Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle

To be a hero

Following up on the tribute to RBG, it occurred to me, both as a writer and an educator, to imagine what is required to be a hero. What I know about RBG is that she did not set out to be one but achieved that status nonetheless. Her biography tells us that she was committed to working for others, being honest to herself and the rest of the world, and doing what was right.

Let’s assume that you decide at an early age that you want to commit your life to doing good deeds for your world. In order to get there from here, you must first learn as much as you can. Sources of knowledge are family members, religious leaders, educators, and endless books of all types.

We make a mistake when we narrow research to a very small field. No matter the discipline, learn as much as you can about as many subjects as possible. My experience suggests that truly learned people have studied fields ranging from astronomy to zoology.

Defining the scope of your heroism is the next step. If you want to be a national or international icon, you will probably need to distinguish yourself in politics, scientific research, or global humanitarian achievements. If your definition of heroism is more local than global, you may want to focus your time and energy on matters within your immediate space. That may be your block, community, town, religious group, city, or state.

There are numerous ways to make yourself known for good works. Teaching is one choice. If you don’t have the credentials to teach, schools of all sorts always need volunteers. And if education isn’t in your heart, there are as many volunteer organizations as there are diseases, causes, or political inclinations.

And if you choose to be a hero to your child, grandchild, niece, or nephew, that’s a major responsibility in itself. Carefully choose the words you utter. Do everything possible not to insult those around you. The kids are listening and inclined to imitate what you say and do. When you are unpleasant, unpredictable, and unkind; these are the phrases and behaviors they receive.

Most likely, few people wake up and declare, “I am going to be a hero.” RBG certainly did not. That doesn’t mean that we can be reckless or accidental about the messages we transmit. You may never know when a man or woman will one day think of you as a hero. Shalom.

Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle

Goodbye, RBG

Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.  Ruth Bader Ginsburg

The world has just lost a giant, someone who changed the world forever and who will leave a legacy for all those who take the time to consider who she was and what she did. Ruth Bader Ginsburg has just died, a victim of pancreatic cancer who fought that disease with all of her might and endurance.

This quotation is as much a character statement as any I’ve seen about RBG, my personal hero. She fought prejudice, sexism and social injustice but did it in a way that encouraged others to join her.

Fighting as a sole patriot or trailblazer is clearly less effective than being a changemaker and one who encourages others to participate. Good managers realize that they can be most successful in leading others when they participate in processes. Autocrats and dictators generally don’t succeed, either in the corporate environment or anywhere else. We have notable exceptions throughout history, including Hitler, Stalin, and at least one of our current political figures.

But if we look at those figures in history who were most admired and followed, they were those who involved as much of the constituency as possible. JFK comes to mind, as do Mahatma Gandhi, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr., and others. All of these leaders have been venerated throughout history and my guess is that RBG will be as well.

If you’re not a fan of religious equality or elimination of sexism in the workplace, the legacy of RBG won’t be as significant to you as it is to the rest of us. But in addition to leading a life of discipline, foresight, responsibility, and wisdom, she will be remembered as a pioneer in both of those areas.

For my part, I can’t think of too many women who have distinguished themselves as she has. We need leaders of both sexes, those who have paved the way for little girls and boys who seek excellence and integrity. RBG, you will be missed but because of your efforts, those who follow will have clearer paths as well as a brilliant role model. Shalom.

Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle

Reprisal

Dictionary.com’s definition of reprisal is the following: (in warfare) retaliation against an enemy for injuries received, by the infliction of equal or greater injuries. It goes on to define, the forcible seizure of property or subjects in retaliation.

The research I have uncovered most recently in preparation for my next book has furnished the word reprisal. While the US is in disputes with various countries, we are not in the midst of a declared war. As a result, we don’t see or hear this word very often.

During World War II, one of the many reasons why Jews and other captives generally did not attempt escape or brutality toward captors was the fear of reprisal. When one captive hurt or killed a soldier, killing in retaliation would take place. One of the authors I’m reading (Martin Gilbert) estimates 1200 deaths of reprisal to one escapee or injured Nazi.

All of this causes me to wonder about what we do to others out of reprisal. Cutting someone off on the road who has tailgated you or done something similar surely constitutes reprisal. Refraining from writing to someone who hasn’t written or emailed you in some time is reprisal. Putting your child on timeout simply because you had a rough day and can’t handle his behavior is reprisal.

Someone hurting you doesn’t give you license to hurt anyone else. Yes, it’s pretty obvious that it is never acceptable to do intentional damage to someone. But the point is to examine our motives in terms of our actions toward others.

One of the countless truths I’ve learned from my husband is the wisdom of giving others the benefit of the doubt. If he hasn’t heard from someone, he speculates that the other person has been busy or ill. In all of our years together, I have never seen him get angry while driving, much less committing acts of reprisal. The example is an excellent one for all of us to follow.

These days, we have few occasions to worry about reprisal in terms of acts of war or violence. But retaliation and reprisal are probably more common than we realize. Once we consider the examples and symbols of reprisal throughout history, it becomes clear that injuring someone because someone injured you is simply unacceptable. Shalom.

Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle

Changes

Maybe because it’s been too long since I’ve been in the classroom, I have substantial time to dedicate to thinking. One of the observations that I have made as recently as today is that I have spent too much of my life avoiding changes large and small. When you avoid change simply for the sake of not making changes, it may be to your disadvantage.

Just because you’ve been doing something in a particular way for a certain number of years, it’s going to be an excellent idea to change it up. Yesterday I saw an article about a woman who has been feeding pigeons on her front lawn for the past many years, much to the chagrin of her neighbors who object to the noise and refuse. Maybe she ought to think about feeding hummingbirds (provided that they exist in her area) and do the world another type of contribution.

Imagine that you’ve been doing your grocery shopping at the same store for a long time. They know you there (maybe) and you know that you can usually get the items that you need without worrying about quantity or quality. But there’s a neighborhood co-op down the street that features products from local growers. Stop in there and you may be very pleasantly surprised at what they have to offer. In addition to that, you will be benefiting the local farmers who have had a rough summer due to the restaurant and school closures.

For my part, I’ve changed a few small things and was pleased about two conclusions. One is that the world as we know it continued to function without any disruption whatsoever. The second is that I felt some satisfaction about knowing that I wasn’t inappropriately fastened to a habit that had no merit whatsoever.

Throw some change into your life and see what happens. Depending on what you modify, no-one or everyone will notice. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what anyone thinks about it but you. Except for such issues as yielding the right of way or paying bills, most of the modifications that you are able to make will be for the greater or smaller good. Shalom.

Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle · Writing, editing, editorial, philosophy

If only

To my knowledge, I have never before wondered how it would feel to imagine how an inanimate object would feel if it were suddenly alive and capable of thought or emotion. It’s pretty ridiculous, after all, to wonder how your car feels when you get into it or how your shoes feel when you insert your feet. On the other hand (or foot), I have allowed myself the literary license to imagine what my new book would be experiencing if it had feelings.

There are good reasons for my wandering down this path. The book is the product of many years of the hardest work that I have ever done, other than teaching. It represents many hours of research, pages and pages of notes, and five edits once the book was completed. No, I haven’t lost track of reality. It’s my author frame of mind that causes me to wonder what the book would say if it were capable of speech other than its printed pages.

One message that has been delivered loudly from this item is, “I am your miracle.” It’s difficult to express how the word miracle became attached to this volume except that I worked on it for so long that at times, it was beyond comprehension that it would become reality. After that, the book is telling me to make it available to those who can benefit most from it. This is a long list and while I would love to have the identity of all those who fit into this category, I can only guess (and hope).

Although we are losing Holocaust survivors every day, some remain. Many who do are determined to tell their story, both to provide hope to those suffering in any way and to make certain that the tragedies of World War II are never repeated. Jews were not the only group of people who were targeted. Approximately two and a half million Russians were killed by the Nazis after Germany invaded the Soviet Union. And so, not only the Jews wish to derive hope from stories such as mine; but also, others share that goal.

If my book had the ability to speak, I suspect that it would also provide encouragement to those who seek to create a book or play or musical composition but do not have the determination or confidence to do so. Twenty years ago, I never would have imagined that I would be an author. Now I have two of my own books in print, one collaboration, and three more in progress. Never give up faith in yourself or your abilities. All you need to believe is to remind yourself that you have the initiative and the talent to proceed.

Finally, my book would be saying that I am entitled to feel the joy and gratification that I do each time I look at it. The majority of that joy is directly I attributed to the fact that I have succeeded in sending my message to those alive and remembered, that their memories are for a blessing. We shall never forget what they endured and for as long as God sees fit to continue my life on this planet, I will do everything I can to honor them. Shalom

Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle

House on fire

Reorganizing my bookshelves today, I rediscovered a treasured book that offers hundreds of suggestions on subjects for writing efforts. It’s my blessing that I seldom have trouble identifying subjects that are worthy of pursuing in this blog but the book is provocative and extremely interesting.

The one that I seized for this moment has to do with a fire starting in your home and the need to select one item that you could take with you. Thankfully, I have never had to survive a fire so I cannot speak from experience on this subject. And while I would like to believe that I would have an opportunity to grab more than one thing as I left a burning house, that would defeat the purpose of this exercise.

It’s not an easy endeavor. My first thoughts were the pictures of my family. More than anything else in the home, these pictures can never be duplicated. Second was my purse. It has my wallet and critical pieces of identification. The cash isn’t a consideration – while I never have much cash, the banks and other companies would ultimately provide access to whatever finances I need or would need after leaving the house.

My next thought was my jewelry box. It contains treasures that I could never replace, either legacies or gifts. The bedroom (and jewelry box) are closer to the front door but the unknown becomes, where is the fire most serious and requiring the greatest amount of avoidance? The advantage of taking one item from the bedroom is that there is a door to the back yard, seldom used but certainly available in a fire.

After I examined these three choices, the last is the most obvious to anyone who has known me for more than ten minutes. That which has the greatest and most incalculable value is my laptop. My published book and its successor are there, as well as another book in progress to which I have probably dedicated several hundred hours.

We can hope that I will never need to make such a decision and that a house fire is nowhere in my future. But as I submit the idea to you, it’s an inquiry that I believe is absolutely worthwhile. What do you need to preserve more than anything else. Needless to say, spouses and children are excluded from the exercise because their safety is paramount.

But after that, what do you want to save? What can’t you replace? It becomes a commentary on that which is part of your bank account versus part of your heart. Shalom.

Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle

Doing justice

The other day, I asked a friend if my blog reference to him did him justice. Happily, he said that it did, and I began thinking about the word justice. None of the curricula that I have taught have included any reference, direct or oblique, to justice. We talk about the judicial system, especially when we are adding a Supreme Court justice. But beyond that, how often do the majority of world citizens think about justice?

Many of us often think about the need for justice when we see someone or a group of people doing something that is clearly and absolutely wrong. A good example is the cretin who was taunting bison at Yellowstone, one of my most treasured places. He was eventually apprehended and placed in the Yellowstone jail. Justice was served.

Likewise, when the pedophile who abused hundreds of young Olympic gymnasts was arrested, we cheered at the delivery of justice. There were no gray areas or chances for mitigation. My opinion is that society hasn’t yet identified a punishment that is harsh enough for him.

My goal as an educator is to deliver justice to rule-breakers as often and consistently as possible. We need to give them choices. If they fail to uphold promises, they understand that they will experience appropriate consequences. To my mind, this is how we teach our children about justice.

If you steal a classmate’s food, you get no snack. If you can’t manage to work cooperatively, you work alone. If you keep blurting out information during class participation, I will not call on you.

One way or another, we must teach that we always have choices. Making wrong ones will result in justice. When you’re driving 65 in a 40 mile per hour zone, I will cheer at your speeding ticket.

Likewise, justice can be positive. Pay your taxes, abide by the laws that are in place and you’re entitled to help mold your world by voting. Violate that with gymnastic students or bison and you deserve the worst that we can orchestrate. Shalom.

Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle

Team

There is something about being part of a team that makes it a uniquely demanding and often gratifying experience. While I’m not referring specifically to sports teams, they may and often do share some of the qualities that non-athletic teams derive from group experiences.

From the top, I’m not referring to all of the “Hoorah” or knuckle-bumping that you may associate with many collaborations. It’s not about paying dues, wearing the right hoodie or doing the team mantra. More importantly, it’s about being with and around people who care about your success and personal growth.

This all occurs to me as one who has recently rejoined a business organization. The experience of doing so has been quite a surprise. People whom I had forgotten were remembering me. Those whom I had not met were interested in knowing more about me and what goes on in my brain.

Clearly, none of that puts money in the bank, cleans my garage or gets me better gas mileage. But I’m beginning to believe that folks of all flavors are enriched by belonging to something. It creates camaraderie, stimulating human interaction and often, the sense of community predicated on shared priorities.

For those who seek becoming enhanced by the emotional or psychological benefits of being part of an association, do whatever is necessary to move forward. The only true requirement is that you believe in the philosophy or objectives of that collection of participants.

Tutor some kids. Teach financial literacy to elementary school youngsters. Spend some time serving meals at a homeless shelter. Work for your political party. Dedicate volunteer hours to a local nursing home. These have all been in my past and provided more gratification than any paycheck. No matter what you choose to do, the process of proceeding toward something with others will be worthwhile. Your presence will inevitably and definitively improve that ensemble while you are benefitting yourself. Shalom.

Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle

Dreams

A dream is a prophecy in miniature.  Talmud

Dreams are funny, often nebulous commodities. Because I’m not a psychiatrist or psychologist, I don’t have the professional training to analyze or interpret dreams, mine or those of others. But what we do with our dreams makes a giant difference in what we can achieve.

Some people don’t remember the dreams that they have while sleeping; the rest of us can rarely translate the ones we remember into anything useful. My guess is that the quotation from Jewish scholars of the Talmud refers to those dreams that we have when we are awake. Perhaps the distinction needs to be made between dreaming and day-dreaming. But for the purposes of my observations, I refer only to dreaming of that which we hope to visualize or accomplish.

One of my newfound realizations is that too many of us dwell in the past rather than imagining a better future. Reliving events already completed equates to revisiting something that is incapable of change. Along those lines, Thomas Jefferson said, “I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past.”

And so, you might wonder about the subjects of your dreams. There are no limits, no rules and no standards to follow. If you dream of climbing the world’s highest peaks, imagining the view at the top is only the first step. Find out what it takes to get there, jump into your training and set a date for it to take place.

If your dreams are more at sea-level, act upon those in the same manner. If you want to/need to lose weight, don’t be influenced by the number of pounds – simply approach it as one pound at a time. Celebrate each loss as the next step on the journey that you’ve dreamed.

Our world’s greatest endeavors have been completed by those who had the initiative to dream – these include the remarkable successes of people such as Walt Disney, Oprah Winfrey, Jesse Owens, Vincent Van Gogh and Carl Jung who said, “Who looks outside dreams; who looks inside awakes.” Grasping your dreams and transforming them into power will enable you to accomplish everything that you can envision. Shalom.

Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle

What we say

One of the things I love most about the English language is its precision. Maybe the fact that I have been working in, around and with English for some time contributes to my awareness of the specificity of my language. But whenever I wander into certain words, I am in awe of the vastness of our vocabulary.

Driving down the highway, I was busily searching for antelope. Two of them appeared, hiding in a recessed patch of ground. They were in a gully, a word I may never have used before. It could have been a ditch, a valley or who knows what. But having gully available was simply a good time.

Think about the word “persnickety.” You may have only heard it used once or twice. If so, I’ll bet you picture a grouchy, temperamental old guy who can also be a curmudgeon. That’s a double winner. Isn’t it glorious that someone, somewhere thought to put the right letters together in order to create a euphonious treasure such as persnickety?

Our language also has words such as mellifluous, cacophony, hyperbole, aristocracy and pusillanimous. These are words that have nothing to do with each other. They are all entertaining to say, have quite explicit meanings and are seldom heard in ordinary conversations. But now and then I admit to the habit of dropping in one of these more obscure words, simply because they are so inherently illuminating.

Have fun with this: We toured a home and discovered the interior to be gawdy and anachronistic. Replace the last word with old-fashioned, outdated, passé, unfashionable or common and you would achieve essentially the same effect. But why not enjoy a four-syllable, delicious word when you have the opportunity? It’s salubrious! And if you’re inclined to suggest that using these terms is being a showoff – I’ll tell you what I often say. Word are like muscles; if you don’t use them, they atrophy. Shalom.