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Jason Merchey the writer, philosophical thinker, and Master’s-level psychologist shares his perspectives on classical and modern applications of values, wisdom, ethics, and personal growth. The goal is to provide insight into what “a life of value” is and how one can live it. Quotations, proverbs, idioms, and historical facts often provide grist for the mill. Occasional guest blogs are featured as well.

The Wise Favor Truth Over Conspiracy Theories

conspiracy theories May 21st, 2020

…unless of course there is a conspiracy afoot! That does happen from time to time, when all the stars are aligned. Usually, though, conspiracies fail or never even get off the ground. Isn’t it odd that the same government that the hardcore libertarians we have had in our midst since the inception of the Tea Party which is constantly facing budget cuts and which sees its best and brightest dismissed due to cronyism and corruption is also fully capable of hatching and executing a “deep-state-type” massive, successful conspiracy? We are to believe that the Federal government is at once a bunch of masterminds intent on crippling the decent government officials we duly elected with our awful, dark-money-driven campaign finance system—the “deep state”—capable of engaging in a very sophisticated feat of skullduggery, intrigue, and nefariousness, and yet we can’t even get masks to doctors? Kids go hungry. We can’t control the debt. Mexican immigrants are supposed to be our worst problem if you watch Fox News. I would say the U.S. government could more easily be accused of garden-variety, low-level corruption like Russia, or totally incompetent, like Venezuela, than this!  Nay, this just doesn’t add up. What is much likelier, logically and rationally, is that the people who see conspiracy and libertarian affronts and liberals run amok are suffering from bias, lack of objectivity, fantastic thinking, and group phenomena. They should turn off Fox or Facebook and read a book by Mark Twain or George Eliot, I say. Here are some thoughts.

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Quotes About Vaccines and Public Health

vaccines May 19th, 2020

The rise in the numbers of individuals who choose not to get their children vaccinated—some for a justifiable reason, but most for some religious/philophical/political one—is most concerning. I have heard that some people are planning to refuse to take the COVID-19 vaccination in 12-18 months, or whenever it winds its way through the fairly-complex creation/testing/approval process! I just can’t fathom that. Elderly people dying in nursing homes; children getting a gnarly “Kawasaki-like syndrome” as a side effect of the virus; first responders and front-line workers putting their lives on the line, and on and on. It’s maddening, actually. I think it is a crystal-clear case-in-point of three phenomena a) misinformation/disinformation/ignorance; b) tribalism and political polarization; and c) hyper-individualism/extreme libertarianism. This blog will feature approximately 50 quotes about vaccines, vaccine refusal, and public health that I have collected so far (in alphabetical order).

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Jews Have Special Insight into American Discrimination

May 19th, 2020

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

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Noblesse Oblige: Caring for the Less Fortunate

May 16th, 2020

Author Steve Almond writes: “Although born into affluence, Trump developed a worldview indifferent, or perhaps hostile, to noblesse oblige—the notion, exemplified by the Kennedys—that nobility extends beyond lineage and requires constant compassion for the less fortunate. From early on, Trump favored a social dominance orientation, which describes the sort of person hung up on creating a hierarchy so he can be at the top of it. ‘Narcissistic Darwinism’ might also apply.” Here are a few thoughts on this idea that one with plentiful material comforts is best when they concern themselves with and help the less fortunate:

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Roy Campanella’s Amazing Inspirational Quote

inspirational quote May 16th, 2020

I heard the following amazing story the other day while attending church with my wife. The priest shared it, and it felt like it was essentially a long inspirational quote. I came home and was able to find it online, and am happy I did! It tells the story of the amazing life of Roy Campanella, a Hall of Fame catcher for the Brooklyn Dodgers, and fellow African-American player when Jackie Robinson played. Not only was his career remarkable, his spinal injury and the way he lived his life afterward were also deeply significant. He read a long inspirational quote on the wall of a rehab facility one day, and it floored him. In this blog, I share quite a bit of background about the buoyant, heralded player, human being, quadriplegic, and author Roy Campanella.

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Character: Look for it in a Leader

character May 13th, 2020

I don’t think President Trump reflects any of the values that I learned in the military. I don’t see integrity in him. I don’t see honor. I don’t see courage.

So says United States Marine, Hunter Henderson. Considering how thin-skinned and vindictive Trump is, it was very courageous for Henderson to “come out of the closet” and speak truth to power.

There is no case that can be made that Donald Trump is honorable, courageous, principled, or good. His proponents might say, “Well, I don’t agree with some of what he says, but I agree with many of his positions.” In the field of ethics that is called the end justifying the means (when the means are dirty or wrong, and the end of those means is supposed to—predicted to—be positive and fruitful.

I like politics, as you probably know. But my business is real estate investing.  Here is how character matters in this field:

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Willingness to Risk for the Sake of Glory

May 11th, 2020

I was just listening to Bravado, one of Rush’s greatest songs. On their 1998 album Different Stages, it really stood out to me (and the mead probably helped!). I wanted to juxtapose the lyrics to it with some thoughts I have. Maybe listen to it live on Youtube or something, it’s quite a piece. Very aspirational and inspiring. The first two lines feature the pithy line, flying too close to the sun.

It is an amazing song about willingness to risk, courage, vision, sacrifice, dedication, love, sorrow, and meaning.

It has me staring out the window, eyes welled up with tears.

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The Winter of Our Discontent

Shakespeare May 9th, 2020

“Now is the winter of our discontent,” Shakespeare wrote nearly 500 years ago. Talk about something standing the test of time! Indeed, there are many quotes from his prescient plays and striking sonnets that still aptly describe human beings today. As I write, it is nearly April, 2020, and the world is caught in convulsions of the chaos created by coronavirus. The pandemic, like something Shakespeare would have taken inspiration from, highlights both the good and the bad, the wise and the foolish, the wonderful and the absurd. It shows everything about human beings, the human condition, and humanity’s aspirations — and failings. It is through this lens that I write a bit about what is evident all around us now, in the winter of our discontent.

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

Icarus May 7th, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Empathy is a Solid Route to Moral Goodness

moral goodness May 5th, 2020

Empathy is the degree to which a person can place oneself in another’s shoes. Anyone can feel pain when someone steps on their toe, but what if you see someone else wincing in pain, grasping their own toe? The question is related to what you experience when you determine, perceptually, that someone else is suffering in some way. Empathy is a key driver of moral goodness, I believe. Another way to describe this phenomenon is, acting right is about empathizing with the other. What follows is my rationale.

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