juliespeaks

The unvoiced thoughts and ideas of a septegenarian.

ONE QUESTION

ONE QUESTION

Strange thoughts sometimes occur to me. They  pop up out of nowhere. There’s no connection between the thought and anything else I might be doing or thinking about. It happened again yesterday.  I asked myself, “If ignorance is bliss why aren’t there more happy people?”

That, of course, presumes there are an awful lot of people who aren’t very bright: some of them   running around without leashes.  Well – aren’t there? Before we work on artificial intelligence, maybe we ought to work on doing something about natural stupidity. Instead of  testing for drugs, why don’t we test for ignorance and love of power? Viagra and multi-vitamins enhance the lives of some people but where is the scientist who can develop “smart” pills?

Imagine politics with its dumbbell element removed. There is nothing so easy to enslave as ignorance.   It is the enemy of civilization, the foe of enlightenment. “Get all the fools on your side and you can be elected to anything.”  (Frank Dane) Is that why we have irresponsible leaders who make promises and don’t deliver? Do you  think the fools out number the smarties?

Some folks believe there are things man was not meant to know. I disagree.  He may not understand them but he still wants to know.  Witness the curious child who asks ‘why’ at every opportunity. That child may not understand the principle of natural selection but he still wants to know why  the spider spins  a web. We are bombarded with information, deluged by a media circus, and it’s difficult to know what to let seep in and what to toss in the trash. The dumbest people anywhere, at any time, are those who think they know it all.  They far outnumber the brainiees.

All of which raises this question.  Can we become smarter than we are or are we doomed;  locked into whatever the gene pool dictates?  The best advice I’ve ever read is summarized in one sentence. “The best way to become smarter than you are is to surround yourself with people who are smarter than you are.” (George Steinbenner, owner of the New York Yankees) How do you do that? Even if you  try you will undoubtedly encounter a few who are not aces in the deck of cards called life. Steinbrenner’s comment reminds me of a Yiddish proverb. ‘A table is not blessed if it has not fed a scholar.”

Maybe we could do it if we stopped treating infants and toddlers as though they were pets and instead recognized and nurtured their extraordinary ability to learn. If we did that,  there might well be far fewer idiots and fools among us. That, however, is a subject for another post – maybe more than one.

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Julie Rose

julierose601@gmail.com

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THEM AND US

THEM AND US

When I first began this blog I promised there would be no discussion of politics.  Aside from voting I have no interest in politics. This is as close as I’ll come to that subject.

It never ceases to amaze me how much different various cultures are. I once visited the Asian Museum in Golden Gate Park and left with the distinct impression that the Japanese were a peaceful people and the Chinese were militaristic. (Don’t ask me how that squares with the existence of Kamikaze pilots.) It’s unfair to draw such a conclusion but that is the impression the exhibits create.

I’m not a student of the culture of any country but I’m a bit envious of some which prioritize ideas and philosophies far different from those of the citizens of this country.  I continually ask myself why we have not incorporated some of those ideas into our lifestyle.

A partial answer might be that, compared to cultures with centuries of traditions, Americans are infants on the cultural stage. From the start our philosophy has been one that says “Work hard and pull yourself up by your bootstraps and hurry up and do it now.”  Of course there’s more: there’s respect for freedom, a willingness to help the downtrodden.  But there isn’t much in the way of being spiritually conscious. By spiritually I do not mean religiously. I mean an awareness of, and appreciation for, those things that nourish the soul: love, beauty, friendship.

Look at the ancient Greek respect for beauty; the Indians respect for nature; the tranquility prized in Japan; the French high regard for food and the way in which it is eaten – all unmatched in America.  The manner in which food is presented in a Thai restaurant reflects a consciousness of beauty not seen in most American restaurants.  A Japanese garden is tranquil; conducive to relaxation and, introspection.  How many places do you know of that invite you to sit, absorb the beauty of nature and think?

When my children were growing up I wanted to regularly take them to the opera, a symphony, a ballet, but the cost of four tickets was prohibitive.  Not so in some European countries where the arts are subsidized and tickets are close to gratis.America is far wealthier than some of those countries so if they can do that, why can’t we?

If I compare the architecture of a Buddhist temple with a cathedral in New York, or Chicago or San Francisco it seems to me the Buddhist temple says “Come in. Seek greater peace and tranquility.” The cathedral says, “Look at how grand and magnificent I am.”

We sit down to dinner, often made from frozen foods or carry-out, gobble it up in  ten minutes and rush off to a Little League game or plop in front of the TV for hours of mind-numbing ‘entertainment.’  An Italian family sits down to a dinner of five, home-made, courses and spends two or more hours enjoying their meal and the interaction between family members.

When the Japanese Shoguns were overthrownJapansent delegates throughout the world to study the educational, economic, welfare, health care and political systems of other countries.  Its goals were to emulate the best of the lot. They were smart enough to be willing to learn from others. Has the U .S. ever done anything comparable? Isn’t it possible the health care system of Sweden or Poland or any other country is better than ours?  Could it be that if we emulated the educational system of Russia or China our kids might not score lower academically than the kids in half a dozen other civilized countries?

Israel, like America, is a nation of immigrants. Most of those immigrants are taught Hebrew and become independent and self-supporting within six months or less.  We, on the other hand, find ourselves facing numerous problems occasioned by those who do not speak and read English.  Why? Israel’s methodology isn’t a state secret: it’s not written in code.

This you may not believe. There are some remote South Pacific islands where it is common practice to hire an older woman to introduce a young man to sex.  WHAT?  That’s right. Betcha ten bucks those boys become lovers par excellence.  That is not something to easily dismiss. Is there something to be learned from that practice?

I really don’t care who our next President will be but I’d be grateful if he or she was someone who did not wear blinders: someone who recognized we could learn from others and did something about it.

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Julie Rose

julierose601@gmail.com

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