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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.

“Running on Empty” Strikes Deep Into Me

May 21st, 2019

I was mowing just now. It’s not an easy task – mowing in humid South Carolina. A song randomly came on my music player: “Running on Empty“, the classic and trenchant song by Jackson Browne. I began to cry as it struck deeply into me. It’s a haunting and prescient piece. It’s intriguing, incisive, introspective.

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Loyalty, Friendship, and Civic Virtue

loyalty May 7th, 2019

Those of you who know anything about my writings or political belief system might find the following surprising: Donald Trump and I share at least one value in common. Is it greed? Immorality? Do we both value self-aggrandizement at the expense of the community/country? No – at least, I hope not! Click through to find out which one I am referring to, and why.

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Moderation is Sometimes a Virtue

moderation April 13th, 2019

I saw a picture of a childhood friend today, shaking hands with president Trump. He said he was proud to be shaking the hands of a president – this or any other. I spend so much time in a given week learning about or thinking about the travesties that pass as governance, and feel sometimes like I am stuck in an Orwellian nightmare. I can’t help but feel that if one agrees with Trump as a person, that they are a part of a social group that is diametrically opposed to my sensibilities and philosophies and instincts. And that if they support him as the leader of the free world, they are lost as to what values and virtues such as freedom, responsibility, and the rule of law really mean. I felt much the same way when Bush was in office. It raises some interesting questions not only about friendship, but also partisanship, principles, and temperament. As I reflect on this friendship vis-à-vis the problems in America today, I am asking myself questions about the virtue of moderation – not one of my most familiar values. 

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Stress Distracts Us from Our Values

stress April 9th, 2019

I was recently watching an incisive, hour-long program on HBO called “One Nation Under Stress.” It is an investigative piece by head physician/journalist at CNN, Sanjay Gupta. The takeaway I perceived was that America is a nation under significant stress. If we were an individual lifeform, we would be said to be ailing, in great danger. I want to briefly take a look at some of the signs and symptoms, and take a glancing blow at some causes of stress, and highlight some of the costs. True to form, I will point out that this is based in part on cultural-political phenomena, primarily. Stress underlies it all. My ultimate point is that this is a shame, because some of the best that we humans can do is to keep our values “in front of us” and focus on what makes life worth living, and not get ulcers and become alcoholics as we focus on the ever-present hum of chronic stress that plagues most of us. 

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Can Wisdom Be Found in Books?

wisdom in books April 7th, 2019

All due respect to Tom Morris, who is an intellectual titan. He wrote this piece in a LinkedIn post. At first I was very excited to repost it as a blog. It had a decent length, and the title – wow! – I figured it had to be good. Well, it wasn’t, exactly. The issue with the post was not that it wasn’t fair for Morris to use that title to draw readers to his works of fiction. I am fully willing to grant that his books are about wisdom in the indirect sense, and like many fantastic and hallmark examples of literature throughout the ages – Tolstoy, Austen, Hemingway, Jong – we can find much in them to enlighten and move us. Topics and ideas and nuances that shed light on major questions in the philosophical and personal growth realm. Morals, existence, values, wisdom, etc. My issue was simply that he was pointing to his books as examples of art that extol and explore issues such as wisdom. In my blog of the exact same name (hat tip to Dr. Morris), I would like to explore the question in a much broader and deeper way.

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Patriotism: Liberal & Conservative Viewpoints

patriotism April 1st, 2019

Colin Kaepernick has done what many an African American has done in America’s long and tumultuous and somewhat ignominious history: made us all look at the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and Bill of Rights, and centuries of legal precedence in a new light. He has an outstanding foil in the vacuous President of the United States, I am ashamed to say. Both representatives of polar-opposite points of view tout patriotism – though of a very different stripe. It’s an interesting, critical, and telling public debate that I suggest we all weigh in on. At best, we can progress toward higher levels of legal, societal, and emotional development if we accept America’s liabilities and mistakes and move forward with dignity and grace.

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Inspiration Is About Values + Emotion

inspiration can be found in helping March 25th, 2019

Inspiration, motivation, meaning, fulfillment – the stuff we would buy if it were for sale. Even though pharmaceuticals, sporting events, books, massage, sex, make-up, children, and virtual reality video games are indeed for sale, inspiration is not really able to be purchased directly. You have to grow it in the garden of your mind & soul. Mark S. Albion offers some sage advice: “There is a big difference between more sales or money and more happiness or fulfillment. The kind of growth that seems the most important to people is the kind of growth you can’t count.” Read on to find out more about how inspiration can be understood and ideally, found.

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Songs I’m Thinking About Today

March 16th, 2019

Two deep and inspiring songs that struck me today are the following. Van Halen’s “Dreams” and Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On”. Let these masterpieces sink in…

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Humanity’s Dark Side: Obedience to Authority

obedience to authority March 9th, 2019

There is a strain of experiments buoyed by theory that is in the category of social psychology – the branch of the study of human behavior that locates a human being in their social context. That is, people may have some individuality, some trait-like tendencies to think, feel, perceive, and act in a more or less typical way (i.e., based on their personality type). Social psychologists study how human beings function in relation to their environment. This essentially radical environmental approach doesn’t mimic the approach of Pavlov, Watson, and Skinner – dyed-in-the-wool environmentalists – because the attempt is not to change behavior, but to analyze and predict it. Read on for a brief summary, some elucidating quotations, and one of the most shocking experiments ever to come out of a major university.

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The Dialectic: A Top 10 Philosophy Concept

the dialectical method March 2nd, 2019

Have you heard the term dialectic? It’s a philosophical concept that is a bit complicated. This blog will explain what a dialectic is, how it can be useful, a little bit of history, etc. At bottom, the centuries-old concept is a way of moving toward wisdom in which two opposing positions are reconciled, compared, and synthesized, thus arriving at a new, superior, insight. It’s a higher-order phenomenon borne of philosophizing, communicating, comparing, contrasting, analyzing, and parsing. Strengths of each opposing point of view is considered, explicated, and utilized. Different theories can be compared in this manner and a final, integrative model can result. 

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