Friday, June 23, 2017

Quote of the Day -- Albert Einstein

In matters concerning truth and justice there can be no distinction between big problems and small; for the general principles which determine the conduct of men are indivisible. Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted in important affairs.
-- Albert Einstein

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Quote of the Day -- Martin Buber

All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.
-- Martin Buber

Maslow's Hierarchy

Cognitive dissonance isn't unusual, but lately it seems to be a constant state of affairs. People's perceptions of the world around us, of right and wrong, and of goals for the future seem so dramatically different that if feels like we're living in different universes. Each side demonizes the other, or at the very least feels strong disdain for those with divergent points of view. 

Many of us struggle to try to understand how we got here and to find a way forward out of this seemingly unbridgeable chasm. I've been reading and listening to many theories, none of which provides a particularly compelling explanation. But one thing strikes me. People in this country are at very different places in Maslow's hierarchy of needs -- probably more so than we were 30 or 40 years ago.

I remember when the TV show Thirtysomething was popular in the late 80's and early 90's. It featured a collection of youngish but aging professionals struggling with their identities and their goals and aspirations. They were definitely focused on their psychological and self-fulfillment needs. The show was very popular and provided great water-cooler fodder for those of us who vaguely resembled the characters in the show. And it was the subject of disdain for those who felt like these were people who had everything and were whining about it. Perhaps attitudes toward this show provided early hints of the animosity toward the "educated elite" -- those of us who go to work with laptops or briefcases.

On the flip side, TV shows like Roseanne and Married with Children were popular during the same era and appealed to a different audience entirely. Bits were funny, crass, tasteless, incomprehensible or just like the guy next door, depending on your point of view. Much more attention was paid to the challenges of meeting basic needs or increasing esteem. Self-actualization just wasn't in the picture.

As a contrast, remember the 70's when everyone shared a laugh about Archie Bunker, Edith and "Meathead" the next day at school or at work? Today, All in the Family would seem too painfully descriptive of the class war we are living through and not funny at all. Discussing it would be walking through a mine field. Gone are the days when we all watch the evening news with Walter Cronkite or David Brinkley and share a common set of facts about the world. The gaps in income, education, and life experience grow wider every year. Saying that our similarities are more important than our differences seems increasingly false.

Today, when I listen to a Gretchen Rubin podcast about tips for being a little happier, or read about how to "lean in" or about how social media and smart phones have fundamentally changed our lives, I have this niggling sense of guilt. Having the time and energy to read or listen to these ideas, to ponder them, means that I'm fortunate enough to be at the top of Maslow's hierarchy. How can I begin to relate to someone who is struggling to meet their basic needs or even someone whose esteem has been eroding because of globalization and the changing demands of the workplace? And how can I resent them for resenting me? But does that mean I should abandon efforts to increase my own knowledge on a variety of topics?

More questions than answers. In the meantime, I'll keep exploring theories of how we got here and how we might recover, but finding optimism is a constant struggle in the midst of this pervasive cognitive dissonance.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Quote of the Day -- Henry Miller

One's destination is never a place, but always a new way of seeing things.
-- Henry Miller