What's Important

This is a collection of thoughts on issues that are important to me.                Back to Home Page

Tolerance

Perhaps because I belong to so many despised minorities (pilots, amateur radio operators, Jews), tolerance of human differences and preferences is important to me.  I never cease to be amazed by how far people will go to tell others what they may not do.  I think it was The Road Runner of 1950's cartoon fame who proclaimed proudly "I don't know what it is, but I don't like it and my instincts say 'Fight it!'"  If intolerance were the exclusive domain of middle-aged Americans whose innermost beliefs were formed by misunderstood children's TV programming, then I could look forward to a future dominated by the next generation of former children who received their early ethical training from Walt Disney and Sesame Street.  But, alas, this is not the case.  For millenia people have tried to dominate, restrict, constrain, control, prosecute, persecute, convert and even kill those who don't match their conception of human perfection.  Intolerance is not new and it is unlikely to go away any time soon.  But there is hope. Stay tuned. 

A few organizations I know that work for tolerance:

Hand in Hand is an Israeli school system that integrates Jewish and Arab children.

The Living Room Discussion Group brings Jews and Arabs together outside the Middle East.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, teaches tolerance, defends victims and monitors hate groups.


Tzedakah

The Hebrew word that denotes charity is "tzedakah."  However, it does not really mean "charity" in the English sense.  Rather, it means "righteousness," an old fashioned term more recently rendered as "doing the right thing."  Charity is voluntary; tzedakah is required.  Even the poorest among us, the recipients of charity, should give their own fair (very small) share in recognition of two things: their own humanity, with the same rights and obligations as the rich, and the fact that no matter how poor one might be, there is always someone worse off.  I doubt there are any readers here who are so poor as to exemplify that last distinction.  If you have Internet access and read English, chances are you have at least some resources beyond subsistence.  Please use them wisely.  If you have been blessed with ample resources, please give back generously to the society that helped you to get to where you are today.

There are many ways to give back.  Your giving should include some money.  But many are unable to give as much money as they would like, so they give more generously and more notably of their time.  This is fine.  In fact, the eager volunteer of modest means is more to be admired than the major donor who attempts to discharge all social responsibility with a big check.  Time and money:  give some of each and a lot of what you have the most of.  No one finds this easy, so you can't just shluff it off by saying "I'm too busy earning a meager living to do or to give."  You aren't.  You can.  Please do.  And if you are thinking of writing a big check, click here first.

A few of my charitable organizations:

Jewish Federation of Silicon Valley, part of the national United Jewish Communities

Israel Venture Network, a group of entrepreneurs applying their expertise to improving life in Israel

Truckee Tahoe Community Foundation, a regional umbrella charity 

Massachusetts Institute of Technology, my alma mater

Hard Work 

This is a tough one.  I believe in working hard and I used to do it.  I worked hard for 35 years, perhaps too hard.  Then I retired while still young enough to enjoy it.  It is just as worthy to put in a standard work week during which your vocation gets 100% of your on-the-job time, provided you use the rest of your time wisely.  All work and no play may make Jack a dull guy but all play and no work makes Jack an unworthy parasite.  If you are an unemployed couch potato whose primary activity is processing six packs in front of the tube, you don't want to hear this.  Sorry, Bud.  You're not making it in my book.   On the other hand, if you are a Type A workaholic, it may be hard to focus on anything outside of the job.  Give it a try.  Yes, there is a thing called "balance" and we all define it differently.  I think balance involves working hard enough to earn a living and make a contribution to your company and coworkers.  It includes giving your job's equivalent of the "baker's dozen," not because the King may cut off your hand if your weights are wrong but because it's the only way to ensure that you are being fair with your employer, not "stealing" in the broad sense of the word.  (If you are one of the angry masses who believe all corporations are evil and deserve to be ripped off, you need to get a life or at least find a better job.)  If you are able, make a contribution to your field.  If you are one of the greats, make a contribution to all of humanity.  

Then go home and do it all again.  Work hard enough at home life to raise worthy children who will further some of your values.  Don't insist that they adopt all of those values because there is too much good in the world and too little capacity in us for everyone to choose the same priorities.  They will certainly have some that you don't share.  Be satisfied with their good, if it is good, even if it is different from your own.  Be faithful to your life partner and your extended family.  Be a good citizen, cast considered votes, support political and social causes that you deem important, worship in your own way.  And after doing all this, even if it seems like qualifying for sainthood, make sure there are a few moments left for yourself.   Take care of your health and get adequate exercise doing something you enjoy.  Do something else you enjoy, non-physical.  And take some time, as my wife likes to say, to just "put your feet up" and relax.  That's OK, too.

And if you read this far, you must enjoy "Mom's Apple Pie."  I'm not sure whether I should publish this section at all because it seems so obvious.  And so difficult, too.

Violence

See here.