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Ideas That Have Stuck

Dr. H. David Burstein February 2010.

Several years ago I attended a lecture by Jewish educator Elliott Malamet.  He stated that one of his favourite words was "disillusioned."  He loved it because it meant that a person became aware that a perception had been an illusion.  There may be a sense  of disappointment in being disillusioned, but now there is a truer sense of reality.

One of the disillusions of my youth was that I used to think that all adults were sophisticated and wise.  As an adult, I know we are not.

I would hear about cocktail and dinner parties and imagine the conversation would center on philosophy and the great issues of the day.  

Parties are great. Celebrating life, good food, and schmoozing with friends and family are crucial.  Also, they present a chance to get away from the kids (Yes).   At parties, there is a lot of small talk.
   
But there is a limit to the small talk.  It does not add depth and meaning to our lives.

We all have different levels of friendships and intimacies.  My inner circle has gotten smaller.    When I talk go out with my other circles I do not expect deep personal stuff.   I generally do not leave myself vulnerable.   Often the quality of conversation goes down as the number of people goes up.  That being said, if we do not let others into our thoughts, we are shutting out an opportunity for growth.

Imagine being at a dinner party, at a circular table of ten people, some who are strangers. Aside from the needed small talk to serve as an icebreaker, what would you want the conversation to be like?   You want to come a way from the evening and say that you found the people decent, insightful, had a sense of humour, their ideas thought provoking, and you look forward to carrying a conversation with them in the future.  Did the evening energize you because it reconfirmed the quality of the people you have in your life and maybe added a few more?  

Conversely, if you were to speak negatively about the time, some of the comments would sound something like "So and so had nothing to say.  Or "He/she only talks about themselves or stuff.  

Michael McGee once commented "Conversation is my university.   Or as Mark Twain once quipped "I did not want my schooling to get in the way of my education.

It has been said that since we have two ears and one mouth that should be the ratio of how we use them. When having conversations instead of waiting for a chance to speak, focus on listening to what others are saying and then ask them follow up questions.

In commenting about sophistication, other than what we do for a living, how well rounded are any of us?  I know a lot of dentistry.  Yet I am acutely aware of how much I do not know in my chosen profession.  So what about the rest of life?    What are the things we think about when we are not focused on work or children?  Why do these ideas/hobbies interest us?

 My levels of understanding are basic, but there have been insights and ideas into various aspects of life, that do provide the paradigms for my understanding of it.   I know they indirectly reflect who I am. 

If my wife Lesley and I were to ever be invited to a party (this is what happens when you have 3 kids under 5) and the conversation would turn to reveal ideas that animate us, these are some of the ideas Id bring to the table.  After reading them, I may have disqualified myself from a lot of social gatherings, but Ill take my chances.

The most important four word question:  "What do you think?

To quote a source brings redemption to the world.  (Talmud)

We have a moral obligation to be as happy as possible. (Dennis Prager)

Gratitude is indispensable in order to become happy. (Prager)

Happiness is to be pursued but ultimately it is a bi-product of how we are living our life. (Prager)

We have to learn to compartmentalize our unhappiness. (Prager)

Men love with their eyes.  Women love with their ears.  (Zsa Zsa Gabor)

One of the problems with mental illness is that it prevents people from using their free will.

Our biggest battle in life is with ourselves. 

That which got you where you are today is not good enough to keep you there. (Bob Levoy)

The brilliance of trial and error is greater than the genius of the original idea.

Life is Difficult.   (Scott Peck "The Road Less Traveled)

Interdependence is a higher quality than independence. (Stephen Covey "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People)

Alexis de Tocqueville in his book "Democracy in America made the point that if you are going to have a society that gives so many rights and freedoms to the individual, the individual needs a religious consciousness to balance it.
 
So much of the differences between men and women originate in the difference in the sex act.  For men it is a movement out of the body, for women it is taking in.  Men seek the truth outside of themselves, women believe in the truth from within.

In raising children there are many battles against parents: insatiability, distraction and temptation.  All one needs to see that the world looks at our children as consumers is to notice at whose eye level cupcakes are displayed in bakeries.

Men are physically insatiable, women are emotionally insatiable.  While men have to be socialized to attenuate and refocus their more aggressive sides of their physical nature, are there any demands on women to attenuate their emotions. (Prager)

Men are focused on single things, women are multitaskers.   

I do not condone either of these scenarios, but which is worse:
1) What would bother a woman more: to find out that once every five years her husband had a one night stand but other wise was completely communicative, or to have a husband who was completely loyal sexually, but every two weeks had an intimate lunch with a female friend?
2) What would bother a woman more:  To find out that her husband was having an affair, or to find out that the lifestyle that her husband had established for the couple was based on the fact that he had been embezzling people?
3) How would the husband react to the previous scenarios if he found out his wife was involved in such behavior?

The most important institution in the United States is the individual. 

 "The critical test of democracy it its ability to free human energies and intellect on the frontiers of human accomplishment.   (George Gilder "The Israel Test)

"The bigger the government, the smaller the individual. (Prager)

"There are two types of men: protectors and predators. (James Stenson). I add "and parasites.

Stenson also commented that we are not raising children, we are raising adults.  Have the big picture of what type of person you want your child to be when they are 30 years old.

New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman commented that one of the components of Western society that Islamists have eroded is trust.  You need trust in order to function efficiently.  But when you cannot even get into an airplane without thinking that someone else may want to blow it up, you have a sense that our civilization is being undermined.
BTW have you ever thought of the economic ramifications of the need for enhanced airport security?  

Ruth Wisse expresses a concern that many Jews live by a Holocaust Theology.  She states that Judaism would not have survived if it focused on condition of being slaves.  While we are to remember that we were slaves, it is what came after leaving slavery that counts.  The current greatness of Judaism, Israel, and the Jewish people has accomplished in the last sixty years is to be celebrated.  Too much mourning that the Nazis killed us cannot overwhelm us.. 

Finally, when you have a chance to get out of the house, go.  Collateral living will occur.

I would love to know what are the ideas that animate you.

Thanks for reading this article.  All feedback is welcome at hdburstein@rogers.com.

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