. Then, using strips from the bandage on his own wounded leg and the bamboo, he put Mr. Day's splint in place.

Years later, Air Force surgeons examined Mr. Day and complimented the treatment he'd gotten from his captors. Mr. Day corrected them. It was Dr. McCain who deserved the credit. Mr. Day went on to fly again.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:50 AM | Permalink

April 4, 2008

Willpower is a muscle

I can remember hearing that willpower is a muscle that must be exercised to grow strong.   

Now it seems that studies prove that consistently doing one activity that requires self-control seems to increase willpower.     

Tighten Your Belt, Strengthen Your Mind

In psychological studies, even something as simple as using your nondominant hand to brush your teeth for two weeks can increase willpower capacity. People who stick to an exercise program for two months report reducing their impulsive spending, junk food intake, alcohol use and smoking. They also study more, watch less television and do more housework. Other forms of willpower training, like money-management classes, work as well.

After giving up candy and chocolate for Lent, I found easier to control my sweet tooth by eating more fruits and vegetables for snacks and that effect has persisted after Easter.  Even though I now can eat all the chocolate I want, I 'm still cutting up cucumbers and celery for snacks.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:10 PM | Permalink

March 27, 2008

The Better Questions for Graduates

The season for graduates has begun.  My niece Jessica is now a proud college graduate of Western Washington University.  Congratulations Jessie!

Because so many cross the threshold to adult life at the same time, it's hard to resist offering a few words of advice. The Few Words, Much Wisdom Siggy found are a good start for any parent.

Stop asking children what they want to do, and start asking them who they want to be.

The first question speaks to occupation. The second speaks to character.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:46 PM | Permalink

March 8, 2008

Roundup of Good News on the Health Front

One of the biggest problems in caring for old people who live on their own is making sure they take their medicine.  One in three adults fail to take their prescribed medication.

New technology may help where nothing else does.  The Magnetrace.

Sensor necklace records when pill is swallowed and prompts patient when it is time to take another.

"Forgetfulness is a huge problem, especially among the elderly, but so is taking the medication at the wrong time, stopping too early or taking the wrong dose," said Maysam Ghovanloo, assistant professor in the Georgia Institute of Technology's School of Electrical and Computer Engineering. "Studies show that drug noncompliance costs the country billions of dollars each year as a result of re-hospitalization, complications, disease progression and even death."

There's a lot more going on in our guts than we know. 

Diabetes may be disorder of upper intestine: Surgery may correct it.

Dr. Rubino, who is a professor in the Department of Surgery at Weill Cornell Medical College and chief of gastrointestinal metabolic surgery at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell.... "When we bypass the duodenum and jejunum, we are bypassing what may be the source of the problem,

Those gut feelings we have?  Researchers at Leeds have reviewed the literature and say  Go with Your Gut
intuition is the result of the way our brains store, process and retrieve information on a subconscious level and so is a real psychological phenomenon which needs further study to help us harness its potential.

Researchers have found a protein in embryonic stem cells that inhibits the growth and spread of malignant melanoma, the deadly skin cancer.

And Training in the Arts Makes People Smarter.

“A life-affirming dimension is opening up in neuroscience,” said Dr. Gazzaniga, “to discover how the performance and appreciation of the arts enlarge cognitive capacities will be a long step forward in learning how better to learn and more enjoyably and productively to live."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:00 PM | Permalink

January 29, 2008

"Government schooling is the most radical adventure in history"

This just knocked me out.  I was stunned.

Citing the 1993 National Adult Literacy Survey, Gatto in his book "Underground History of American Education," reports only 3.5 percent of Americans are literate enough today "to do traditional college study, a level 30 percent of all U.S. high school students reached in 1940, and which 30 percent of secondary students in other developed countries can reach today."

Locking a nation into permanent childhood by Vin Suprynowicz  via phi beta cons

When New York's Teacher of the Year resigned in 1991, John Taylor Gatto  sat down and wrote an essay for  the Wall St Journal saying he was "tired of working for an institution that crippled the ability of children to learn"

"Government schooling is the most radical adventure in history," Mr. Gatto begins. "It kills the family by monopolizing the best times of childhood and by teaching disrespect for home and parents.
"David learns to read at age four; Rachel, at age nine: In normal development, when both are 13, you can't tell which one learned first -- the five-year spread means nothing at all. But in school I label Rachel 'learning disabled' and slow David down a bit, too. For a paycheck, I adjust David to depend on me to tell him when to go and stop. He won't outgrow that dependency. I identify Rachel as discount merchandise, 'special education' fodder. She'll be locked in her place forever.

If there any wonder why  home-schooling is so popular and effective when public schools are a "Prussian system of coercive schooling ill-suited to a free people".

"Socrates foresaw if teaching became a formal profession, something like this would happen. Professional interest is served by making what is easy to do seem hard; by subordinating the laity to the priesthood. School is too vital a jobs-project, contract giver and protector of the social order to allow itself to be 're-formed.'

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:55 PM | Permalink

There's no place to go but up

There is a trough in middle age that is truly depressing as everyone who has lived it can tell you but reports a study in England.

Middle-age is truly depressing, study finds

In a remarkably regular way throughout the world people slide down a U-shaped level of happiness and mental health throughout their lives," Andrew Oswald at Britain's Warwick University, who co-led the study, said on Tuesday.

The researchers analyzed data on depression, anxiety levels and general mental health and well-being taken from some 2 million people in 80 countries.
"It happens to men and women, to single and married people, to rich and poor, and to those with and without children," Oswald said. "Nobody knows why we see this consistency."

I think it's because they are unhappy with all that they had to do because those were the rules, that's what their parents said to do, it's what they had to do for their children or their career.  Somewhere around 50, with all the intimations of mortality that brings, they begin to think for themselves,  about the unlived parts of themselves and about their legacy. 

In their fifties they begin to climb out of the trough and start to become themselves, the people they were meant to be and as they do so, they become happier each year.

The good news is that if people make it to aged 70 and are still physically fit, they are on average as happy and mentally healthy as a 20-year old.

There's no place to go but up .  In great relief, you begin to experience the pleasures of maturity.

As life goes on it becomes tiring to keep up the character you invented for yourself, and so you relapse into individuality and become more like yourself every day. This is sometimes disconcerting for those around you, but a great relief to the person concerned. -  Agatha Christie

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:54 PM | Permalink

Passionless and Apathetic

Today's single young men hang out in a hormonal limbo between adolescence and adulthood writes Kay Hymowitz in Child-Man in the Promised Land.

Not so long ago, the average mid-twentysomething had achieved most of adulthood’s milestones—high school degree, financial independence, marriage, and children. These days, he lingers—happily—in a new hybrid state of semi-hormonal adolescence and responsible self-reliance. Decades in unfolding, this limbo may not seem like news to many, but in fact it is to the early twenty-first century what adolescence was to the early twentieth: a momentous sociological development of profound economic and cultural import. Some call this new period “emerging adulthood,” others “extended adolescence”; David Brooks recently took a stab with the “Odyssey Years,” a “decade of wandering.”

But while we grapple with the name, it’s time to state what is now obvious to legions of frustrated young women: the limbo doesn’t bring out the best in young men.

That’s too bad. Men are “more unfinished as people,” Kunkel has neatly observed. Young men especially need a culture that can help them define worthy aspirations. Adults don’t emerge. They’re made.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:12 AM | Permalink

January 13, 2008

Regret Over Lost Futures

Benedict Carey's New Year's Day piece in the New York Times, Regret with a Dash of Bitters,  ruminates on the nature of lost possible selves, the person you might have been or could have been.

Surprisingly, or maybe not depending on how old you are, what people most regret is not what they did but what they didn't do.

In a series of studies, Laura A. King, a psychologist at the University of Missouri, has had people write down a description of their future as they imagined it before a life-altering event, like divorce. She has found that those who are able to talk or write about this lost future without sinking into despair or losing hope tend to have developed another quality, called complexity.

Complexity reflects an ability to incorporate various points of view into a recollection, to vividly describe the circumstances, context and other dimensions. It is the sort of trait that would probably get you killed instantly in a firefight; but in the mental war of attrition through middle age and after, its value only increases.
“To elaborate on loss, to look for some insight in it, is not just what a psychologically mature person does,” Dr. King said. “It’s how a person matures.

My favorite Swiss critic, Henri Frederik Amiel was unsuccessful and unnoticed during his life.  After he died, a friend published his Intimate Diary, Journal Intime, to great acclaim because of its "scrupulous self observation" such as

You desire to know the art of living, my friend? It is contained in one phrase: make use of suffering.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:33 PM | Permalink

January 2, 2008

Acting "As If " Works

"I pretended to be somebody I wanted to be and I finally became that person. Or he became me. Or we met at some point.” 
Archie Leach in Becoming Cary Grant

 Cary Grant

Acting as if you were brave works.

Acting as if you weren't shy works.

Acting as if you were kind works.
Acting as if you were happy works.
Acting as if you were loving works.
Acting as if you were your best self works.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:07 PM | Permalink

December 17, 2007

Spread the Gratitude

"Gratitude is the seedbed of joy," wrote Peter Kreeft.

If we practice more gratitude, we will all be happier.
Yet sometimes when we feel a sudden rush of gratitude, we do nothing  because it's awkward and we don't know quite what to do.

Say you're in an airport and you see a bunch of soldiers walking by.
You want to say thanks for your service, but you don't want to make a fool of yourself or of them.

The Gratitude Campaign has devised a simple gesture that says it all.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Put your hand on your heart, then move your hand down and out extending it towards the person you're thanking.

Watch the movie if you want, about a minute long.

Spread the gratitude.  Thank you.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:07 PM | Permalink

November 25, 2007

Home Libraries a Biopsy of Power and Success

They love their own libraries, read philosophy, history and fiction and when they need a great manager, the call goes out, "Get me poets".

CEO Libraries Reveal Keys to Success
If there is a C.E.O. canon, its rule is this: “Don’t follow your mentors, follow your mentors’ mentors,” suggests David Leach, chief executive of the American Medical Association’s accreditation division. Mr. Leach has stocked his cabin in the woods of North Carolina with the collected works of Aristotle.

Forget finding the business best-seller list in these libraries. “I try to vary my reading diet and ensure that I read more fiction than nonfiction,
Personal libraries have always been a biopsy of power. The empire-loving Elizabeth I surrounded herself with the Roman historians, many of whom she translated, and kept one book under lock and key in her bedroom, in a French translation she alone of her court could read: Machiavelli’s treatise on how to overthrow republics, “The Prince.” Churchill retreated to his library to heal his wounds after being voted out of power in 1945 — and after reading for six years came back to power.

The National Endowment of the Arts reports that reading is declining especially for young Americans and so are their test scores in data said to be "simple, consistent and alarming".

The number of books at home correlates with academic achievement which makes sense to me. 
students who lived in homes with more than 100 books but whose parents only completed high school scored higher on math tests than those students whose parents held college degrees (and were therefore likely to earn higher incomes) but who lived in homes with fewer than 10 books.

Home libraries are predictors of success.

     Books In Winter Jessie Wilcox Smith

Print by Jessie Wilcox-Smith

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:42 AM | Permalink

November 18, 2007

Old Love

Last week I wrote Life Imitates Art, this week there is a much finer piece in The Boston Globe about the situation facing Sandra Day O'Connor called A love supreme finds space in dementia.

So this, in the end, is what love is.

Former Supreme Court justice Sandra Day O'Connor's husband, suffering from Alzheimer's disease, has a romance with another woman, and the former justice is thrilled - even visits with the new couple while they hold hands on the porch swing - because it is a relief to see her husband of 55 years so content.

And despite the stereotypes, researchers who study emotions across the life span say that old love is in many ways more satisfying than young love - even as it is also more complex.
Researchers trying to understand aging and emotion performed brain scans on people across a range of ages, gauging their reactions to positive and negative scenes. Young people tended to respond to the negative scenes. Those in middle age took in a better balance of the positive. And older people responded only to the positive scenes.

"As people get older, they seem to naturally look at the world through positivity and be willing to accept things that when we're young we would find disturbing and vexing," said Dr. John Gabrieli, a professor of cognitive neuroscience at MIT and one of the researchers.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:34 AM | Permalink

November 15, 2007

Disaboom - Live Forward

"So I just ran over it with my wheelchair until she apologized"

I am quite impressed with Disaboom which I happened upon yesterday, a site that delivers on the promise of the Internet.

For anyone who is living with a disability, this is the place to find others like you, to learn from their experiences and find resources available to help like a career center as well as the "largest collection of accessibility reviews on everything from restaurants to travel hot spots".

For those who have been paralyzed by an accident, the videos showing adaptive sky diving and may be especially inspiring.

Founder Dr. J. Glen House knows whereof he speaks because he specializes in physical medicine and rehabilitation and is also a quadriplegic.  His mission
to create the first comprehensive, evolving source of information, insight, and personal engagement for the disability community.

Two of its core beliefs are close to my own.
Expertise comes in many forms. Often the best advice comes not just from medical experts but also from “peers” – others who’ve walked the path you’re on. That’s why in addition to providing solid medical expertise, we’ve also put together the largest online network of individuals to share their personal experiences with you, providing honest, practical answers to hard questions.

Knowledge is power – and so is community. Disaboom.com strives to provide you the tools and guidance you need to live active, engaged lives. But when it comes to sharing stories and personal insights, there’s nothing stronger than the power of community – which is why we’re connecting the millions touched by disability to both information and each other.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:21 AM | Permalink

November 1, 2007

"Unsuccessful Aging is Dying"

Ronni Bennett over at Time Goes By has posted a two-part interview with Dr. William Thomas, a young geriatrician and author of What are Old People For?

"What Are Old People For?: How Elders Will Save the World" (William H. Thomas)

Here is one excerpt.

We human beings live a long time after our reproductive peak. This is no accident. Our species took the necessity of aging and, from that, refined the virtues of elderhood. Elders are an integral, biologically determined element of the human cultural fabric and it is time they understood this role and begin to play their part.

And another on the two most important things he's learned from elders.

1. Wisdom lies in knowing what to overlook. 2. In the end, no one gets out alive and so, for the time we are here, it is all about relationships. Nothing else really matters.

Part One
Part Two

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:36 AM | Permalink

October 25, 2007

Defying zombiism, David Warren quit school at 16

David Warren quit school at 16 and hit the road.

In retrospect, it was the best personal decision I ever made, and I recommend it wholeheartedly to the young of today; at least, to those whose minds are not already imprisoned. Get out of that education “system” while you still can, and before it has made you into a spiritual corpse, mouthing politically-correct clichés along with all the other zombies. Get yourself a real education, in what you can find of the world, and see what you can accomplish without participating in the credentials racket. Make your “core relationship” with God, rather than with some Kafkaesque bureaucracy. Discover a vocation in which you can advance the cause of the good, the true, and the beautiful. And raise children -- in poverty, if necessary -- who will also defy the zombism of our post-modern age.

Education reform

UPDATE:  Gaghdad Bob points out that Joseph Campbell did the same thing. 

".... So I said to hell with it. I went up into the woods and spent five years reading.... It was from 1929 to 1934, five years. I went up to a little shack in Woodstock, New York, and just dug in. All I did was read, read, read, and take notes. It was during the Great Depression. I didn't have any money...."

Importantly, this wasn't just aimless reading, but what someone else once called the "mystery school of individuation." Perhaps you're familiar with the concept. You find one book that speaks directly to your soul, which tips you to another one that does the same. Pretty soon you're embarked on a wild nous chase, not for any "exterior" purpose, but for the purpose of trying to articulate the idiom of your own soul. The end result -- among other things -- is that 1) you know you have a soul, 2) you are aware that your soul is very specifically yours (i.e., it has its own language, so to speak), and 3) you don't want to do anything in life that would interfere with the intrinsic joy of living from your soul.

So did he.  Wandering, Wondering and Blundering into the Mystery

I can relate to Campbell's story, because in my case I quit college in my junior year (before they could expel me), and spent the next five or six years wandering, but not idly. Rather, it was a period of intense non-doodling, as if my soul were on fire and I was looking for water. By the time I entered graduate school in 1982, I was an utterly different person than I would have been had I spent all those years in the idiot factory. In short, I never would have become me. Whether it was luck or destiny, I cannot say.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:43 AM | Permalink

October 17, 2007

Lack of Sleep Makes Adolescents Stupider, Fatter and Gloomier.

Only 5% of high school seniors sleep 8 hours a night.  Half of adolescents get less than seven.

Snooze or Lose

Overstimulated, overscheduled kids are getting at least an hour’s less sleep than they need, a deficiency that, new research reveals, has the power to set their cognitive abilities back years.

Using newly developed technological and statistical tools, sleep scientists have recently been able to isolate and measure the impact of this single lost hour. Because children’s brains are a work-in-progress until the age of 21, and because much of that work is done while a child is asleep, this lost hour appears to have an exponential impact on children that it simply doesn’t have on adults.

Perhaps most fascinating, the emotional context of a memory affects where it gets processed. Negative stimuli get processed by the amygdala; positive or neutral memories get processed by the hippocampus. Sleep deprivation hits the hippocampus harder than the amygdala. The result is that sleep-deprived people fail to recall pleasant memories yet recall gloomy memories just fine.

It seems as though lack of sleep makes adolescents stupider,  fatter and gloomier.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:30 AM | Permalink

October 9, 2007

The Fluid Twenties

How to describe "life stages" today has been on my mind as I am - I hope to God - finally finishing my book, so I am quite intrigued by David Broooks' column on The Odyssey Years

There used to be four common life phases: childhood, adolescence, adulthood and old age. Now, there are at least six: childhood, adolescence, odyssey, adulthood, active retirement and old age. Of the new ones, the least understood is odyssey, the decade of wandering that frequently occurs between adolescence and adulthood.

...the spirit of fluidity that now characterizes this stage. Young people grow up in tightly structured childhoods, Wuthnow observes, but then graduate into a world characterized by uncertainty, diversity, searching and tinkering. Old success recipes don’t apply, new norms have not been established and everything seems to give way to a less permanent version of itself.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:41 AM | Permalink

October 5, 2007

Where are the Heroes?

The maxim "Bad money drives out good money", otherwise known as Gresham's Law, stands for the concept that when spending money, if both good money (higher in silver or gold content) and bad money (lesser in intrinsic value) are exchanged at the same price,  people will hand over the 'bad' coins rather than the 'good' ones, keeping the 'good' ones for themselves. 

The same thing is happening in our mainstream media where the 'bad' is driving out the 'good'.  Stories about celebrities - Lindsay, Britney, Angelina - drive out stories about real heroes.  When have you ever read about a story of a Congressional Medal of Honor winner?  The consequence is that people have fewer guides about how to lead a meaningful life, one of purpose, one that transcends ego and by so doing finds a place of belonging in society a and a way of making a difference in the world. 

Too many of us can't see the upside of growing older, the development of maturity through the unexpected trials of life, and the great satisfaction of  a life of meaning.  Too many try too long to be young and hip  and cool,  stuck in a perpetual adolescent mire.  They don't see a way out.

In the early days of the women's movement, there was much talk about the need for new role models so that young women could pattern their thinking and the behavior after older women who had struggled and succeeded in a man's world.  The Catholic Church employs the lives of the saints as role models for the faithful to show how different people in different times struggle to achieve  good and holy lives. 

Joseph Campbell found in the stories of heroes across all cultures, the archetypal myth which he called monomyth consisting of several stages.  Often called the hero's journey, the fundamental structure includes

  1. A call to adventure, which the hero has to accept or decline
  2. A road of trials, regarding which the hero succeeds or fails
  3. Achieving the goal or "boon," which often results in important self-knowledge
  4. A return to the ordinary world, again as to which the hero can succeed or fail
  5. Applying the boon, in which what the hero has gained can be used to improve the world

Robert Kaplan examines why the media is reluctant to understand Modern Heroes , preferring instead to see them as victims and feeling sorry for them.

Every journalist has a different network of military contacts. Mine come at me with the following theme: We want to be admired for our technical proficiency--for what we do, not for what we suffer. We are not victims. We are privileged.
An army at war and a nation at the mall do not encounter each other except through the refractive medium of news and entertainment.

That medium is refractive because while the U.S. still has a national military, it no longer has a national media to quite the same extent. The media is increasingly representative of an international society, whose loyalty to a particular territory is more and more diluted. That international society has ideas to defend--ideas of universal justice--but little actual ground. And without ground to defend, it has little need of heroes. Thus, future news cycles will also be dominated by victims.

Barbara Nicolosi, a scriptwriter in Hollywood, has posted notes of her talk on heroes in storytelling and in society.  Heroes in Storytelling

She asks what does a kid (and by extension,  a society) look like who has heroes.  Idealistic, hopeful, imitative, open, eager to please, reverent, grateful

And what does a kid look like without heroes.  Cynical, haughty, suspicious, jaded, irreverent, entitled, self-absorbed.

To a child, she writes, a hero provides a teaching example of a life worth living.

To an adult, heroes

should engage us in a holy rivalry; to shame us into being more generous and tireless in doing good. Mother Teresa shamed me into facing what a schlep I am. In some ways, because she could pick a maggot ridden poor person out of a gutter, I was able to be kinder to the annoying guy in the next office.

To boomers she says

Try and make the last years of your lives heroic. Just heard the other day from one of my students how her 53 year old father just walked out on the family – two teens at home and an eight year old – and moved in with his 26 year old receptionist. He told his daughter he was bored and feeling unfulfilled. Enough of this nonsense! We don’t want to hear about your need to be having fun anymore! We need you to be brave as you face your elderly years – you will be wrinkled and sickly and forgetful – and your heroism will be to be uncomplaining, and wise and solicitous and serene for the rest of us!

There's much more including this  wonderful quote,  One must think like a hero to behave like a merely decent human being." May Sarton

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:17 PM | Permalink

September 12, 2007

Must Have Man Skills

Via Instapundit comes the list of 25 Skills Every Man Should Know.

1. Patch a radiator hose
2. Protect your computer
3. Rescue a boater who as capsized
4. Frame a wall
5. Retouch digital photos
6. Back up a trailer
7. Build a campfire
8. Fix a dead outlet
9. Navigate with a map and compass
10. Use a torque wrench
11. Sharpen a knife
12. Perform CPR
13. Fillet a fish
14. Maneuver a car out of a skid
15. Get a car unstuck
16. Back up data
17. Paint a room
18. Mix concrete
19. Clean a bolt-action rifle
20. Change oil and filter
21. Hook up an HDTV
22. Bleed brakes
23. Paddle a canoe
24. Fix a bike flat
25. Extend your wireless network

I can do about half of them which is why I guess I need a man.  I'd be interested in what else a man should know how to do.

The list is put out by Popular Mechanics, clearly geared to guys.  I wonder what magazine would put out a similar list for gals that women would seriously pay attention to.  Oprah's my first guess.  I

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:29 PM | Permalink

July 26, 2007

Unexpected Blessings in Cancer

Tony Snow found unexpected blessings in cancer.

Those who have been stricken enjoy the special privilege of being able to fight with their might, main, and faith to live—fully, richly, exuberantly—no matter how their days may be numbered 
The mere thought of death somehow makes every blessing vivid, every happiness more luminous and intense.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:35 AM | Permalink

July 5, 2007

Free loaders

I find this very disturbing, another example of a fraying social contract among citizens.

Around 1 in 6 Americans Do Not Pay Their Taxes.

This is evading taxes, not paying your fair share, not carrying your load.  And every single one of those evaders will have an excuse as to why the law does not apply to them.

It's simple.  Pay no more than what you owe.  Even be aggressive in taking tax deductions,
but pay your taxes.   

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:52 PM | Permalink

May 7, 2007

All About Wisdom

"..whenever I had a problem, I went to something wholesome to solve it."

One of the “wholesome” things that helped, he said, was bowling.

That's about as good an explanation of dealing with problems as I have ever heard.

 Bird In Hand Victor Schrager

The Older-and-Wiser Hypothesis
in the New York Times Sunday magazine.

The popular image of the Wise Man usually does not include a guy in a bowling shirt, but several qualities have emerged again and again in older people like J. who score high on Ardelt’s wisdom scale. They learn from previous negative experiences. They are able to step outside themselves and assess a troubling situation with calm reflection. They recast a crisis as a problem to be addressed, a puzzle to be solved. They take action in situations they can control and accept the inability to do so when matters are outside their control.

so how do academics define wisdom now that they have begun studying it?  For one thing, you don't have to be smart or accomplished or even old, though most older people are more even-keeled and emotionally resilient.

Certain qualities associated with wisdom recur in the academic literature: a clear-eyed view of human nature and the human predicament; emotional resiliency and the ability to cope in the face of adversity; an openness to other possibilities; forgiveness; humility; and a knack for learning from lifetime experiences. And yet as psychologists have noted, there is a yin-yang to the idea that makes it difficult to pin down. Wisdom is founded upon knowledge, but part of the physics of wisdom is shaped by uncertainty. Action is important, but so is judicious inaction. Emotion is central to wisdom, yet detachment is essential.

Vivian Clayton whose research has made many breakthroughs in understanding, first analyzed the Hebrew bible
“What emerged from that analysis,” she says, “was that wisdom meant a lot of different things. But it was always associated with knowledge, frequently applied to human social situations, involved judgment and reflection and was almost always embedded in a component of compassion.” The essential importance of balance was embodied in the Hebrew word for wisdom, chochmah, which ancient peoples understood to evoke the combination of both heart and mind in reaching a decision.

Another researcher Birren boiled it down to the "Berlin Paradigm" and defined wisdom as
an expert knowledge system concerning the fundamental pragmatics of life.

Ardelt who's now doing research in Boston analyzing Harvard University graduates says
People who rated high in wisdom, she adds, were “very generous,” both financially and emotionally; among those who rated low in wisdom, “there was this occupation with the self.”

What is very clear is that old people with a more positive attitude towards old age lived seven and a half years longer.

They can regulate their emotions better, registering the negative, focusing on the positive.

It may be that the seeds of wisdom are planted early in life with exposure to adversity or failure, that one called a "stress inoculation" that enhances the person's ability to regulate emotions.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:16 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

March 23, 2007

Your Impact on Others

If you ever wonder about the impact of your actions on others, read Just Doing My Best.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:11 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

March 13, 2007

Good and Bad Procrastination

Good advice from Paul Graham

The most impressive people I know are all terrible procrastinators. So could it be that procrastination isn't always bad?...No matter what you work on, you're not working on everything else. So the question is not how to avoid procrastination, but how to procrastinate well.

There are three variants of procrastination, depending on what you do instead of working on something: you could work on (a) nothing, (b) something less important, or (c) something more important. That last type, I'd argue, is good procrastination.

I think the way to "solve" the problem of procrastination is to let delight pull you instead of making a to-do list push you. Work on an ambitious project you really enjoy, and sail as close to the wind as you can, and you'll leave the right things undone.

Good and Bad Procrastination

Update.  I forgot to give a hat tip to Armed Liberal for the link.  And to add this a propos quote from Carolyn Myss.

You cannot change anything in your life with intention alone, which can become a watered-down, occasional hope that you'll get to tomorrow. Intention without action is useless.

It looks as if the "good" procrastinators found a way to make their most important stuff, urgent.

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February 14, 2007

Aimless Love

If you're single and alone this Valentine's Day, it's time for some Aimless Love.

This morning as I walked along the lakeshore,
I fell in love with a wren
and later in the day with a mouse
the cat had dropped under the dining room table.

In the shadows of an autumn evening,
I fell for a seamstress
still at her machine in the tailor’s window,
and later for a bowl of broth,
steam rising like smoke from a naval battle.

This is the best kind of love, I thought,
without recompense, without gifts,
or unkind words, without suspicion,
or silence on the telephone.

The love of the chestnut,
the jazz cap and one hand on the wheel.

No lust, no slam of the door –
the love of the miniature orange tree,
the clean white shirt, the hot evening shower,
the highway that cuts across Florida.

No waiting, no huffiness, or rancor –
just a twinge every now and then

for the wren who had built her nest
on a low branch overhanging the water
and for the dead mouse,
still dressed in its light brown suit.

But my heart is always propped up
in a field on its tripod,
ready for the next arrow.

After I carried the mouse by the tail
to a pile of leaves in the woods,
I found myself standing at the bathroom sink
gazing down affectionately at the soap,

so patient and soluble,
so at home in its pale green soap dish.
I could feel myself falling again
as I felt its turning in my wet hands
and caught the scent of lavender and stone.

- Billy Collins

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February 2, 2007

Change or Die

From Fast Company comes The Three Keys to Change, an excerpt from Alan Deutschman's new book  Change or Die

This isn't a another self-help book, but a serious explanation why people don't or can't change, why heart attack victims don't take their medicines or why prisoners once released commit crimes again and go back to prison.

Why is it so hard to change?

Facts don't seem to help.
Fear doesn't either.
Few can change and transform themselves on their own.

Alan writes the keys to change are relate, repeat and reframe.

The first key - Relate

You form a new, emotional relationship with a person or community that inspires and sustains hope....you need the influence of seemingly "unreasonable" people to restore your hope--to make you believe that you can change and expect that you will change.

The second key - Repeat

The new relationship helps you learn, practice, and master the new habits and skills that you'll need. It takes a lot of repetition over time before new patterns of behavior become automatic and seem natural--until you act the new way without even thinking about it. It helps tremendously to have a good teacher, coach, or mentor to give you guidance, encouragement, and direction along the way.

The third key - Reframe

The new relationship helps you learn new ways of thinking about your situation and your life. Ultimately, you look at the world in a way that would have been so foreign to you that it wouldn't have made any sense before you changed.

New hope, new skills, new thinking.

Robert Paterson calls it a revelatory book with the key to change to be found in the human heart.

Alan has reviewed the vast body of literature on what works in therapy to help people confront and then move through their belief barriers to a better life. There seems to be many different approaches that work. One on one. Groups etc. But the one thing that the successful paths had in common was a person who truly, sincerely believed in the capability of the other to make the change. This open hearted person often knew this before the subject did. The magic that crossed over was that truth of the feeling that this person loves me for whom I am now in all my misery. He loves me for me now not for what I should be. He sees in me the person that I can and could be. He gives me the gift of hope.

I would add only that the change in the heart takes place only in relationship, be it another person like a football coach, a group like AA or God.  In that relationship you are not only loved for who you are,  you are given the support to become what you can be.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:45 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

February 1, 2007

On Saints and Resilience

Last week the Pope said the saints have not 'fallen from heaven'. 

"They are men like us, with complicated problems. Holiness does not consist in not making mistakes or never sinning," Benedict XVI continued. "Holiness grows with the capacity for conversion, repentance, willingness to begin again, and above all with the capacity for reconciliation and forgiveness.

Saints Weren't Perfect, Pope Says

Today in the Wall St Journal, Jeff Zaslow tells the stories of three people and the lessons they learned from the losses they've endured.

Former Army Staff Sgt. Robbie Doughty lost his legs to a roadside bomb in Iraq. Thomas Sullivan lost 96 colleagues in the Sept. 11 attacks. Laurie Johnson lost her husband and young son in a small plane crash that left her seriously injured.

And yet today, all three of them remain positive about life. They even seem upbeat.

Mr. Doughty, 32, will host a grand opening today of his new Little Caesars pizza franchise in Paducah, Ky. Since his 2004 injury, "I've done so many things, even skiing," he says. "If there's something I can't do, there's always a way to work around it."

Plane-crash survivor Laurie Johnson sells stylish crutches.
Mr. Sullivan, 35, is now an Army Reserve captain in Iraq. In 2001, as a Fiduciary Trust employee, he worked on the 95th floor of the World Trade Center's South Tower, and escaped minutes before it collapsed. Yes, he feels survivor's guilt, but serving as a wartime officer helps to ease that.

Ms. Johnson, 46, is now an entrepreneur. That 2002 plane crash left her on crutches for two years. Since then, she has created LemonAid Crutches, which sells "designer crutches" with comfortable fabrics. It was her way of "turning lemons into lemonade," she says.

Are there lessons for us in these people's experiences? Researchers say yes, because the root of resilience is an ability to keep adversities in perspective, while making peace with things that can't be changed.

Being creative with what life deals you is key.

Dr. Zausner says that her own greatest achievements came after surviving ovarian cancer. "We don't know how strong we are until we have the occasion to find out. Our strengths are like icebergs, mostly hidden." Her new book, "When Walls Become Doorways," details her research into artists "who turned setbacks into launching pads."

Key too is  pressing on, helping others and finding purpose.

Sounds something like saints-in-the-making doesn't it.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:15 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

January 30, 2007

Post post-modern women - Courtesans?

Is a courtesan, not a prostitute,  but a courtesan the ideal archetype for a truly modern woman?

Robert Paterson and his sister Diana will be exploring the lifestyle of courtesans in a short series on Trusted Space that looks very interesting.

Here's a taste.

Looks are transient.  A beautiful woman becomes a faded beauty, something sad to behold.

A clever, witty and kind woman ages without her age being noticed, and she, has maturity, and good sense and  a great deal to offer younger women and she knows well her time has passed and she loves nothing more than to pass on her experience to a
younger intelligent woman she respects.

Age is no obstacle for her.  She has no need of plastic surgery because she takes on her new role as grand dame with great relief.

She has had many men and many experiences, and she is happy to live with her memories and move forward with her personal interests.  She does not need to diet because she is now fulfilled by things that feed her mind. Her pleasure of the body has been replaced by the utter pleasure of all things interesting to her. 

She sleeps alone and comfortably.  She leaves the fretting of love and not love to younger women.  She has no more of those thoughts to cloud her mind and take away her sleep.  She is comfortable with herself.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:16 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

January 26, 2007

Movie for the Homeless

One movie isn't going to change their lives, but it will give some of them hope and hope belongs to everyone.

Homeless Brought to See "Happyness."

About 100 homeless people were guests of the mayor's office Thursday for a screening of "The Pursuit of Happyness," the real-life story of a homeless man who worked his way to becoming a millionaire.
When Gardner, who gets evicted along with his young son, is finally offered the stockbroker job he painfully strove for, the audience burst into applause and wiped away tears.

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January 15, 2007

Free Love Boomer Recants

Blogging as the Dawn Patrol,  Dawn Eden, author of The Thrill of the Chaste, writes in the London Sunday Times,  Casual Sex is a con: women just aren't like men.

Whatever Greer and her ilk might say I’ve tried their philosophy — that a woman can shag like a man — and it doesn’t work. We’re not built like that. Women are built for bonding. We are vessels and we seek to be filled. For that reason, however much we try and convince ourselves that it isn’t so, sex will always leave us feeling empty unless we are certain that we are loved, that the act is part of a bigger picture that we are loved for our whole selves not just our bodies.

It took me a long time to realise this.
It left me with a brittle facade incapable of real intimacy.

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January 2, 2007

For the New You in the New Year

 Under New Management Tatoo

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December 20, 2006

A Boomer Reflects

I'm a big fan of Pat Conroy, having read all his books,  The Prince of Tides, The Great Santini, The  Lords of Discipline, and Beach Music.

My respect for me has grown even more since I read An Honest Confession by an American Coward.

In the darkness of the sleeping Kroboth household, lying in the third-floor guest bedroom, I began to assess my role as a citizen in the '60s, when my country called my name and I shot her the bird.
I have come to a conclusion about my country that I knew then in my bones but lacked the courage to act on: America is good enough to die for even when she is wrong.
After hearing Al Kroboth's story of his walk across Vietnam and his brutal imprisonment in the North, I found myself passing harrowing, remorseless judgment on myself. I had not turned out to be the man I had once envisioned myself to be.

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December 7, 2006

Rain, Pryor's Daughter

"He was misogynistic, mercurial, unpredictable and violent. But he was also my daddy, and sometimes, when he held me close, I looked into his big sad eyes and I knew he loved me. And that's the part I want to remember."

Richard Pryor, the comedian married seven times to five different women and had six, maybe seven children.

the money went to the hookers hanging out at his house -- "Daddy, the whores need to be paid"-- and not to paying child support to his many ex-wives raising kids far from the Hollywood Hills. So hers was a childhood of abundance and of lack, of private jets and welfare checks, of elaborate vacations in Hawaii and a gig selling hot dogs on the beach when she was 13.

Time to Laugh, Time to Cry

What's so interesting about this piece is how well daughter Rain is doing.  Good for her.

Somehow, over the years, she managed to shake off the craziness and the pain, to integrate her dual identities -- finding an outlet and mining a few laughs from it all in her new memoir, "Jokes My Father Never Taught Me: Life, Love, and Loss With Richard Pryor."

"You're either going to go down the path of self-destructiveness," Pryor says today, chic in black high-heeled boots and a cape, her riotous ringlets flatironed into submission, "or you're not. . . . Success is the best revenge; it's the ultimate ha-ha. Statistically, I should be strung out . . . but you won't see me in a hospital anytime soon."

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November 27, 2006

Happiness, It's not Rocket Science

It was too simple to be effective.

That's what Harvard graduate, motivational speaker and executive coach Caroline Adams Miller thought about thinking of three good things that happened during the day.

But she did the homework assignment and found

"The quality of my dreams has changed, I never have trouble falling asleep and I do feel happier,"

she said in Researchers Seek Routes to Happier Life.

Seems like a lot of those exercises suggested by Martin Seligman at the University of Pennsylvania work like

* think of three good things that happened during the day
* find your personal strengths and apply one or more of them in a different way every day for a week. (You can take the test and find your strengths at authentic happiness.)
* savor the pleasing things in your life - the first cup of coffee, a hot shower
* practice random acts of kindness for 10 weeks
* write down what you want to be remembered for.  (This suggestion falls into my idea of your Personal Legacy Archives and keep your life aligned with your legacy)

For a full understanding of Seligman's work and his own journey nothing beats  Eudeamonia, The Good Life by Martin Seligman, published in Edge.

About 25 years ago I began to ask the question, who never gets helpless? That is, who resists collapsing? And the reverse question is, who becomes helpless at the drop of a hat? I got interested in optimism because I found out that the people who didn't become helpless were people who when they encountered events in which nothing they did mattered, thought about those events as being temporary, controllable, local, and not their fault; whereas people who collapsed in a heap immediately upon becoming helpless were people who saw the bad event as being permanent, uncontrollable, pervasive, and their fault. 25 years ago I started working on optimism versus pessimism, and I found that optimistic people got depressed at half the rate of pessimistic people, that optimistic people succeeded better in all professions that we measured except one, that optimistic people had better, feistier, immune systems, and probably lived longer than pessimistic people. We also created interventions that reliably changed pessimists into optimists.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:35 PM | Permalink

November 2, 2006

Essayist for Our Times

There aren't many general essayists anymore, though some bloggers come close.  There's an art in writing about complex ideas in an engaging fashion.

The News Hour features two essayists, Anne Taylor Fleming and Richard Rodriguez.  Unfamiliar to most Americans is the Canadian David Warren who writes Essays on Our Times.

Here he is  on Regeneration.

The question is, how do we find our way out of the wilderness that has grown in the heart of man? How does a society, a whole civilization, that is on the skids and bound for destruction, arrest its slide? I pose this today in the broadest possible way, because I think it is the one, common, practical, and even political question that should remain near the front of all minds capable of charity and goodwill.

The obvious answer, to those who realize that our civilization was built not only by human hands, but under the guidance of Church and religion, is to counsel a re-centring, a return to God. But for those who have moved and been moved so far away, that the very idea of God chills them, what paths lie open?

I think there are quite a few, and that all have in common this mysterious element of joy. I think art, broadly, offers many alternative means to the kind of regeneration -- moral, and ethical, as well as aesthetic -- that can help us out of our enclosed spaces. Learning to draw, from nature; to sing, in key; to dance, in pattern; to write, metrically; even to sew, or to master carpenter’s joints -- all such enterprises offer the lost soul an individual direction out of the jungle.

The reason why, is that each is a discipline that restores us to harmony with the natural order of things. Each offers a way of seeing into God’s creation, and puts us in the presence of what is infinitely greater than ourselves.

To be able to draw a single flower, with full attention to all its colours and parts, is to be lifted out of one’s tawdry self into a realm where good, truth, and beauty still prevail. It is to recover joy.

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October 11, 2006

Kindness, the Secret of Success

Is Kindness the Secret of Success?

'There is a widespread belief that ruthless and self-centred people are the most successful when it comes to their careers. But being prepared to do anything to get ahead does not mean you will succeed in your ambitions,' says Stefan Einhorn, author of The Art Of Being Kind, to be published this week by Little, Brown. 'True success is not achieved by those who are smart or inconsiderate, by hard-baked egotists or psychopathic bosses,' says Einhorn, who is also chairman of the Ethics Council at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm.

'On the contrary, being kind to our fellow human beings is a precondition to becoming truly successful. Goodness and kindness are the single most important factors when it comes to how successful we will be in our lives.'

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September 13, 2006

Act as if

Sometimes the only way you can be brave is to act as if  you were brave.

We are better actors than we know.  By acting as if we were brave or kind or gentle or careful, we ease ourselves into being brave, kind, gentle and careful.

This commonsense application of a truism we all know is making its way into corporate management."The Art of Japanese Management: Applications for American Executives" (Richard Tanner Pascale, Anthony G. Athos)

From Richard Pascale's book Delivering Results:
"People are much more likely to act their way into a new way of thinking, than think their way into a new way of acting.

via O'Reilly Radar

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August 21, 2006

Get Over It

From an interview of Nora Ephron in the Wall St Journal (subscribers only I think)

I was just with someone complaining about his mother. He's 70 and his mother is dead. I sat there thinking, 'This is unbelievable.' He was complaining about things she did to him when he was a kid. There are also a lot of divorced people who five years later are still walking around angry when they should be grateful. They love being victims. You get to a certain point in life where if you were younger you'd say, 'Think about getting a shrink.' Then you get older and want to say, 'Pull up your socks. Get over it.'

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August 16, 2006

Maybe you're rotting on the vine

Exhausted are you? 

You know that the antidote to exhaustion is not necessarily rest?"

"The antidote to exhaustion is not necessarily rest," I repeated woodenly, as if I might exhaust myself completely before I reached the end of the sentence. "What is it, then?"

"The antidote to exhaustion is wholeheartedness."

It's David Whyte on meeting Brother David. A remarkable essay

You have ripened already, and you are waiting to be brought in. Your exhaustion is a form of inner fermentation. You are beginning, ever so slowly to rot on the vine.

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August 7, 2006

Gut Reactions

We instinctively know that how a question is "framed"  - think leading the witness or negative ads - can distort our decision-making.  Now scientists have brain images that confirm what we know in our guts.

Emotion rules the brain's decisions.

But Following Your Gut is  a good thing when it comes to life decisions and choices.

In Gut Reactions,, Jesse Prinz argues that emotions are embodied appraisals - they are perceptions of the body, but, through the body they also allow us to literally perceive danger, loss and other matters.

"Gut Reactions: A Perceptual Theory of Emotion (Philosophy of Mind)" (Jesse J. Prinz)

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July 12, 2006

Happiness Roundup

A fine and exhaustive piece on the positive psychology movement can be found in this week's New York magazine. Some Dark Thoughts on Happiness or do New Yorkers want to be happy.

Writer Jennifer Senior interviews a number of psychologists and researchers including Martin Seligman who kicked the whole positive psychology movement.

   Smiley Art

She reports on the number of colleges now offering courses in positive psychology after the immense appeal of the course offered at an instructor at Harvard, Tal Ben-Shahar. Naturally, when Harvard Teaches Happiness, a lot of people pay attention.

While I read Stumbling on Happiness by Harvard professor Daniel Gilbert, I never got around to posting anything on it. What follows in a nutshell is all you need to know about it, thanks to Jennifer Senior. Me, I preferred by far Jonathan Haidt's book, The Happiness Hypothesis.

And no matter where they live, human beings are terrible predictors of what will make them happy. If Stumbling on Happiness tells us anything, it’s this. “Imagination,” says Gilbert, “is the poor man’s wormhole.” Our imagination has an odd knack for Photoshopping things in and airbrushing things out, which is why we think that getting back together with our exes is a good idea; it also tends to mistake our present feelings for future ones, which is why, when we decide to marry the right person, we find it unthinkable we’ll ever be tempted to sleep with anyone else.

At the same time, we forget that our imagination has a miraculous ability to rationalize its way out of grim situations—which is why we’re more likely to take a positive view of things we did than things we didn’t (so go ahead and ask that woman to marry you), more comfortable with decisions we can’t reverse than ones we can, and more apt to make the best of a terrible situation than a merely annoying one.

Because our imaginations are limited, we can be disappointed by the things we covet most. But it also means—and this is the gorgeous part—that we’re much more likely to cope well with situations we never thought we’d be able to survive. Perhaps the most profound study Gilbert cites is about the disabled, showing that those who are permanently injured say they’d be willing to pay far less to undo their injuries than able-bodied people say they’d pay to prevent them. It’s possible, as Gilbert notes, that they may even find some silver lining in their experiences, as when the late Christopher Reeve memorably said, “I didn’t appreciate others nearly as much as I do now.”

I've posted a lot about The Science of Happiness because I believe we have a Moral Obligation to be Happy to make the world a better place.

Forget the Market for Zombies. We know that Angry/negative people are bad for your brain. We don't want to be Soul Less.

So Who's Happy? People who are Hungry for Meaning. People who want to swim in a River of Joy, choose the Uphill Climb, sing at the Church of the Divine Road Trip, and Go Straight to the Good in Everything. They want to Look to the Good Things, and Find What We Love.

Even if they're just An Ordinary Guy, they learn Lessons from a Billionaire and look at their Wealth in 3-D. They know When Just Enough Is All Your Need and what their First Business is and they look at Investing in their Net Worth as Human Beings.

They don't need a Quaker Powerpoint to know What Really Matters , that Meaning not gadgets brings happiness, so does embracing the Five Things We Cannot Change. They Love More, Have Less.

They can transform an horrific act by Teaching Kindness. They believe in Paying It Forward. They hope some day to experience a luminous Moment of Grace Above all, they know it's Empathy and the Golden Rule.

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July 9, 2006

Fear contracts, love expands

Another chilling essay that makes you think from Patti at 37days.

"Leaving's not the only way to go.... Either commit to the swim or go" Unpack your boxes.

The fear that makes us resist change because we think we will die of the pain that change will bring keeps us closed in a box created by our own minds.

Sometimes the pain is so great, the threat to the ego we have constructed so frightening, that the mind will jump to anything to distract itself. in a frenzy, the mind will turn to something that soothes, drugs, alcohol, sex, gambling, internet surfing, books, TV, anything to keep from feeling the pain. Or the mind shuts down, withdraws, turns off.

It's the edge, people fear. What's outside the box.

Sometimes all it takes to break through the box is to imagine in your mind's eye, the fear itself. Imagine constructing the box that holds your fear. What do the walls look like? The ceiling? When you've finished constructing the box, construct the door. Now imagine a beautiful landscape outside the box where you're completely secure and loved. Then open the door, walk out and be free.

As you practice accepting the fear, then walking through the door you've created to where you feel loved and secure, you will move from one mind state to another more easily.

Fear contracts, love expands.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:15 PM | Permalink

June 27, 2006

The Immaturity of Unfinished Minds

Discovery reports that immaturity levels are rising

Specifically, it seems a growing number of people are retaining the behaviors and attitudes associated with youth.

As a consequence, many older people simply never achieve mental adulthood, according to a leading expert on evolutionary psychiatry.

Among scientists, the phenomenon is called psychological neoteny.
The theory’s creator is Bruce Charlton, a professor in the School of Biology at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, England. He also serves as the editor-in-chief of Medical Hypotheses, which will feature a paper outlining his theory in an upcoming issue.

A “child-like flexibility of attitudes, behaviors and knowledge” is probably adaptive to the increased instability of the modern world, Charlton believes. Formal education now extends well past physical maturity, leaving students with minds that are, he said, “unfinished.”

"People such as academics, teachers, scientists and many other professionals are often strikingly immature outside of their strictly specialist competence in the sense of being unpredictable, unbalanced in priorities, and tending to overreact.”

Charlton added that since modern cultures now favor cognitive flexibility, “immature” people tend to thrive and succeed, and have set the tone not only for contemporary life, but also for the future, when it is possible our genes may even change as a result of the psychological shift.

The faults of youth are retained along with the virtues, he believes. These include short attention span, sensation and novelty-seeking, short cycles of arbitrary fashion and a sense of cultural shallowness.

David Brooks, a social commentator and an op-ed columnist at The New York Times, has documented a somewhat related phenomenon concerning the current blurring of “the bourgeois world of capitalism and the bohemian counterculture,” which Charlton believes is a version of psychological neoteny.

Brooks believes such individuals have lost the wisdom and maturity of their bourgeois predecessors due to more emphasis placed on expertise, flexibility and vitality.

By contrast, Jeremy highlights the characteristics of minds that are not only adult but are fully actualized.

Maslow has also identified a number of characteristics shared by self-actualizing people. According to Maslow, self-actualizers tend to, among other things: possess a more efficient view of reality and a corresponding tolerance of ambiguity; be accepting of themselves and others; demonstrate spontaneous behavior that is in tune with their own values and not necessarily tied to the common beliefs and practices of the culture; focus on problems that lie outside of themselves, thus demonstrating a highly ethical concern; maintain a few extremely close interpersonal relationships rather than seek out a large number of less intense friendships; and possess high levels of creativity."

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June 26, 2006

Three Graces

Since I posted Happy Dust, I've been pondering the meaning of charisma. According to the dictionary, charisma is defined as a personal attractiveness that enables you to influence others.

Now here's some etymology on the meaning of charisma via Jeff Kelley The root of charisma lies in the Greek, charis which means many things, among them, splendor, inner grace, charm, talent, gift, gratitude, innate giftedness, courtesy and beneficence.

In Greek mythology, the "Charites" were worshipped as goddesses protecting and promoting joy and happiness. We know them as the Three Graces

Aglala splendor
Euphrosyne - merriment and pleasant state of mind
Thalia - blooming life

I wish you all three.

Three Graces Botticelli

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The Brain is always giving birth unless stressed or depressed

It used to be the accepted scientific wisdom that we are born with all the brain cells we will ever have or need. Elizabeth Gould is the scientist who started a new field - neurogenesis - by proving that human brains continually create new brain cells.

Her research is explored in a well-written, accessible article in Seed magazine by Jonah Lehrer called The Reinvention of the Self.

The brain, Elizabeth Gould had now firmly established, is always giving birth. The self is continually reinventing itself.
Put a primate under stressful conditions, and its brain begins to starve. It stops creating new cells. The cells it already has retreat inwards. The mind is disfigured.

The social implications of this research are staggering. If boring environments, stressful noises, and the primate’s particular slot in the dominance hierarchy all shape the architecture of the brain—and Gould’s team has shown that they do—then the playing field isn’t level. Poverty and stress aren’t just an idea: they are an anatomy. Some brains never even have a chance.
Chronic stress, predictably enough, decreases neurogenesis. As Christian Mirescu, one of Gould’s post-docs, put it, “When a brain is worried, it’s just thinking about survival. It isn’t interested in investing in new cells for the future.”

On the other hand, enriched animal environments—enclosures that simulate the complexity of a natural habitat—lead to dramatic increases in both neurogenesis and the density of neuronal dendrites, the branches that connect one neuron to another. Complex surroundings create a complex brain.

I would never have stumbled across it had it not been for Ambivablog and her post Stress and Depression Make You Stupid.

But it isn't just drugs that can reverse the long-term brain-stunting effects of deprivation and stress. An enriched and stimulating environment can coax the brain to begin to flourish and recreate itself again. "On a cellular level, the scars of stress can literally be healed by learning new things."

(T.H. White, in The Once and Future King, wrote,
"The best thing for being sad is to learn something. That is the only thing that never fails.")

What exciting research.

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June 24, 2006

Soul less

What it's like to be without soul.

Richard Godwin at One Cosmos, one of my favorite blogs

Over the years, I have had the opportunity to conduct psychological evaluations of a number of people from formerly communist countries, mainly the USSR. Uniformly, what has been so striking about them is a certain palpable absence of soul, which was one of the most damaging consequences of communist totalitarianism. For the ban on religion also amounted to a ban on the deepest and most vital regions of Being itself. After a few generations of malign neglect, the damage becomes incalculable and sometimes irreversible in this life.

Admittedly, it’s a somewhat small sample--perhaps a dozen or so--but not only were these people not religious, but they were literally incapable of being so. ...
But it also left them very empty and devoid of meaning. There was a depression about them, but it had a rather different feel than a psychological or biochemical depression. It was actually a little spooky, as if they had been the victims of “body snatching.”... they were more like soulless machines. It also made them very comfort-seeking, very hedonistic--not in the grandiose and narcissistic American way, but in a petty way, as if life consisted solely in stealing whatever small pleasures were available.
Western Europe is getting to the point that it no longer comprehends religion, as is true of secular America (which is why they are so allied in their contempt for Americn values). If we do not reverse this trend, we’re going to lose something so critical to our psychic substance, and yet, not even know what hit us. Secular Americans are genuinely clueless in their ignorance of how much they benefit from the thoroughly Judeo-Christian milieu in which they were raised. Like those atheistic Soviets, they really don’t get it, and are largely incapable of doing so.

Via Ambivablog, comes Donald Beck, who writes at Experimentaltheology

It's not what you believe, but how you act in the world that counts,

For me, beliefs are like the tides, they ebb and flow. But how I treat my neighbor, how I practice my faith, should be constant and unchanging.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:57 AM | Permalink

June 20, 2006

Why Shame is useful

Mary Katherine Ham on Shame and when a good old-fashioned stigma can be useful.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:54 PM | Permalink

June 16, 2006

Hungry for Meaning

"Menace in Europe : Why the Continent's Crisis Is America's, Too" (Claire Berlinski)

As I was reading Berlinski's chilling and urgent book, I was struck by a passage about a British psychotherapist who specialized in psychosomatic illness. Apparently, he's treating many, especially women, who are on restrictive vegetarian diets and who suffer from depression anxiety and too many colds.

He believes that at the heart of the food fixation is religion. His patients, having rejected theism and Christianity, are embarking on a desperate quest to conquer the unacceptable prospect of disease, aging and personal extinction.

For ten years he was a Freudian until his own explorations into psychology, philosophy and literature convinced him that love, integrity, compassion and courage - values common to all religions - were more important than he realized.

The focus of his practice now is to impart these common religious values that, he believes, give life meaning. His clients don't even have a vocabulary for these ideas which he calls the true deliverers of the Good Life.

He has his clients to try them out for a week. Without fail, they come back and say, yes, being more honest with the spouses, children and parents did yield meaningful results. They felt more deeply anchored in themselves.

His patients don't come to him in a search for meaning, they come for anxiety or depression. When that's cleared up, he asks them,
"What do you want your life to stand for, what do you think you're here for?"

Almost without exception, they get fascinated by that and do another year with him.

"I love that stage of work."

Berlinski comments that given a choice between the British vegetarianism and high colonics, is it any wonder that so many disaffected are turning to Islam for meaning/

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:07 PM | Permalink

June 7, 2006

Love more, have less

The words millions of Americans want to be able to say

"I know exactly where everything is."

Into the Closet

Organizers and closet designers offer a predictable variety of theories to account for the growing infatuation, including the increase in home-makeover television programs, a hunger for a sense of control in a world that moves at warp speed and a desire to focus on the home in an era of war and natural disasters. They also cite benefits of serious closet organization that go beyond efficiency and order for their own sake, including the reduction of stress, the inspiration to take on more ambitious efforts at home- and self-improvement, and the elimination of a potential source of embarrassment.
Ms. Glovinsky said that a well-organized closet offers "a pocket of order," a place that, once redone, can have an antidepressant effect. "I've seen people's moods brighten as they get organized," she said.

"Doing this is a form of self-respect," said one Mr. Lupo who also remarked, "Love more, have less."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:13 PM | Permalink

June 4, 2006

When ordinary moments become holy

When faced with a diagnosis of terminal cancer, ordinary moments become holy.

So Harry Lehotsky writes in the Winnepeg Sun

Being told you only have a short time to live has a way of sharpening your senses and adjusting your priorities and perspectives on life.

Many of the most ordinary events and encounters in life are infused with fresh meaning and significance.

A sunny day. The smell of lilacs. A good day at work. Greetings, hugs, goodbyes. We take too many people and things for granted.

Time simultaneously speeds up and slows down. It's hard to explain. It's like you're aware of how quickly hours and days speed by. But you're more determined than ever to juice the most out of every minute.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:05 PM | Permalink

May 29, 2006

Happy Dust

"A quick snort of happy dust, a mood boost." That's what those on the receiving end of charisma get.

Intangible, but powerful, charisma is what everyone is looking to get at least a measure of.

The 'it' factor

Charisma, by its nature, is elusive and difficult to study, but most experts agree that it involves a combination of enthusiasm, extroversion and good listening skills.

More specifically, they suggest that charismatic individuals have more variance in the pitch of their speech — that is, their speech pattern goes up and down — they are more likely to smile and initiate physical contact and, consciously or unconsciously, they tend to mimic the body language of their listener.

But there's something else too. Charismatic people appear to tune in to other people to the exclusion of all else, leaving the recipients of all this glorious attention believing that there has been an emotional connection. As a result of the contact, the recipients feel special and consequently good about themselves.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:00 AM | Permalink

April 28, 2006

Why People Procrastinate

From Psychology Today

Procrastination is not just an issue of time management or laziness. It's about feeling paralyzed and guilty as you channel surf, knowing you should be cracking the books or reconfiguring your investment strategy. Why the gap between incentive and action? Psychologists now believe it is a combination of anxiety and false beliefs about productivity.

  • False beliefs
  • Fear of failure
  • Perfectionism
  • Self-Control
  • Punitive Parenting
  • Thrill-seeking
  • Task-related anxieties
  • Unclear expectations
  • Depression

What's your excuse?

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:52 AM | Permalink

April 25, 2006

No Original Rules

Remember that book I mentioned Unwritten Rules by Ray Swanson that included The Waiter Rule? Raytheon has given away some 250,000 copies of the booklet

Swanson, the CEO of Raytheon, admitted yesterday that at least 16 of the 33 aphorisms are remarkably similar to the rules compiled six decades ago by W.J. King, an engineering professor.

I regret that over the course of the years and in the process of compiling the 'Unwritten Rules,' any reference to Professor King's work was not properly credited," he said in a statement.

While embarrassing for Swanson, perhaps diluting his effectiveness as CEO, the experience also proves that human nature doesn't change.

To his credit, Swanson was forthright.

''This experience has taught me a valuable lesson -- new Rule #34," he said in his statement. ''Regarding the truisms of human behavior, there are no original rules."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:11 PM | Permalink

April 20, 2006

The Waiter Rule

CEOs say how you treat the waiter says a lot about your character.

12 out of 12 CEOs agree.

They acknowledge that CEOs live in a Lake Wobegon world where every dinner or lunch partner is above average in their deference. How others treat the CEO says nothing, they say. But how others treat the waiter is like a magical window into the soul.

Take a look at Swanson's Unwritten Rules in the sidebar.

32: A person who is nice to you but rude to the waiter, or to others, is not a nice person. (This rule never fails).

Swanson is Raytheon CEO Bill Swanson. Raytheon has given away 250,000 copies of the booklet with his unwritten rules of management.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:35 PM | Permalink

April 19, 2006

Why Angry/Negative People Are Bad for Your Brain

Kathy Sierra explains why in Angry/negative people can be bad for your brain. Read the whole thing

1. Our "mirror neurons" activate in the same way watching someone else do something as they do when we're doing it ourself -

Spend time with a nervous, anxious person and physiological monitoring would most likely show you mimicking the anxiety and nervousness, in ways that affect your brain and body in a concrete, measurable way. Find yourself in a room full of pissed off people and feel the smile slide right off your face. Listen to people complaining endlessly about work, and you'll find yourself starting to do the same.
Regarding the effect of mirror neurons and emotional contagion on personal performance, neurologist Richard Restak offers this advice:

"If you want to accomplish something that demands determination and endurance, try to surround yourself with people possessing these qualities. And try to limit the time you spend with people given to pessimism and expressions of futility. Unfortunately, negative emotions exert a more powerful effect in social situations than positive ones, thanks to the phenomena of emotional contagion."

2. Emotional Contagion

"When we are talking to someone who is depressed it may make us feel depressed, whereas if we talk to someone who is feeling self-confident and buoyant we are likely to feel good about ourselves. This phenomenon, known as emotional contagion, is identified here, and compelling evidence for its affect is offered from a variety of disciplines - social and developmental psychology, history, cross-cultural psychology, experimental psychology, and psychopathology."

3. Happy People. Happy people are not vacuous.

"Furthermore, studies suggest that certain people's ability to see life through rose-colored glasses links to a heightened left-sided brain function. A scrutiny of brain activity indicates that individuals with natural positive dispositions have trumped up activity in the left prefrontal cortex compared with their more negative counterparts. "

In other words, happy people are better able to think logically.

And apparently happier = healthier:
Happiness is not our only emotion, it is simply the outlook we have chosen to cultivate because it is usually the most effective, thoughtful, healthy, and productive.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:33 PM | Permalink

April 17, 2006

Judas and the Church of the Self

Gerard Van der Leun has crafted another marvelous essay on betrayal and Judas where everything is allowed in the Church of the Self.

This dark thrill of denigration has the immediate benefit of pleasingly confirming them in their own Church of Zero, and the secondary benefit of being much, much safer than, say, sticking it to Islam, a faith that enforces its demands for respect with bombs and beheadings, and whose central message to all cowards is "Don't mess with Muhammad." The sad fact of our modern era is that if you denigrate Islam, you often have to bag up body parts and hose down the sidewalk, but when you denigrate Christianity the most you need to clean up after yourself is a warm washcloth.

We've long permitted greater and greater levels of betrayal in our society. We've codified them as law, policy and custom as far as the wishes of the individual are concerned. It is no longer sophisticated or fashionable to speak of selfishness as betrayal. That word is so harsh when, after all, we are only speaking of "differing needs," aren't we. When the betrayal of others is glossed over with phrases such as "I needed to be me," or "I needed my space," or "I needed more money,"or "We were just on different paths," then the elevation of this disease of the soul from the betrayal of another into the larger realm of treason against all is only a question of degree.
Betrayal is a common catechism in the Church of the Self.

Judas: A Saint for Our Seasons

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:33 AM | Permalink

April 16, 2006

Tipping Point with Rudeness

What happens when you reach a tipping point with rudeness and you just don't want to put up with it anymore?

Well, if you want some civility get thee to New York City.

know I was surprised to learn New York Leads Politeness Trend? Get Outta Here.

Somehow a city whose residents have long been scorned for their churlish behavior is now being praised for adopting rules and laws that govern personal conduct, making New York an unlikely model for legislating courtesy and decorum.

"Most people just seem to ignore common sense and common courtesy so it does have to be legislated," she said. "To have this happen in New York is going to inspire a lot of other people. I cannot applaud it enough. My hands are tired from clapping."

• no cellphones in movies, theaters and concerts
• $50 fine if subway riders put their feet on a seat.
• owners responsible for cleaning up after vandals
• smoking ban in bars, restaurants and nightclubs
• new stiffer noise code
• penalties for sports fans who throw things on the field or spit at the players
• parents can be ejected from Little League games for "unsportsmanlike" conduct

Can't come fast enough for me. Otherwise we will see the rise of the Howling Mob where some children have no conception how to act.

The four teenaged punks who chased an NYU student into the path of an oncoming car looked and laughed as he lay on the street dying, a prosecutor revealed yesterday.
"They didn't call for an ambulance. They didn't call for help. Rather, they stood on the street corner and laughed," prosecutor Joel Seidemann said of the 13- and 15-year-olds who chased Broderick John Hehman into traffic.

Hehman, 20, died four days later from his massive head injuries.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:44 PM | Permalink

March 27, 2006

Their Fathers' Country

As boomers grow older, many find it imperative to learn more about their biological families in a search to find a greater sense of identity that might prove a clue to the question we all ask ourselves, "Why are we here?"

With the World War II generation passing over, the search has become more pressing.

Germany's War Children Scramble to Find Their GI Fathers.

"My earliest memory is of wondering, 'Who is my father?' " said Herbert Hack, 53, son of a young rural woman who fell hard for a good-looking GI. "I would beg my mother for answers, and she'd just say, 'Ssssh,' Until finally, when I turned 15, she told me: 'There was an American soldier. His name was Charles. One night we went dancing . . .' "
"I want so much to finally put a face to this mystery figure who has loomed over my family without ever being there," said Simone Mandl, 35, granddaughter of a GI and a married German woman. "He was an American soldier who had an affair with my grandmother while her husband was away at war. Their romance was tragic. Yet I believe she never stopped loving her American."

But some occupation offspring want more from their missing forebear - formal recognition of paternity, information about genetic disease, even a new identity in their father's image.
Best estimates are that 66,000 illegitimate children of GIs and German women were born in American-occupied zones from 1946 to 1956, according to historian Johannes Kleinschmidt, author of a book about US-German "fraternization" issues.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:19 PM | Permalink

The Market for Zombies

It may seem strange, but there's a resurgent market in Zombies, the walking dead.

Books, films and video games about zombies are speaking to the deep and pervasive fear many have.

Most zombie zealots seem to agree that the zombie renaissance has something to do with the anxieties of life after Sept. 11.

"People have apocalypse on the brain right now," Mr. Brooks said. "It's from terrorism, the war, natural disasters like Katrina." Several zombie aficionados said there was a zombielike quality to the spread of the bird flu.

If you need to brush up on zombie lore, a little background. Zombies have their origin in Caribbean voodoo; they are thought to be reanimated corpses, under the control of the witch who reanimated them.

In modern literature and films, zombies are typically mindless, slow-moving creatures (due to the stiffness of necrotic tissue, Mr. Brooks writes) with but one aim: to eat flesh. And they're not particular about whose flesh they eat.

Seems to me, there's enough walking dead out there. What we need are more people waking up and becoming more responsible for the world around us.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:01 PM | Permalink

March 24, 2006

Nature deficit disorder

I'm a nut on natural sounds.

Years ago, I started collecting sounds of nature on cassette tapes, later on CDs. I've found them wonderful accompaniments to focused work, meditation, even sleep. I find actual recordings are far superior to white noise or sound machines though the latter works too.

I have them on my computer, my iPod, on CDs, even on my Audubon clock. I thought with a different bird call for each hour, I would learn to identify them by their song alone. No such luck. Seems as though I can only tell the nine o'clock bird from the noon bird.

I believe that without sounds of nature around, at least part of the day, we lose contact with the natural world. Too much sound from radio, TV, computers and iPods, disconnects us from the living, breathing world outside of our own bodies.

Natural sounds emerge from the silence that descends when we turn machines off. In a sheltered space, be it house or office or apartment, with windows closed, silence still brings the hum of the refrigerator or computer. That's why I use recordings.

True well-being brings an expanded sense of being alive. You can't be expanded without a greater sense of self that includes connectedness with nature, her ocean waves, morning song birds, waterfalls, and crickets.

Nature deficit sends kids down a desolate path

Author Richard Louv says kids don't get outside enough and so their bond with nature is not developed and they are suffering as a result. Kids need nature to develop their senses of learning and creativity and wonder.

"Nature is directly connected to our health. It helps us feel better physically and psychologically. It helps us pay attention."

He wonders whether the increase in ADD is attributable in part to children's isolation and alienation from the natural world. His campaign, "No Child Left Inside," calls for less time wired up, more time outside. Any patch of grass, vacant lot, woods or fields will work for kids.

His book

"Last Child in the Woods : Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder" (Richard Louv)

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:48 PM | Permalink

March 15, 2006

Righteous Arabs and one Brave Woman

Neo-neocon has two remarkable posts exploring people who help others at great risk to themselves because their humanity demands it.

She calls it When Light Pierces the Darkness. They are the people you instinctively trust.

Moslem rescuers during the Holocaust

Another changed mind. Dr. Wafa Sultan

The following is the statement of hers that led me to believe that she shares the motivation of those Holocaust rescuers who declared that they simply could not do other than what they've done, whatever the personal consequences. Her decision was made some time ago, and now it's more important for that she speak out than to protect her life or even the lives of her relatives:

"I have no fear," she said. "I believe in my message. It is like a million-mile journey, and I believe I have walked the first and hardest 10 miles."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:12 PM | Permalink

March 10, 2006

Harvard Teaches Happiness

The most popular course at Harvard this semester, attracting 855 students, more than introductory Economics, is Positive Psychology, a course teaching happiness, how to have a fulfilling and flourishing life.

Said one junior
From what I've seen and experienced at Harvard, I think we could all use a little self-help like this."

The courses can change how you see yourself and your life, Lopez says. ''A lot of people are just not accustomed to asking, 'What do I have going for me?' and 'What did I do right today?' "

Marty Seligman, the University of Pennsylvania professor who is considered the father of positive psychology for his scholarship and efforts to promote it, said he saw a similar groundswell when he offered a course in 2003. He sees the student enthusiasm as reflecting the tremendous appeal of the positive psychology movement in society at large.

I wrote about Seligman earlier in The Science of Happiness and A River of Joy. It occurs to me as I read about this Harvard class that positive psychology is meeting a deep need that in earlier times was met by philosophy classes or mandatory daily chapel.

We used to take for granted that the goal of a liberal arts education was to learn how to live a deeper, fuller, more meaningful life. Today, philosophy and religion has become so encrusted and encumbered with political and cultural battles that few incoming students can penetrate their vital centers where both religion and philosophy contemplate how best to live one's life.

Positive Psychology, around less than 10 years, is still fresh and new though the lessons are age old.

Sound body, sound mind

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:01 PM | Permalink

February 28, 2006

Best story from Olympics

The best story I've read about the Winter Olympics is by Tom Wise in the Washington, Honorable Move Made in a Snap. One of the reasons the Olympics remains so compelling is that there are moments when a person's character is revealed before all the world.

Clarity can be found at the Games if you look hard, a clarity that can distill someone's character better than most life experiences. U.S. goalie Chanda Gunn, refusing to shake hands with the Swedish women's hockey team after the Americans' stunning semifinal loss. France's Pierre-Emmanuel Dalcin, raising his middle finger after he failed to complete the Super-G. A pair of Austrian Nordic skiers, bolting the Games after Italian authorities began a drug investigation.

But character also comes out at the Games in ways that touch and inspire. Joey Cheek, the U.S. speedskater who donated the $40,000 he earned for winning gold and silver medals to the children of Darfur. Zhang Dan, the Chinese pairs figure skater who slid violently to the boards after being dropped by her partner, but got up, finished in pain and captured the silver medal.

Yet Hakensmoen proved there is still an abundance of human majesty at the Olympics.

Hakensmoen is the mystery man below

Sara Renner was skiing the cross-country race of her life when she looked down at her pole and saw it had snapped.

She flailed and struggled uphill as the field passed her in seconds. And then something happened, maybe the most serendipitous, skin-tingling moment of the 20th Winter Games.

Another pole.

Out of nowhere.

Given to her by a person she would call "my mystery man.

The poor behavior on the part of some American athletes has the head of the USOC saying "significant" efforts will be made to improve deportment among US athletes.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:31 AM | Permalink

February 18, 2006

Who's Happy?

Lots of us are according to the latest Pew Study Are We Happy Yet

One third of us are very happy. Half of us are pretty happy. 15% are not too happy and 1% don't have a clue.

And it's been the same since they started keeping records, way back in 1972.

Much of the research into the field of happiness -- to say nothing of simple common sense - suggests that at the level of the individual, happiness is heavily influenced by life events (Did you get the big promotion? Have a fight with your boyfriend?) as well as by psychological traits (self-esteem, optimism, a sense of belonging, the capacity to love, etc.). The Pew survey did not look at life events or psychological characteristics. We only looked at happiness by demographic and behavioral traits. But through this admittedly limited prism, we found some fascinating correlations.

Several of them stand out: Married people are happier than unmarrieds. People who worship frequently are happier than those who don't. Republicans are happier than Democrats. Rich people are happier than poor people. Whites and Hispanics are happier than blacks. Sunbelt residents are happier than those who live in the rest of the country.

We also found some interesting non-correlations. People who have children are no happier than those who don't, after controlling for marital status. Retirees are no happier than workers. Pet owners are no happier than those without pets

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:30 PM | Permalink

February 17, 2006

Follow your gut

You know how experts say you should weigh all the pros and cons before any major decision?

I tried once or twice, but it always seemed false and forced. I usually opt for the easier, more natural gut decisions.

Turns out, that's a smarter thing to do.

A study today published in Science says "Follow your gut.

However, as the decisions become complex (more expensive items with many characteristics, such as cars), better decisions and happier ones come from not attending to the choices but allowing one's unconscious to sift through the many permutations for the optimal combination.

The Boston Globe reports

In a series of studies with shoppers and students, researchers found that people who face a decision with many considerations, such as what house to buy, often do not choose wisely if they spend a lot of time consciously weighing the pros and cons. Instead, the scientists conclude, the best strategy is to gather all of the relevant information -- such as the price, the number of bathrooms, the age of the roof -- and then put the decision out of mind for a while.

Then, when the time comes to decide, go with what feels right. ''It is much better to follow your gut," said Ap Dijksterhuis, a professor of psychology at the University of Amsterdam, who led the research.

For relatively simple decisions, he said, it is better to use the rational approach. But the conscious mind can consider only a few facts at a time. And so with complex decisions, he said, the unconscious appears to do a better job of weighing the factors and arriving at a sound conclusion.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:18 PM | Permalink

February 16, 2006

Church of the Divine Road Trip

Three "existentially challenged Pepperdine University grads" traveled the country in a 1985 neon-green Fleetwood RV and interviewed 86 successful leaders in a variety of professions.

Every one essentially gave them the same career advice.

Block out the noise and
really pave your own road
guided by what lights you up

What's so surprising as they talked to twenty something college students, is that no one else, neither parents nor teachers, ever told them the gospel truth to follow your heart and lines of desire.

Countless emails arrive daily. "I sometimes [wonder] what would have become of my life had I never found your book that day in Target," reads one note from a recent grad who ditched her indifferent plans for law school and moved overseas. "Thank you . . . for writing about an experience in our lives most young people are too frightened to acknowledge."

Read Inspiration Junkies at Fast Company.

Seems like there's a big market in simple truths

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:35 AM | Permalink

Woman Interrupted

Why Donna Trussell is a writer and not a cancer survivor.

On the anniversary of my diagnosis, I followed the lead of another group member—I sent my oncologist a gift with a card that read, "Do you remember what you were doing three years ago today? I do. You were saving my life."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:11 AM | Permalink

February 11, 2006

Lawyer's Shame

Lawyer jailed for killing wife tells of shame and remorse

A lawyer who stabbed his wife to death five days after she told him she was having an affair made an emotional courtroom apology yesterday for what he described as "this appalling tragedy''.

She told her husband of the relationship on March 11. That evening she sent Mr Flint two text messages. One read in part: "It's done. All calm and reasonable.''

Five days later Mrs Lumsden and Mr Flint had dinner in Plumley, then drove back to Bowdon separately, believing they were starting a new life together.

Minutes later she was lying dead on her bedroom floor.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:34 AM | Permalink

February 6, 2006

Give What You Want to Keep

Hearty congratulations to 37 days which has just won the most inspirational blog award from The Best of Blogs. and deservedly so.

To see why, read her latest post Open your hand.

“To receive everything, one must open one's hands and give.” –Taisen Deshimaru

There are people in life who hold their hand open, and there are those whose hands are shut. Which am I, I wonder? Which are you? What does it take to have a generous nature, to hold your hand open, to live a life in which you give when you don’t have, when you give rather than hold? What is a sacrifice and a true gift—when you have the money or time to give, or when you don’t?

With each post, she challenges us to Do it Now

Give the Buddha
, where the Buddha is not only what you have, but what you are.
Carve the chop. Extend yourself for someone else. Give what you want to keep.
[Don’t rely too much on words.]
Open your hand.

I've talked in the past about the importance of making life lessons open source. Patricia Digh has done that with the stories from her life, sharing with us what she's learned, what she's thought and challenging us to aim higher and live deeper. in prose that makes me flat out jealous, Patti invites us all to live today as if we only had 37 days left of our "wild and precious life".

Why 37 days?

UPDATE: Seems to me we spend a good deal of the first part of our lives getting. What makes the second half of our lives successful is how much we give. That, of course, is our legacy

"What we do for ourselves dies with us. What we do for others and for the world remains and is immortal"

Albert Pine, English author who died in 1851

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:35 PM | Permalink

February 2, 2006

Go Straight to the Good in Everything

One of my favorite books that I always keep close is

"The Art of Worldly Wisdom" (Baltasar Gracian)

I have a couple of different versions but I prefer the translation by Christopher Maurer. Written by a Spanish Jesuit in the 17th century, it is the only book with blurbs on the back cover by Frederich Nietzsche who said, "Europe has never produced anything finer or more complicated in matters of moral subtlety" and Arthur Schopenhauer who said, "Absolutely unique...a book made for constant use...a companion for life. [These maxim are] especially fitted to those who wish to prosper in the great world."

A propos to Groundhog Day, Same Stuff, Different Day, Gracian's maxim #140 is Go straight to the good in everything.

It is the happy lot of those with good taste. The bee goes straight for the sweetness, and the viper for the bitterness it needs for its poison. So with tastes: some go for the best, others for the worst. There is nothing that doesn't have some good, especially books, where good is imagined. Some people's temperaments are so unfortunate that among a thousand perfections they will find a single defect and censure it and blow it all out of proportion. They are the garbage collectors of the will and the intellect, burdened down with blemishes and defects: punishment for their poor discernment rather than proof of their subtlety. They are unhappy, for they batten on bitterness and graze on imperfections. Others have a happier sort of taste: among a thousand defects they discover some perfection that good luck happened to drop.

One exercise that Esther and Jerry Hicks suggest in Ask and It Is Given as a way of going straight to the good is a "Rampage of Appreciation."

It's really a game of noticing something that pleases you. The more you focus on it, the more you appreciate it, the more you will find other things that you appreciate, the better you feel. The better you feel, the more you want to do it. The more you do it, the better you feel. The better you feel, the more you do it. That's going straight to the good in everything. That's what the world weary, cynical and arrogant weatherman learned in Groundhog Day.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:01 PM | Permalink

Same stuff, different day

If you've been there, done that, if every day is the same stuff, different day, you owe it to yourself to watch Groundhog Day again or, if you're completely out of the loop, for the first time.

The tagline "He's having the worst day of his life...over, and over...

Why do so many people think this is one of the best movies in recent years, "timeless, uplifting, enjoyable and morally serious."

Why do religious teachers - Catholic, Jewish, Buddhist, Wiccans and Evangelicals - hail Groundhog Day as a triumph? Jonah Goldberg explores in A Movie for All Time.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:11 PM | Permalink

January 20, 2006


Sounds as if a lot of our college students are not even remotely prepared for the Business of Life.

More than 50 percent of students at four-year schools and more than 75 percent at two-year colleges lacked the skills to perform complex literacy tasks.
That means they could not interpret a table about exercise and blood pressure, understand the arguments of newspaper editorials, compare credit card offers with different interest rates and annual fees or summarize results of a survey about parental involvement in school.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:28 PM | Permalink

January 15, 2006

Meditation, the Secret Weapon

The best way to exercise those parts of the brain involved in paying attention and concentration is to practice meditation.

Meditation not only reduces stress, it increases attention span, sharpens focus and improves memory.

From Time's Getting Smarter, One Breath at a time

One recent study found evidence that the daily practice of meditation thickened the parts of the brain's cerebral cortex responsible for decision making, attention and memory.

Even better, it improves emotional intelligence.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:23 PM | Permalink

Bathtub, bed and bus

So how do you become more creative? It's working hard at what you love.

From Time's Hidden Secrets of the Creative Mind.

Take risks, and expect to make lots of mistakes, because creativity is a numbers game. Work hard, and take frequent breaks, but stay with it over time. Do what you love, because creative breakthroughs take years of hard work. Develop a network of colleagues, and schedule time for freewheeling, unstructured discussions. Most of all, forget those romantic myths that creativity is all about being artsy and gifted and not about hard work. They discourage us because we're waiting for that one full-blown moment of inspiration. And while we're waiting, we may never start working on what we might someday create.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:22 PM | Permalink

January 3, 2006

A River of Joy

If you could make only one New Year's resolution, improving your attitude towards everything is the best one you can make. The rewards are immediate and the benefits long-lasting. So don't worry, be happy.

Happiness is an upward spiral.

A sunny outlook trumps physical health in keeping folks independent. Attitude is everything in old age.

A review of more than 225 epidemiological, longitudinal and experimental studies of more than 275,000 people suggest that happiness is its own reward. Success and achievement are encouraged by happiness. The Sweet Smell of...Happiness?

Happy people feel more confident, optimistic, energetic and sexier. Happy people are more sociable, have more satisfying marriages, do better in their jobs, are healthier and live longer.

Some people are born genetically equipped to be happier, but everyone can learn how to be happier. Is that good news or what.

That is the great and last legacy of Dr. Martin Seligman who founded positive psychology.

Of course, that's what the great wisdom teachers from Buddha to Jesus tell us too. Don't worry. Be happy.

Live your life from your deepest part and you will be happy. As Rumi said, "When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy."

Improving your attitude towards life is the key to finding that river of joy.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:00 PM | Permalink

December 4, 2005

Where Have the Men Gone?

Only 43% of college students are men. This is a very troubling trend for society. Why aren't more of us concerned about how poor our school system is for millions of boys. They are struggling and need help. They are our sons, our brothers and will be husbands and fathers. It's time for a Movement for Boys so they can be their very best.

Michael Gurian writes more in the Washington Post: Disappearing Act
Where Have the Men Gone? No Place Good

We all need to rethink things. We need to stop blaming, suspecting and overly medicating our boys, as if we can change this guy into the learner we want. When we decide -- as we did with our daughters -- that there isn't anything inherently wrong with our sons, when we look closely at the system that boys learn in, we will discover these boys again, for all that they are. And maybe we'll see more of them in college again.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:53 PM | Permalink

December 1, 2005

Paying It Forward

This wonderful story comes from Pittsburgh, No longer strangers.

A few months ago, Suzanne Weiner and Heather Bonime didn't know each other. Now, says Weiner, "I think we'll be friends forever."

Their paths crossed unexpectedly after Weiner, grateful for community help in rebuilding her family's flood-ravaged grocery store, decided to give back -- and she gave to Bonime the gift of life.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:29 PM | Permalink

November 23, 2005

Looking to Good Things

Just published is Peggy Noonan's new book on John Paul the Great: Remembering a Spiritual Father. Her column today in Opinion Journal veers between the state of chatter today where the sheer volume of insult, name calling and rudeness has become a large negative blur that saps our energy and .looking at good things and good people whose well-lived lives can revive and refresh us.

Because those who have added to life, who have inspired us and pointed to a better way, should be lauded and learned from. I think the inspiration to be gotten from a life well lived--spectacularly lived--is more important than ever these days. It's important that we dwell on the good and, just as important, maybe more so, try to understand it. This makes us stronger rather than sapping us, as so much of the ebb and flow of news and argument tends to do. We need to be looking to good things.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:25 PM | Permalink

November 22, 2005

Is there a moral obligation to be happy?

Is there a moral obligation to be happy? I never thought about it in those terms until I came across this today via Tom McMahon.

From Denis Prager

It only takes a moment's thought to realize that while most unhappy people don't engage in evil, most evil is done by unhappy people. This is true on both the macro and the micro levels. We all know how much more likely we are to lash out at others when we are unhappy and how much we desire to make others feel good when we feel happy.

Given this association of evil with unhappy people, it is quite remarkable how little attention is paid to happiness as a moral, rather than only a personal psychological issue. Too often the pursuit of happiness (not the pursuit of fun or excitement) is regarded as a selfish pursuit, when in fact it is one of the best things a person can do for everyone in his life and for the world at large. The Founders of America were brilliant in many ways, not more so than by enshrining that pursuit alongside the pursuit of life and liberty.


The notion that happiness (or at least acting happy) is a debt we owe to all those in our lives and even to society at large is foreign to the vast majority of people. Yet, the more time I have devoted to writing and lecturing on this issue, the more I have come to realize that this is indeed the case. Ask anyone who was raised by an unhappy parent; ask anyone married to a chronically unhappy person; ask any worker whose co-worker is moody what their life is like and you will readily understand the moral obligation to be as happy as one can be.

He makes quite a good argument. Absolutely, the world would be a better place if people were happier, if they experienced happiness more often and more deeply. To do that, we have to grow up and take responsibility for creating our own lives, our best lives. For most, if not all, of us, that means doing the work - the necessary emotional and spiritual work so we can be happier. Still, no one can be happy all the time. Everyone suffers one way or another, some from disabling mental states of stress, anxiety and depression and it can a long time and a lot of work to burst through the shell into a larger way of being.

We can, however, be kind no matter how bad we feel. I think kindness is a greater moral obligation. Happiness is a state, an emotion, or a feeling of satisfaction. Kindness is more. Kindness is action in the world, ripples in the ocean of life. Didn't the Dalai Lami say,

This is my simple religion.
There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy.
Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:10 AM | Permalink

November 18, 2005

Hurrah for Haider Sediqi

A round of applause for Los Angeles cab driver, Afghan immigrant Haider Sediqi, who handed over a pouch of diamonds he found in the back seat of his cab to the police. Shortly after dropping off a fare at LAX, he found the small brown pouch, opened it only to find the diamonds worth some $350,000 and immediately called the police.

The haul was returned to its relieved and grateful owner, New York jewellery trader Eric Austein, airport police said.
Other people's jewels are "not what you earned," Sediqi told the Los Angeles Times. "Someone else earned that."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:59 PM | Permalink

Mental Health Treatment Online

Treatment Online seems to be an interesting site, a community of mental health professionals using the web to create not only a business but the pooling of experience from all those that participate who are battling stress, depression and addiction.

They have an interesting community weblog and right away, i found a post to link to Keys to a Happier Life, from the BBC who's going all out to help the residents of Slough and incidentally the rest of us who always need reminders.

- Plant something and nurture it

- Count your blessings - at least five - at the end of each day
- Take time to talk - have an hour-long conversation with a loved one each week
- Phone a friend whom you have not spoken to for a while and arrange to meet up
- Give yourself a treat every day and take the time to really enjoy it
- Have a good laugh at least once a day
- Get physical - exercise for half an hour three times a week
- Smile at and/or say hello to a stranger at least once each day
- Cut your TV viewing by half
- Spread some kindness - do a good turn for someone every day

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:34 PM | Permalink

November 16, 2005

Thanksgiving Tree

Now this is a very nice idea for Thanksgiving Thanksgiving Tree

Designed as an autumn decoration, the Thanksgiving Tree provides families with an opportunity to write "thank-you" notes on leaves that are hung on the tree.

The autumn-colored Leaf Notes are blank on one side with the words "Thank You" on the other. Throughout the days before Thanksgiving, and as people arrive for Thanksgiving dinner, family members and guests are encouraged to write a note of gratitude on a leaf-note and hang it on the tree.

Following dinner and before dessert, or at some other appropriate time, The Thanksgiving Tree is placed at the center of the table. Those gathered are invited to share what they have written on their leaf-note or other thoughts and feelings about the meaning of Thanksgiving Day

"For many," says Bates, "this time of sharing has become the most important and meaningful part of the Thanksgiving celebration." Response to the Thanksgiving Tree has been overwhelmingly positive.

"Families are grateful for a resource that makes it easy to talk and share important thoughts and feelings," says Bates.

Technorati Tags:

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:17 PM | Permalink

November 1, 2005

Recipes for Life and Changing the World

Nancy Glaser, a Stanford MBA, left her career in venture capital

to help Third World women become apparel-industry entrepreneurs. She was in Russia after the Berlin Wall fell, working to build St. Petersburg into a fashion center. For the past three years, she's been visiting bombed-out villages in Afghanistan, helping poor women turn their native handicrafts into Fifth Avenue must-haves.

Glaser talks about giving up the dream job to take real risks in her life in this interview by Patty Fisher, Desire to live right life can change the world.

`The women in Afghanistan make beautiful hand-embroidered tablecloths and napkins, but the fabric is terrible quality, the thread breaks, the colors run,'' she said. ``They don't match anything you have in your home. The workmanship is beautiful, but it's the wrong color, the wrong design.''

She has enlisted designers from New York and Europe to showcase the women's work, and she's trying to raise money for better materials. It's been hard because the country is so devastated, and so much of the aid money goes for security. But she's determined to succeed.

``Once people have a livelihood and can support their family,'' she said, ``they put down their guns.''

via Evelyn Rodriguez who will be writing more about her own vision of artisan journalism and offers us this bonus:

Nancy Glaser says, "Even with all the devastation, there was so much hope. Turning aid containers into shops, people had already set up a bazaar on a dry riverbed.” She described women swathed in burqas and speaking perfect English (learned in refugee camps in Pakistan). Eager to be working, they presented her with resumes. She also saw school classes meeting under trees that included girls for the first time in six years.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:00 PM | Permalink

October 31, 2005

A Flash of Light

An Italian poet said, "We live in a flash of light; evening comes and it is night forever." It’s only a flash and we waste it. We waste it with our anxiety, our worries, our concerns, our burdens."

- Anthony de Mello, 20th century Jesuit priest

via Zaadz and Brian Johnson, Philosopher & CEO who offers more from de Mello -

"The way to really live is to die. The passport to living is to imagine yourself in your grave. Imagine you’re lying in your coffin….Now look at your problems from that viewpoint. Changes everything, doesn’t it?"

"You’re not living until it doesn’t matter a tinker’s damn to you whether you live or die. At that point you live. When you’re ready to lose your life, you live it."

"Life is for the gambler, it really is."

"So love the thought of death, love it."

If you haven't read his thinkarete.the manifesto, you will love it - What would you do if you weren't afraid?

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:14 PM | Permalink

August 23, 2005

A Moment of Grace

Five teenagers stole a credit card, used it to buy DVDs and video games, a turkey and other groceries.  One boy, a college freshman, threw the turkey from the backseat of a moving car.

Victoria Ruvolo didn't know what happened when a frozen turkey came crashing through her windshield.  Every bone on her face was shattered requiring five weeks in a hospital and many surgeries.

Ryan Cushing, 19, faced 25 years in prison when he walked into the Long Island courtroom for sentencing.

Then, a moment of grace, what the New York Times called "something startling and luminous"

Victoria Ruvolo met Ryan Cushing for the first time.  He said he was sorry and begged her to forgive him.    Victoria did.   

She cradled his head as he sobbed. She stroked his face and patted his back. "It's O.K.; it's O.K.," she said. "I just want you to make your life the best it can be."

The prosecutor denounced the crime as heedless and brutal, but at Ms Ruvolo's insistence, they gave him a plea bargain: six months in jail and five years' probation.

Given the opportunity for retribution, Ms. Ruvolo gave and got something better: the dissipation of anger and the restoration of hope, in a gesture as cleansing as the tears washing down her damaged face, and the face of the foolish, miserable boy whose life she single-handedly restored.

William Keahon, the defendant's lawyer, said,

This woman's spirituality must be incredible to have this forgiveness. I've never seen this in 32 years of practicing law.

Every day we make a difference in the way we live and deal with other people.    Victoria Ruvulo restored her life, Ryan's life, and immeasurably affected for the better the lives of everyone in that courtroom and everyone who reads her story and who can understand the power of forgiveness.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:25 PM | Permalink

August 15, 2005

Your Wealth in 3-D

From Marshall Loeb at Marketwatch, a new book, called 3 Dimensional Wealth should be very good in getting people to view their wealth in a far broader context.  Your Wealth in 3-D.

The authors, Monroe Diefendorf and Robert Sterling Madden don't see wealth as a simple collection of assets.  They say wealth is composed of who you are (personal wealth), what you have (financial wealth) and how you can make a difference (social wealth).

I'm glad to see the financial industry beginning to look at wealth at large and in full. 

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:59 PM | Permalink

August 12, 2005

43 Things

What do you want to do with the rest of your life?

If you go to 43 things, you'll see how people discover what's important, make it happen, share their progress.

From Learning Japanese, ice skating in Rockefeller Center, build a log cabin, become a master knitter, stop procrastinating, worry less, bungee jump,  write more, take one picture a day as a way to document my life  and lots more.

Take a look at 43 Things Zeitgeist of the day's most popular goals and see how many you share with this younger slice of the country.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:30 PM | Permalink

August 5, 2005


A very interesting essay on the idea of evil by Sophie Masson over at Norm's blog

What interested me in this discussion was the poverty of the idea of evil displayed by so many of these eminent men and women. The most humble folktale story of the Devil is more complex, subtle and ambiguous in its exploration of evil than are all the depravity tables of people who, for all their undoubted eminence and record in helping the mentally ill, seem powerless in front of the reality that sometimes - rarely, fortunately - there arise human beings who have deliberately chosen the path of evil.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:47 PM | Permalink

August 4, 2005

Happy News

If you're like me, sometimes you just can't stand watching the news for another minute because it's so depressing. 

I speak as a sometimes news junkie who used to walk a mile in the morning to get every newspaper.

Now there's an alternative that can bring some balance to your news and maybe to your soul.  It's called Happy News  - "Real news, compelling stories, always positive"

Citizen Journalists welcomed.

"All the news that's fun to print."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:18 PM | Permalink

July 27, 2005

Character. A Resource in Decline?

This is one of the best essays on character, I've read in a long time.
Doug Manning On Character.

I love character. Character is who you are when no one is looking. Character is who you are with people who can't give you anything. Character is who you are when things don't go your way. True character is fearlessly being who you are. True character is stepping up when stepping up is required.

Character defines the quality of life you get to experience. It differentiates the great from the good, the interesting from the humdrum, the resilient from the fragile.


True character does not develop in a cave. It unfolds in the full flow of life, when things are challenging. You cannot become a character by wishing it so. Character comes from choosing the uphill climb. You cannot develop true character until you take complete responsibility for your own life.

Read how he compares the character of his parents' generation, his  generation and his children's generation.

HT to Jeremy who asks whether character is a resource in decline in these days of material abundance, rising expectations and too few challenges.

Your personal character is your primary asset, one that you build up over time and a resource that you can draw upon in difficult times and can never use up though you can lose it with a single disgraceful act.  It may be the only guarantee of everlasting happiness said Seneca, the stoic.

In the not so distant past, in our private schools and liberal arts colleges, the building of character was considered as important as the acquisition of knowledge.    Heraclitus said, "Character is destiny, " and  Booker T. Washington said, "Character is power". 

Character is formed in the torrent of life.Could it be that we have to be knocked down and beaten up by life before we can start Learning from Life?

“How many gifts do we have, buried under a hardened armor, awaiting the gracious trauma of a shattered shell?"  the Doctor asks.

And Kahil Gibran tells us
Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding. Even as the stone of the fruit must break, that its heart may stand in the sun, so must you know pain.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:18 PM | Permalink

July 18, 2005

Investing in your own net worth

Ben Stein never fails to enlighten, this time on investing in your own net worth

Our lives are measured by what we do for others, not by how much money we make. Spending time with lonely people, military families, widows, widowers, this is a pretty easy way to make a huge difference in a suffering human life. So when you think of your uncle who just lost his aunt, when you think of the woman down the street whose husband was just called up by the Guard and sent to Iraq, don't just think about them: ask them out to dinner. Invite them to a barbecue. Just call them up to gossip.

People are always asking me for stock tips because they think I know something about the market. Usually, I don't. But I do know this. Sharing company with a lonely man or woman or child is about as good an investment in your own net worth as a human being as you can make. Do it today.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:39 PM | Permalink

June 21, 2005

Curt on Success

Lots of interesting posts over at Curt Rosengren's Occupational Adventure

There's the thirty career lessons from successful people including this one from Dionne Blackwell

Great questions to ask yourself like  How is this moving me forward?

Surprising tips - If you want to save big, you have to dream big  Who can stick to a long term savings plan unless your dreams fuel your will to save.

But most interesting is Curt's series of posts exploring what success means to him.   You want to read them all and as a spur to thinking about your own definition.  Curt lists career passion, financial abundance, time abundance, love, health, being present and meaning.

I would add of course Living and Leaving a Legacy.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:41 PM | Permalink

June 15, 2005

Find what you love

Remarkably good life advice from Steve Jobs.

I didn't see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods in my life.
I'm pretty sure none of this would have happened if I hadn't been fired from Apple. It was awful-tasting medicine but I guess the patient needed it. Sometimes life's going to hit you in the head with a brick. Don't lose faith. I'm convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You've got to find what you love, and that is as true for work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work, and the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking, and don't settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it, and like any great relationship it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking. Don't settle.

Every life transition, especially if it's hard,  is a chance to recreate your life, to reorient towards your own North Star, your truest self.

Philosopher and theologian, Harold Thurman Whitman wrote, "Don't ask yourself what the world needs - ask yourself what makes you come alive, and then go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive."     

Find what you love.  That's what makes you come alive.  Part of the Business of Life™.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:17 AM | Permalink

May 23, 2005

An ordinary guy

He's just an ordinary guy, but the way De Pree Johnson spreads kindness for people in a hospital waiting room shows us how small, kind actions affect the world.

Someone once said, You don't get in life what you want; you get in life what you are.  If so, De Pree is a wealthy man.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:39 PM | Permalink

Five things we cannot change

1. Everything changes and ends.
2. Things do not always go according to plan.
3. Life is not always fair.
4. Pain is part of life.
5. People are not loving and loyal all the time.

Can't quarrel with any of that.  David Richo goes further and writes that we can find happiness by embracing The Five Things We Cannot Change.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:48 PM | Permalink

May 20, 2005

Hunger for Happiness books

Since I'm always interested in happiness, this article, despite its title - I hate smiley faces - caught my eye, Smiley Phrases about our hunger
for happiness books. 

The "self-help" book category is now just about $670 million a year.  Those little gift books at the checkout register are more like greeting cards with added value; their sales aren't even tracked in the book industry.   

People hunger for happiness, even more for meaning.  The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren has sold an astonishing 20 million copies.
Religious books have greater sales, about $1.8 billion and sales are expected to increase 37% over the next five years. 

Stanford University philosophy professor John Perry says the best advice for bliss comes from Confucius and your grandmother.

"Confucius said happiness is a well-ordered life and family" - in other words, taking time to do the basic things right, Perry says. "Your grandmother said keep busy, have friends, don't be self-absorbed."

If we listened to these wise old heads, Perry concludes, "we wouldn't need all those books."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:10 PM | Permalink

May 17, 2005

Foreign Babe in Beijing

A China scholar, fluent in Mandarian, Rachel DeWoskin graduated with honors from Columbia, then took off for China getting a job at a U.S. PR firm

She became one of the most widely watched TV stars on the planet, playing a sexy American on a hit Chinese soap opera. 

Terrific interview found via the bookofjoe

Now a book, Foreign Babes in Beijing: Behind the Scenes of a New China.  From the Booklist review.

An executive for an American PR firm by day, by night DeWoskin is the unlikely star of one of China's first television soap operas, an equally unlikely melodrama involving a sexy American college student who wins the love of a rebellious young Chinese man. The merging of two disparate worlds onscreen is nothing compared to the cultural assimilation DeWoskin observes transpiring within China itself in the years immediately following Tiananmen Square. Hers is the ultimate insider's view, living witness to the philosophical and practical aspects of a traditional and repressed society's tumultuous confrontation with liberated, energetic, and economically dynamic Western influences. Exhibiting sensitivity and uncommon wisdom, DeWoskin delivers a candid and valuable portrait of a China few Westerners get to see.

Fearless, smart and lucky, Rachel understands the Business of Life.™

                    Foreign Babes

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:11 PM | Permalink

April 13, 2005

Accumulation of Riches

One of the most successful of life and success coaches is Brian Tracy.    He calls the law of accumulation one of the greatest success principles.

This law says that everything great and worthwhile in human life is an accumulation of hundreds and sometimes thousands of tiny efforts and sacrifices that nobody ever sees or appreciates. It says that everything accumulates over time. That you have to put in many, many, many tiny efforts that nobody sees or appreciates before you achieve anything worthwhile. It's like a snowball. A snowball starts very small, but it grows as it adds millions and millions of tiny snowflakes and continues to grow as it gathers momentum. 

What you want to accumulate, bit by bit, are the three things we all want more of.

1. Knowledge.  Learn what you need to learn.
2. Money.  Save it.  Every day.  Fortunes come from the accumulation of hundreds and thousands of small amounts of money.
3. Experience.  Successful people have more experience because they take more risks and are willing to make more mistakes.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:55 PM | Permalink

Female Midlife Crisis

We all know that stereotypical view of the midlife crisis involving men, new cars and young blondes.  Turns out, the facts surrounding midlife crisis today are quite different.  When Sue Shellenbarger,  the Work and Family columnist for the Wall St Journal had hers, she realized "The midlife crisis is a cliche -- until you have one." 

The shock of recognition led to an overwhelming reader response which in turn led her to begin collecting stories for her new book, The Breaking Point: How Female Midlife Crisis is Transforming Today's Women.

Some excerpts from her column on the Female Midlife Crisis (WSJ subscribers only, sorry)

Dozens told heartfelt tales of pain, upheaval, rebirth and transformation in middle age, and said they had no idea other women were experiencing the same thing. My comic tale had touched a hidden nerve. Clearly, millions of midlife women had reached a crisis stage -- a time when old values and goals no longer made sense to them.
A startlingly high number of women have experienced what they consider a
midlife crisis, broadly defined as a stressful or turbulent psychological transition that occurs most often in the late 40s and early 50s.

By age 50, even more women than men are reporting a turbulent midlife transition -- 36.1% of women, compared with 34% of men -- according to research by Elaine Wethington, a Cornell University associate professor, based on a subset of the giant 6,432-person MacArthur Foundation "Midlife in the United States" study of Americans' well-being at midlife.

Applying the findings to the 42-million-member generation of U.S. women who are nearing or in middle age, defined as about 38 to 55 years old,
more than 15 million women will have, or are already having, what they regard as a midlife crisis -- about equal to the entire populations of Colorado, Massachusetts and Minnesota combined.

This pattern of female midlife crisis is emerging now because, to put it simply, women are different today. For the first time in history, women not only face more of the kind of stresses that tend to bring on midlife crises, but they also have the financial muscle, the skills and the confidence to act out their frustrations and resolve them. In a sense, women are having midlife crises now because they can.
Here's what women said after their midlife crisis which should give millions heart.

Without exception, the women who made big midlife changes said that if given the chance to do it all again, they would embrace new undertakings even more wholeheartedly. Every one of the women who entered fully into midlife crisis, taking risks and exploring new opportunities, was enthusiastically glad that she had. Their only regrets were in failing to start sooner or to take more chances.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:09 PM | Permalink

April 12, 2005

Communion of Saints

All my life I've been entranced by the idea of the Communion of Saints.  If you were raised Catholic, you know what I mean. But, I've never explored it as throughly or with as much success as Dawn Eden, a convert to Catholicism.  I saw it as a beautiful idea, she saw them as friends.  A quite remarkable story, Saints Alive.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:56 AM | Permalink

April 10, 2005

First Business

All too often the dailyness of our lives obscures life's very majesty.   

Our  inter-connection and inter-dependency on others is so deep we don't see it.  Whether its our food, sown, grown, and prepared for our consumption, our clothes made and sewn half a world away, our trash, removed and recycled far from our eyes, the people in factories that make our cars, our planes and trains, the researchers who find new ways to cure disease, making our lives healthier and longer, all those entrepreneurs who have brought us the technology we now can not live without, the people who entertain us, write for us, explore for us, pray for us. 

The numbers of people that have added to, supported or changed our lives is larger than we can comprehend.  In this dizzying interdependence, the golden rule -treating others the way we want to be treated - the greatest and simplest moral precept seems the only way to live.

Each of us must grown and develop our moral sense and character and that, I believe, is the first and most important business of our lives.  I've long believed that our personal character is our greatest wealth, one like education that can never be taken away.  Personal character is what we depend on to get us through life's most difficult times.  Growing through life and not just going through life is the point and there is no point in life where we can not grow more, we just can't grow backwards.    What Rumi wrote:

No mirror ever became iron again;
No bread ever became wheat;
No ripened grape ever became sour fruit.
Mature yourself and be secure from a change for the worse.
Become the light."

We hear and read in countless places that the time to learn about financial fitness is when you're young, so you can start saving, investing and giving early and reap the benefit of compound interest and long-term growth.  Youth is also the time to begin to develop a moral character , a fact intuitively grasped by millions of families who may not be believers but who insist on some sort of religious education for their children, if only to imbue with a moral sense.

The story that Varifrank relates in Robert the Counter shows what a profound effect some crippled children have on the students who came to work with them.    Such a lesson is never forgotten and the students are richer by far.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:01 PM | Permalink

April 8, 2005

What Really Matters

Have no doubt, meaning and purpose is BIG.  The extraordinary success of a Purpose-Driven Life by Rick Warren which to date has sold over 20 million copies.

Bill Jensen has a new book out called "What is Your Life's Work".  I've been reading excerpts he he's made available  on line, and already there are whole paragraphs I want to quote.  Normally, I would post this on Legacy Matters, but since this is also about work, here it goes.

From the introduction:

Put simply, this book is about what we learn about ourselves when we teach our loved ones, especially our kids, what matters and about the powerful need we have to leave something behind -what we want to be remembered for.

Bill has spent his career listening to people,  collecting stories and studying how we work.
To jump start insightful conversations, he used to ask "What really matters here?"   That is until the economy took a nosedive, no one wanted to rock the boat, everyone wanted to keep their job.  So he changed the question,

"What is the single most important insight about work that you want to pass on to your kids? Or to anyone you truly care about?"

BAM! The floodgates opened. A happy accident: Changing my question to something much closer to home, "Why do we do what we wouldn't want our kids to do?  Which of our mistakes should they not repeat?" unleashed completely new conversations.

Jensen than asked them to put their thoughts on paper: "Write a letter to that loved one.  Or keep a journal -a work diary."  ..." Something magical happened.  They got back more than they gave."....A work diary for others ends up being a tool for self-discovery."

Some astonishing facts:
• 75% of us are disengaged from our jobs
• 75% of all employees are now searching for new employment opportunities
• 83% of us wish we had more of what really matters in life."

You can pre-order the book at Amazon
HT to Curt Rosengren at Occupational Adventure who alerted me to the free downloads.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:11 PM | Permalink

March 28, 2005

Feel like an Outsider?

Julie Leung first felt like an outsider in high school and then reflects on why we all do.  The Outsider:why high school never ends.
My teacher revealed truth to me. In his simple but unbelievable statement, he told me that everyone feels like an outsider. Everyone has moments of loneliness. Everyone worries whether she fits or whether he is odd. "In" and "out" are illusions. Inside, we are all outsiders.....

The truth is we are all outsiders. Our secret fears are real and revealed. We are each random points, outliers, misfits, rejects and strangers. We are alone. We are all different. Yet we are all the same.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:55 AM | Permalink

March 24, 2005

Life Gets Better as You Age

Why is it that young people with their whole lives before them are so often pessimistic while older people are mellower and more optimistic.  What can MRIs tell us?

There's a whole lot of jargon, Fouroboros attempts to parse, I couldn't,  in Neurologically speaking, is youth wasted on the young

.  It has something to do with amygdala activation, which I take to mean, it's hard-wired in our brains.

Life gets better as you age.  Or seems to.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:41 PM | Permalink

February 2, 2005

Lessons from a Billionaire

So you get to spend six hours with Warren Buffett whose worth $40 billion and what do you learn?  It was not what Darren Johnson, a 23-year-old entrepreneur expected.  These are his headlines in his post The Wisdom of Warren Buffett, and to get the true flavor you have to read the whole thing

  1. Be Grateful
  2. Be Ethical and Fair
  3. Be Trustworthy
  4. Invest in Your Circle of Competence
  5. Do What You Love

So he came not thinking what a great investor Warren Buffett is,  he came away hoping that he could "mirror the image of humility, charity, intelligence, optimism and justice that Warren Buffett represents." 

That's the impact of a man who understands  that personal and social capital matter more in the end than financial capital.

Update:  Oops. Forgot to give a hat tip to Jason Kottke

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:34 PM | Permalink

January 28, 2005

Quaker powerpoint

Each soul has a unique spiritual DNA, but life has a way of separating us from our true selves writes Parker Palmer. 
All of us live more or less divided lives and all of us yearn for wholeness.  When the pain of living such a life becomes too great, the inner journey towards wholeness begin.  Finding Your Soul is a wonderful exploration of the soul's journey and you can't beat Palmer's  "Quaker powerpoint."

All the great spiritual traditions want to awaken us to the fact that we help to create the reality in which we live. And all of them ask two questions that are intended to help keep us awake: What are we sending from within ourselves out into the world, and what impact is it having “out there”? What is the world sending back at us, and what impact is it having “in here”?
Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:56 PM | Permalink

January 14, 2005

Scientist Collaborates with Dalai Lama

Like people who don't believe that adults continue to develop throughout their lives, not so long ago, scientists believed that connections among brain cells were fixed early in life and did not change in adulthood.  Buddhists however have contended for centuries that meditation can change the workings of the brain.

That mental training through meditation can change the inner workings and circuitry of the brain has been proven by Richard Davidson, a neuroscientist at the University of Wisconsin, W.M. Keck Laboratory for Functional Brain Imaging and Behavior, who published the newest results of his meditation study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in November.  Davidson spoke  to Marc Kaufman at the Washington Post 

"What we found is that the longtime practitioners showed brain activation on a scale we have never seen before.  Their mental practice is having an effect on the brain in the same way golf or tennis practice will enhance performance." It demonstrates, he said, that the brain is capable of being trained and physically modified in ways few people can imagine."

What makes the study even more interesting is that it's the result of a collaboration with His Holiness, the Dalai Lama.

From the Mark Kaufman article:

The Dalai Lama first invited Davidson to his home in Dharamsala, India, in 1992 after learning about Davidson's innovative research into the neuroscience of emotions.

The Tibetans have a centuries-old tradition of intensive meditation and, from the start, the Dalai Lama was interested in having Davidson scientifically explore the workings of his monks' meditating minds. Three years ago, the Dalai Lama spent two days visiting Davidson's lab.   

The Dalai Lama ultimately dispatched eight of his most accomplished practitioners to Davidson's lab to have them hooked up for electroencephalograph (EEG) testing and brain scanning. The Buddhist practitioners in the experiment had undergone training in the Tibetan Nyingmapa and Kagyupa traditions of meditation for an estimated 10,000 to 50,000 hours, over time periods of 15 to 40 years. As a control, 10 student volunteers with no previous meditation experience were also tested after one week of training.  The monks and volunteers were fitted with a net of 256 electrical sensors and asked to meditate for short periods.

Thinking and other mental activity are known to produce slight, but detectable, bursts of electrical activity as large groupings of neurons send messages to each other, and that's what the sensors picked up. Davidson was especially interested in measuring gamma waves, some of the highest-frequency and most important electrical brain impulses.    Both groups were asked to meditate, specifically on unconditional compassion. Buddhist teaching describes that state, which is at the heart of the Dalai Lama's teaching, as the "unrestricted readiness and availability to help living beings." The researchers chose that focus because it does not require concentrating on particular objects, memories or images, and cultivates instead a transformed state of being.   

Davidson said that the results unambiguously showed that meditation activated the trained minds of the monks in significantly different ways from those of the volunteers. Most important, the electrodes picked up much greater activation of fast-moving and unusually powerful gamma waves in the monks, and found that the movement of the waves through the brain was far better organized and coordinated than in the students.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:46 PM | Permalink

January 11, 2005

The Power of Emotional Intelligence

When Daniel Goleman speaks of Emotional Intelligence, he's talking about what used to be called "character development,"  what used to be an essential component of education.  Emotionally intelligent people often are far more successful than smarter people with much higher IQs and emotionally intelligent children often have much higher SAT scores than those who can't delay gratification writes Julia Steiny in the Providence Journal.  

She writes about a amazing marshmallow test involving four-year-olds and a follow-up 12-14 years later with the same children as she ponders how emotional intelligence can leverage existing school lessons and make schools a happier place to be.
Steiny, now a consultant, summarizes Goleman's five basic skills to achieve emotional intelligence:

1. Knowing one's emotions, or self-awareness. People who recognize their feelings as they happen are better pilots of their own lives, 'having a surer sense of how they really feel about personal decisions from whom to marry to what job to take.'
2. Managing emotions. Poor emotional managers constantly battle feelings of distress, while good ones bounce back from life's setbacks and upsets.
3. Motivating oneself. People who can control their impulses can channel their energies to meet their own goals.
4. Recognizing emotions in others, or empathy. People who are attuned to how others feel get along well with people.
5. Handling relationships, or social competence. "People skills" allow us to get and give to each other with maximal gratification.

All children, but especially adolescents, crave information about how to manage and understand their inner worlds. Merely allowing the use of emotional language and examining interpersonal issues can make otherwise dry historical or literary materials much more alive and compelling. Indeed, the above five features of emotional intelligence seem like natural tools to unlock literature, for example, in a way that would help modern students understand the desires, frustrations, rages and thrills of people in other places, times and historical circumstances.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:48 PM | Permalink

December 22, 2004

Happiness: Purpose or Meaning

As if we needed to be reminded, Technology Review, MIT's Magazine of Innovation, explores "Technology and Happiness: why more gadgets don't necessarily increase our well-being." James Surowieki writes that Americans are no happier today than they were in 1946 when happiness studies first started. This despite television, xerox, 800 numbers, cell phones, walkmans, ipods and the World Wide Web. In fact, for many life seems worse. A significant minority of citizens are more anxious, trust government less, get divorced more often, and get depressed far more often.

Strikingly, the Amish who forswear modern technology are as happy as members of the Forbes 400. Surowieki reviews the literature and notes Richard Easterlin whose 1947 paper concluded that once a country was solidly middle-class, getting wealthier doesn't make its citizens any happier. He then goes on to explore the impact of technology on our humanity.

"Hedoinic adaption" is what psychologists call the phenomenon of how quickly people adapt to new innovations and soon take them for granted. That's why we complain when we can't get a cell phone signal or why we're annoyed that a website is loading too slowly. Taking things for granted is a sure sign that you haven't developed the attitude of gratitude, an essential component in one's personal development for the Business of Life.

Having a wealth of happiness means never taking life for granted. It means developing a sense of appreciation for the smallest things - the light of a new day, the smell of coffee in the morning, the pure pleasure of a hot shower after a morning spent shoveling. You can say that the more you appreciate, the happier you are. I particularly appreciate Brother David Stendl-Rast, a Benedictine mystic with his own web page, A Network for Grateful Living. In an essay entitled Word, Silence and Understanding, he writes:

The purpose of anything we do is determined by its usefulness; not so the meaning. What a thing or an action means to me is determined not by its usefulness, but by my appreciation. Meaning is the value of even the useless.... In order to accomplish a given purpose I must be able to control the situation. And in order to be in control I must first grasp what it is all about: ‘to grasp’ – that is the right word with regard to purpose. I must grasp all details firmly, take hold of them as of so many tools. But when it comes to meaning, what is there to be grasped? On the contrary, I must allow myself to be grasped by whatever it is, before it can become meaningful to me. As people sometimes say: “How does this grab you?” Only when it “grabs” you will it mean something to you. But there lies a risk. As long as I am in control, not much can happen to me. As soon as I allow reality to “touch me,” I am in for adventure. The quest for meaning is the adventure par excellence, and happiness lies in the thrill of this adventure.

Finding meaning in life is part of the Business of Life. When something grabs you, it becomes part of you. It's the fullest expression of all parts of you - body, mind, heart and spirit - that makes for the richest life.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:41 AM | Permalink

December 14, 2004

Empathy and the Golden Rule

Bringing you new ideas and new advances in caring for our health and wealth are part of what the Business of Life™ blog is all about. We don't often get to announce the discovery of a new emotion and when we hear about one, we race to tell you as we did about elevation and how other people's good deeds can make you a better person.

So imagine our surprise when we learned that the term "empathy" was first used only a century ago. The Encyclopedia Britannica defines empathy as "The ability to imagine oneself in another's place and understand the other's feelings, desires, ideas, and actions. It is a term coined in the early 20th century, equivalent to the German Einfühlung and modelled on "sympathy."

The feeling of empathy is not new, so what did they call it before? "Pity" implies sorrow that inclines one to help according to dictionary.com. while "compassion" denotes a deep awareness of the suffering and a wish to relieve it and "sympathy" denotes the capacity for sharing in the sorrows or troubles of another.

I think the term empathy came into being after Sigmund Freud developed his theory of the human mind with his conception of the unconscious. He was really the first to focus on how we think, what we feel and what we repress. Attention shifted from the external world to the internal one, from actions to thoughts and feelings.
Empathy was a necessary coinage to describe thoughts and feelings that may never be expressed in the external world but which exist solely in the mind.

Before that there was only the Golden Rule about which Harry Gensler , a Jesuit, writes a short essay with links

    The golden rule is endorsed by all the great world religions; Jesus, Hillel, and Confucius used it to summarize their ethical teachings. And for many centuries the idea has been influential among people of very diverse cultures. These facts suggest that the golden rule may be an important moral truth.
Golden rule

The Golden Rule incorporates the imagination and understanding necessary for empathy but goes beyond it to include action. You never hear people talk or write about the Golden Rule anymore. Maybe it sounds too treacly or old-fashioned. Instead, everyone talks about "empathy", even when what they describe is empathy and action which is the Golden Rule.

Five Lessons in Empathy: The from Brian Alger at the Experience Designer Network who writes about the way we treat people.
1. Cleaning Lady
2. Pickup in the Rain
3. Always Remember Those Who Serve
4. The Obstacle in Our Path
5. Giving When It Counts

Here's Pickup in the Rain:

    One night, at 11.30 p.m., an older African American woman was standing on the side of an Alabama highway trying to endure a lashing rainstorm. Her car had broken down and she desperately needed a ride. Soaking wet, she decided to flag down the next car. A young white man stopped to help her, generally unheard of in those conflict-filled 1960s. The man took her to safety, helped her get assistance and put her into a taxicab.

    She seemed to be in a big hurry, but wrote down his address and thanked him. Seven days went by and a knock came on the man's door. To his surprise, a giant console colour TV was delivered to his home. A special note was attached.. It read: "Thank you so much for assisting me on the highway the other night. The rain drenched not only my clothes, but also my spirits. Then you came along. Because of you, I was able to make it to my dying husband's bedside just before he passed away. God bless you for helping me and unselfishly serving others."

    Mrs. Nat King Cole

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:22 PM | Permalink

December 1, 2004

Healing Power of Love

One of the key elements to a successful blog is the personal voice. When someone speaks from their heart about what they learned in their lives, you pay attention. Doubly so, if they also bring their business experience to the table. I happened upon this post How do we learn the things we value most by Brian Alger on The Experience Designer Network.

He reviews a recent article by Dean Ornish entitled Love and Survival in which Dean Ornish talks about the healing power of love and intimacy.

    Love and intimacy are at the root of what makes us sick and what makes us well, what causes sadness and what brings happiness, what makes us suffer and what leads to healing. If a new drug had the same impact, virtually every doctor in the country would be recommending it for their patients. It would be malpractice not to prescribe it-yet, with few exceptions, we doctors do not learn much about the healing power of love, intimacy, and transformation in our medical training.

Brian relates his experience of isolation and lack of purpose while at the supposed height of a professional career. Regaining his sense of authenticity in life, he suggests that any meaningful ideas about lifestyle which he often writes about must be intimately connected to ideas about love.

    What I sense I have learned about love, however incomplete that may yet be, I know precisely that the meaning I possess largely flows through to me through my family, and as only a father could feel through my two children. I have read a number of articles about the idea of authentic learning that make little to no reference to love, compassion, empathy, intimacy, connection, relationship, etc. Does this not seem at least unusual? There is, perhaps, a fear of making reference to things religious, a topic that organized education tends to side-step. Yet if we are to apply the word authentic to the word learning then love, like death, are unavoidable experiences that essential to living life as widely and broadly as possible.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:57 PM | Permalink

November 23, 2004

In Character

I can't believe it, though I'm confident this was in the works well before the election, a new magazine has been launched to explore ethics and values in our contemporary, capitalist and commercial society. As someone who believes that our personal capital is as important as our financial capital, I think this magazine is well-timed, if not overdue.

In Character by the Templeton Foundation promised to delve "into the history, science, cultural perceptions and impact of "contrarian virtues" according to its editor Naomi Schaefer Riley.

    Riley said the journal is intended to bring back a concrete sense of what is important to aid personal and social betterment. “While some of the virtues have not been lost entirely, their relevance to everyday life has,” she said. “The connection between virtue and happiness made by ancient philosophers … is rarely mentioned anymore. The second goal of this journal will be to explore the link between virtue and personal fulfillment.”......

    Striving for a multidisciplinary approach, Dr. John Templeton Jr., president of the foundation and author of Thrift and Generosity: The Joy of Giving, said the journal “will illuminate the nature and benefits of virtues from different perspectives.” In Character aligns itself with the mission of the foundation, said Arthur Schwartz, co-executive editor ... The goal, he said, is to influence opinion leaders — including media leaders, public intellectuals and distinguished academics — on three levels. “First, we want facts and insights that can be sighted by thought leaders. On a second level, we want the editor of the Los Angeles Times to get this and make it a local story,” said Schwarz. “Third, we want some editor to say,  ‘Can we reprint [your story] in some other publication?’”Schwarz said he hopes the journal will continue to be published three times a year. Upcoming issues will highlight purpose, creativity, loyalty, generosity and modesty.

In its first issue In Character explored thrift

    Thrift is part of the American dream, allowing each generation to do better than the one before, but it is also an area where Americans today see room for improvement. In a survey that In Character commissioned in June, 79 percent of respondents say that Americans are less thrifty than they were 50 years ago, 77 percent believe that Americans today spend too much, and 80 percent think “there is a real problem with our ‘throw-away’ society.” And they weren’t just blaming this deficiency on others. Looking at their own behavior, 48 percent of those surveyed consider it important that they become more thrifty.

    But thrift, when it was practiced by the generation who made it through the Great Depression, was not to keep us thin or improve the environment. Thrift was a virtue of necessity, like a soldier’s courage in battle. But just like bravery in war doesn’t just manifest itself without the proper training, both of body and mind, so the behaviors that our ancestors demonstrated were not born only out of circumstance, but out of a cultural and often religious environment that considered thrift, as Jean Bethke Elshtain notes in her essay, “a constituent and necessary feature of both worldly success and moral achievement.”

    This idea of moral achievement, generally, not just thrift in particular, has been lost in recent years. It is not to say that our society is culturally bankrupt or that we are all, to borrow a phrase, “slouching toward Gomorrah.” Rather, it is to suggest that we do not think about building character and moral development in the systematic way that our ancestors did.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:14 PM | Permalink

November 19, 2004

Does Daydreaming Make You Happy?

    After finding that about one child in 30 is brilliant and happy, (Harvard psychologist Burton) White did a great deal of research to determine what demographic or psychological characteristics distinguished those children. But the children came from a wide variety of backgrounds -- rich and poor, small families and large, broken and stable homes, poorly and well-educated parents -- and from all parts of the U.S. Finally, through extensive questioning, he determined that the bright and happy children had only one thing in common: All of them spent noticeable amounts of time staring peacefully and wordlessly into space." -- Michael Ray and Rochelle Myers (from Creativity in Business)

via Anita Sharpe's Thought for the Day at Worthwhile

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:10 PM | Permalink

November 17, 2004

Foundation for a Better Life

An essential part of the Business of Life is the development of your own personal character.

For most of our country's history character-building was seen as an essential part of education, as important as the acquisition of knowledge. Both constituted a type of wealth that could not lost, stolen or destroyed no matter what the vicissitudes of life. George Santayana called character the basis of happiness. Character is not to be confused with reputation as Abraham Lincoln pointed out, "Character is like a tree and reputation like its shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing." Think of it as your personal capital not to be confused with your financial capital.

Today most schools and universities no longer see the building of character as part of their mission. Churches and programs like the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts are seen as too religiously-inclined for many. Much of the commentary on the recent presidential election would have you believe that only one party takes values seriously. Into the breech that's grown even wider in our politically correct age, Foundation for a Better Life is building a bridge.

Not affiliated with any political group or religious organization, the Foundation for a Better Life "creates public service campaigns to communicate the values that make a difference in our communities-values such as honesty, caring, optimism, hard work, and helping others. These messages, communicated utilizing television, theatres, billboards, radio, internet, etc., model the benefits of a life lived by positive values. The Foundation encourages others to step up to a higher level and then to pass on those positive values they have learned. These seemingly small examples of individuals living values-based lives may not change the world, but collectively they will make a difference. And in the process help make the world a better place for everyone. After all, developing values and then passing them on to others is The Foundation for a Better Life."

    The mission of The Foundation for a Better Life, through various media efforts, is to encourage adherence to a set of quality values through personal accountability and by raising the level of expectations of performance of all individuals regardless of religion or race. Through these efforts, the Foundation wants to remind individuals they are accountable and empowered with the ability to take responsibility for their lives and to promote a set of values that sees them through their failures and capitalizes on their successes. An individual who takes responsibility for his or her actions will take care of his or her family, job, community, and country.

Just look at what they've done with billboards. Click on any of the thumbnails for a larger image.
1 Ghandi
4 Lincoln
3 Reeves
4 Vision
2 bone marrow
12 Determination
5 Fireman Courage

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:56 AM | Permalink

November 10, 2004

A Wealth of Happiness

I just love it when even the Wall St Journal, recognizing there's been an explosion of research in what brings us happiness is now doing a series on it, Pursuing Happiness.

Some gleanings:
"Our emotional buoyancy is genetically set within a range, which acts as an anchor to our enthusiasm in good times and as a balloon in bad... This creates a happiness paradox: We may imagine we couldn't survive the end of a marriage or death of a family member, yet our innate "psychological immune system" is well equipped to greet these disasters when they occur, says Daniel Gilbert, a researcher at the department of psychology at Harvard University. The flip side is that things we imagine will make us happy -- a new car, a new career or a new spouse -- may give some temporary elation, but eventually the exhilaration fades.

Happier people tend to have a few key traits in common: they believe in causes larger than themselves; they are more optimistic; they don't look to material wealth for fulfillment; and they have many meaningful relationships. "They tend to be more resilient ... more flexible and more focused on the present and the future, not the past, says Gordon Parker, psychiatrist and executive director of Black Dog Institute, a Sydney-based facility for treating mood disorders.

The key to finding fulfillment at work -- and to finding overall greater happiness -- is "really figuring out what you love to do, and do that."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:56 PM | Permalink

October 7, 2004

Meaningful Work, One of the Abundances of Life

"One day, I received a phone call from a man halfway around the world who, at 45, had never worked a day in his life. A beneficiary of a sizeable inheritance, he was free of the need to earn his daily bread. Yet he was not a happy man. Indeed, he was deeply troubled by the fact that his life had gone by without his having expressed his own talents or made a difference in the lives of others. Like good health, spiritual growth, and nourishing relationships, meaningful work is one of the abundances of life that we neglect at our own peril." -- Laurence G. Boldt, The Tao of Abundance

Shamelessly cribbed from Anita Sharpe at Worthwhile because I liked it so much. This relates to an earlier post "The Pursuit of Legacy is a Libidinous Quest and the major theme of the second half of life. 45 is not too old to get started.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:03 PM | Permalink

June 27, 2004

When Just Enough Is All You Need.

What can you say about a man, who having sold his software business for $19 million, was ashamed to tell his peers he hadn't made more?

You'd think he's nuts and so does Laura Nash. in Sunday's NYT. Laura, a senior lecturer in business ethics as the Harvard Business School, has just written a book with Howard Stevenson called "Just Enough: Tools for Creating Success in Your Work and Your Life" (John Wiley & Sons, 2004).
In it they write about the 4 "spheres of life" - happiness, achievement, significance and legacy and say that having just enough in each sphere is more fulfilling than having way too much in one of them.

Claudia Deutsch in Sunday's NYT's interviews Laura in Grab the Brass Ring, or Just Enjoy the Ride
Some lessons the authors have gleaned from their hundreds of interviews can be found in the NYT article:

    1/ Recognize that superstardom often carries the baggage of lapsed ethics, alienated spouses or children, substance abuse and a lack of plain, ordinary fun.
    2/ If you cannot be a high achiever, switch to the significance sphere of your life.
    3/ Remember that the significance of your job does not rest on its impact on the world.
    4/ Apply "just enough" to what you give as well as to what you attain.
    5/ Remember that it is better to be very good at many important things than to be a superstar at just one.

    No amount of success in one area will buy you satisfaction in the others

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:14 AM | Permalink

June 14, 2004


When I was younger, I was a classic type A personality. A young female lawyer at a Wall Street firm, I was in a hurry for everything and impatient if things didn't happen fast enough.

It's not often you can pinpoint the time when you learned the importance of a classic virtue. I can remember when I learned patience. I was living on the upper West side, in a poorly remodeled apartment building and the elevator was so slow I couldn't stand it. I was going to be late! I would fidget, press the button again, I would tap, whistle, sigh, anything to make the elevator come faster. Of course, it never did. Then I had my little epiphany. It never would. I had to be patient.

Sharon Salzberg has a lovely piece in the June issue of Oprah on patience which she calls "The Cure for Craziness." There's only one way to save your sanity in this speeded-up, lunatic world. Patience...Having patience ...means being wholeheartedly engaged in the process that's unfolding, rather than yanking up our carrots, ripping open a budding flower, demanding a caterpillar hurry up and get that chrysalis stage over with. Patience isn't dour, and it isn't unhappy. It's a steady strength that we apply to each experience we face.

Patience is one of the Seven Contrary Virtues whose practice can protect one against the temptation toward the Seven Deadly Sins. The practice of patience can protect one against the sin of anger.

Come to think of it, since I've learned patience, I rarely get angry. Whadayouknow.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:14 PM | Permalink

May 20, 2004

Men who do housework are sexier and have better kids.

Is this good news or what

From a study by Sociologists Scott Coltrane and Michele Adams of the University of California, Riverside who have examined national survey data from the Child Development Supplement of the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, a national sample of 3,563 children and their parents. They found that

    school-aged children who do housework with their fathers are more likely to get along with their peers and have more friends. Whats more, they are less likely than other kids to disobey teachers or make trouble at school and are less depressed or withdrawn.

    When men perform domestic service for others, it teaches children cooperation and democratic family values, said Coltrane, who studies the changing role of fathers in families. It used to be that men assumed that their wives would do all the housework and parenting, but now that women are nearly equal participants in the labor force, men are assuming more of the tasks that it takes to run a home and raise children.

via Boing Boing

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:16 PM | Permalink

May 13, 2004

Be Prepared for What?

"Be prepared for what?" someone once asked Robert Baden-Powell, the Founder of the Boy Scouts.

"Why, for any old thing," he replied.

Baden Powell's idea was to prepare boys to handle emergencies and to prepare them for life. He wanted his Scouts to be prepared body and mind for any struggle, and to meet with a strong heart whatever challenges might lie ahead.

He understood that knowing you had done your best enabled you to live more happily and without regret.

More than 38 million copies of the Boy Scout Handbook have been printed. Who knows how many millions have become Scouts at one time or another.

It's all the fashion to scoff at Scouting now. Some can't get past the prohibition against homosexuality -no openly gay scouts or openly gay scout leaders. Some think that it is too Christian, others that's its too old-fashioned.

But I don't know of any other youth organization that comes close to instilling the sense that developing your character is the key to a happy life. I like their slogan "Do a good turn every day". I like the scout law and think we could all benefit if more people followed it.

UPDATE: For some reason, I thought the Boy Scouts were Christian, maybe I've confused them with the YMCA.
Anyway, The Mudville Gazette has set me straight, not just with the current controversy over the Pentagon's support of the Boy Scouts, but with a picture of the various medals a boy scout has to choose from.Boy Scout medals

    They’re Boy Scout Religious Emblems. From left to right, Baptist, Buddhist, Hindu, Islamic, Roman Catholic, and Zoroastrian – the Scouts require faith from their members, but not in a specific God. That distinction doesn’t appear in the media coverage of the issue though, does it?

    The Scout Law declares a Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent.

    They don't claim a monopoly on any of those.

    To the best of my knowledge, other than the reverent part the ACLU has no problem with the Scouts. Odd isn't it? Why isn't the ACLU going to bat for those who refuse to bathe? Why not attack the Scouts for excluding the deceitful, backstabbing, troublesome, mean, rude, unruly, morose, extravagant, cowardly, and dirty Baptists or Hindus that are denied membership too?

    Further explanation of 'reverent' from the Scouts home page: "A Scout is reverent. He is reverent toward God. He is faithful in his religious duties and respects the convictions of others in matters of custom and religion."

    Yea, I can see where that's offensive.

But I don't know of any other youth organization that comes close to instilling the sense that developing your character is the key to a happy life. I like their slogan "Do a good turn every day". I like the scout law and think we could all benefit if more people followed it.

    TRUSTWORTHY A Scout tells the truth. He keeps his promises. Honesty is part of his code of conduct. People can depend on him.

    A Scout is true to his family, Scout leaders, friends, school, and nation.

    A Scout is concerned about other people. He does things willingly for others without pay or reward.

    A Scout is a friend to all. He is a brother to other Scouts. He seeks to understand others. He respects those with ideas and customs other than his own.

    A Scout is polite to everyone regardless of age or position. He knows good manners make it easier for people to get along together.

    A Scout understands there is strength in being gentle. He treats others as he wants to be treated. He does not hurt or kill harmless things without reason.

    A Scout follows the rules of his family, school, and troop. He obeys the laws of his community and country. If he thinks these rules and laws are unfair, he tries to have them changed in an orderly manner rather than disobey them.

    A Scout looks for the bright side of things. He cheerfully does tasks that come his way. He tries to make others happy.

    A Scout works to pay his way and to help others. He saves for unforeseen needs. He protects and conserves natural resources. He carefully uses time and property.

    A Scout can face danger even if he is afraid. He has the courage to stand for what he thinks is right even if others laugh at or threaten him.

    A Scout keeps his body and mind fit and clean. He goes around with those who believe in living by these same ideals. He helps keep his home and community clean.

    A Scout is reverent toward God. He is faithful in his religious duties. He respects the beliefs of others.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:38 PM | Permalink

April 23, 2004

Other People's Good Deeds Make You a Better Person

I remember years ago watching the comedian George Carlin on television.
He was playing the part of a news announcer. I was absolutely charmed by his announcement of the discovery of a new color - it seemed totally ridiculous and very funny. I had a similar feeling when I heard about the "discovery" of a new emotion. Except, it's really true. Jonathan Haidt , Asst Prof of Psychology, at the University of Virginia, won the Templeton Positive Psychology Prize and a cash award of $100,000, in 2001.

According to Dr. Haidt, witnessing--even reading about--acts of kindness, heroism, or moral beauty produces an emotion called elevation. Elevation has been noted in different cultures around the world and often manifests itself as a feeling in the chest, especially warm, pleasant, or tingling. It also has a motivating effect: People who have experienced elevation report wanting to help others, to become better people themselves, and to affiliate with others who are also doing good.

Part of the Business of Life is becoming a better person, developing character and integrity. So, now we know that by seeking out stories of inspiring or heroic people make it more likely you will act that way yourself. I guess that's why there are inspirational section of bookstores. People know that if you are feeling in the dumps, reading biographies or inspiring stories can really help. Now we have a word for why it works so well.

Let me excerpt one part of
Prof Haidt's study on elevation

    Myself and 3 guys from my church were going home from volunteering our services at the salvation army that morning. It had been snowing since the night before and the snow was a thick blanket on the ground. As we were driving through a neighborhood near where I lived I saw an elderly woman with a shovel in her driveway. I did not think much of it, when one of the guys in the back asked the driver to let him off here. The driver had not been paying much attention so he ended up circling back around towards the lady's home. I had assumed that this guy just wanted to save the driver some effort and walk the short distance to his home (although I was clueless as to where he lived). But when I saw him jump out of the back seat and approach the lady, my mouth dropped in shock as I realized that he was offering to shovel her walk for her.the most common response was to describe generalized desires to help others and to become a better person.

    Several participants described the kind of openness and urge to be playful that Fredrickson ascribes to joy. The woman who wrote about the snow-shoveling episode above also wrote,

    "I felt like jumping out of the car and hugging this guy. I felt like singing and running, or skipping and laughing. Just being active. I felt like saying nice things about people. Writing a beautiful poem or love song. Playing in the snow like a child. Telling everybody about his deed".

    A common theme in most of the narratives is a social focus a desire to be with, love, and help other people.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:44 PM | Permalink

April 20, 2004

Information to knowledge, knowledge to wisdom.

Richard Bolles of What Color is Your Parachute has written about the Spirit at Work, why faith is the key to maturity

Information is words + silence. Silence is what is what is omitted from what we are told
Knowledge is information organized and applied
Wisdom the addition of context and weight

Information to knowledge, knowledge to wisdom. That is our long journey in life, our journey to maturity.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:58 AM | Permalink

April 19, 2004

Teaching Kindness

Your wife is murdered in a suicide bombing and with her your unborn child.
What is your response to such terror? Revenge, paralysis, depression come to my mind first.

But if you are Schmuel Greenbaum, whose 31 year old wife Shoshana was killed in the horrific Sbarro pizza bombing in Jerusalem in 2001, your personal response is KINDNESS.

Greenbaum started a non-profit organization, Partners in Kindness whose purpose is to inspire people to committing more acts of kindness in their lives.

I have in awe of people who can transform such an horrific act by an expanded and enlarged consciousness that creates good.

There is an weekly email distribution called "Kind Words" with stories of kindness that people have submitted. It has become for me a necessary antidote to the news, sad and terrible, I read each day.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:20 PM | Permalink