values

values


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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Altruism in Action: Helping Others is a Virtue

altruism February 19th, 2019

Altruism is one of the most intriguing virtues. I have always found it to be “upon high,” very worthy, truly excellent. It has been called “selfishness in reverse,” and is basically when a person is helpful to another when “no benefits are expected or offered in return.” It sometimes involves self-sacrifice (for example, if you give money to someone, you don’t have that money any longer, or if you run into a burning building, you may be injured). It’s human beings helping human beings, and choosing to allocate valuable resources in such a way that one does not expect to keep a lion’s share of it. Is it real? How does is mesh with capitalism and the “rugged individualism” that the wealthy and powerful have fomented in this country since the very beginning? Is love really the answer?

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Truth: Detecting and Defending It

finding truth can be elusive February 1st, 2019

“We may not always know what is true, but we can develop some proficiency at detecting what is false” ~ Michael Parenti – a wonderful quote about truth. This is such an intriguing quote, I was amazed to find it virtually buried on page 37 of Professor Parenti’s 2007 book – a compilation of essays. It is, pound for pound, a great look at the value of truth. He also wrote: “Our readiness to accept something as true, or reject it as false, rests less on its argument and evidence and more on how it aligns with the preconceived notions embedded in the dominant culture, and assumptions we have internalized due to repeated exposure.” So, what is true? How can we know it? How to defend it? Read on.

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Live Your Values; Bring Them to Life!

live your values January 2nd, 2019

“…bring to Life Those Ideals.” The remarkable thinker, historian and activist Howard Zinn was referring you ought to “live your values” with that quote. It is a kind of integrity, I think, to not only know what you value, but to try to make your values real and manifest them in your life. It’s not always easy, though. “The hours” have a way of sapping energy and reducing focus. Yet Zinn lived into his 80s and was active and influential until near the end. Read on to find some inspirational quotes set in the context of living a life of value.

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Beliefs and Actions Involve Values

beliefs and actions involve values November 24th, 2018

Yesterday I wrote a blog with the headline “Values Underly Our Beliefs and Actions.” A friend got on my case about how it was very one-sided, partisan, myopic, and very unlikely to change anyone’s mind. That’s probably fair. I might be accused of having a terrible case of Trump Derangement Syndrome. Most good Americans who follow news probably do. In fact, I replied to my friend that there are probably very few “independents” out there in the sense that they haven’t decided what their political beliefs are or if they think Trump is a madman or a white knight. Folks who don’t get the threat that Trump poses to this country (and the planet, and the future of the planet) (or who think we all just need to chill for 2-6 years until he is done) in my opinion either misunderstand the threat or aren’t paying attention. However, I did realize that even though I couldn’t probably write a toned-down version of that very blog, I could write a similar blog that steers clear of politics. Ideally, I could make points that were agreed with by 90% of readers. Let’s see how I do.

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Values Underlie Our Beliefs and Actions

November 23rd, 2018

Values underlie our beliefs and actions. This is clear whether the lens is focusing on person to person interactions or government to government relations. This is clear to us when we reflect on it, but often this fact is overlooked or obscured. We tend to more easily focus on content, on the surface-level issues and triggers that evoke powerful emotion, involve tribes and loyalties, and which are purposely stoked by those who have a dog in the fight – be they advertisers, social media giants, or government officials. This blog presents some examples of values underlying actions, and the GOP is held up as an example.

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The Mystery of Good Character

character October 16th, 2018

The following is a guest blog written by A. C. Reid Professor of Philosophy at Wake Forest University, Christian B. Miller. In it, he addresses character and introduces the reader to the concept of a character gap. His new book is entitled The Character Gap: How Good Are We?  There is also a link to a blog written by Jason Merchey entitled “The Values and Virtues America Desperately Needs”

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Success According to Philosopher Tom Morris

success September 13th, 2018

Success is often talked and written about, but what exactly does it mean? Is it just another word for fame? Is it really about dominating the workplace? Driving the coolest car, having the most children? And who is one’s comparison group: peers, oneself, one’s superiors, one’s community? How about money: is the accumulation of it synonymous with success? Being a good person, and leaving the world better than one found it? I recently finished the older but still relevant book True Success, by the philosopher, one-time Notre Dame professor, person of faith, and values guru, Tom V. Morris. I will share some of the quotes from his book in this blog, this being the first: “To the extent that we want to have goals that are right for us and that will help make the contribution we are put in this life to make, we can be said to have as a goal true success.

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The Nature of Values According to Socrates

the nature of values according to Socrates September 8th, 2018

In 399 B.C.E., the year Socrates was put on trial in ancient Athens, he met a prosecutor (for lack of a better word) on the steps of the Court of Archon. His name was Euthyphro, and, astonishingly, he was prosecuting his very own father for murder. He felt it would be “pollution” to allow his father to go unpunished; a stain upon his good name. They get to talking, and soon Socrates has the arrogant man in his grasp. This blog is about the nature of values according to Socrates, which is essentially Socratic dialogue. The question being explored, specifically, is whether goodness is goodness because the Ancient Greek gods want it to be so, or do they see goodness when they look upward, just like we humans do?

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The Values and Virtues America Desperately Needs

the values and virtues America desperately needs September 2nd, 2018

America, if it were a person, would be experiencing anxiety, self-doubt, egocentrism, confusion, self-loathing, and narcissism. Life has never been easy or uniformly positive for all but the wealthy, and even then, the rich aren’t any happier than the other social classes. It’s true, there was what some consider to be a “golden era” as we came out of World War II. The wealthy and corporations paid a large share of the tax burden, had more in common with the other social classes (e.g., “the Commons” were more robust then), and jobs were well-paying and fairly secure. Despite the racial, gender and sexual orientation problems that plagued America then, it was a time of general prosperity, social mobility, and optimism. Something has gone awry to an increasingly dire degree; if America were a person it would be spending a lot of time in bars, occasionally getting into a fight while intoxicated, and dealing with a persistent cough. The values and virtues America desperately needs are the subjects of this blog. It entails social criticism, but I think America can look to its “better angels”, as Lincoln put it. We have to do it. 

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