Ten Years Gone: what was found and then discarded

Posted: September 12th, 2011 | Author: admin | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

Ten years have gone and even with the passing of time, September 11 remains the one day each year that I actively dread. The slaughter of thousands by the hearts and hands of those who purport to serve the Source of all creation is in itself traumatic and obscene on many levels. But what we as a nation gained and then seemingly squandered may in fact be the greater and more enduring tragedy; for that one brief moment our inherent nobility was realized as we willingly cast all our differences and individual needs aside and our primary concern became the well being of all Americans, rich or poor, friend or stranger, pink skinned through every shade of brown. That spontaneous eruption of humanity elevated all humans and endowed profound meaning to the day’s senseless deaths.

In retrospect, the bigger loss may be the one that we have perpetrated on ourselves; as a nation, evidenced by what passes for political discourse, we are meaner spirited, smaller minded and far more selfish than I have ever seen. Our memorial to the loss of life on that crystal clear blue skied morning is unquestionably both majestic and beautiful but if that is the sole legacy of 9-11 then we are just a generation away from turning 9-11 into an empty slogan.

We must never forget the bravery and dignity of the first responders, their ultimate sacrifice as well as the lives of our family and friends. But more importantly, we must never forget how we responded. How we all elevated ourselves through caring and compassion. How without hesitation, we collectively embraced cooperation, empathy and selflessness. And when we reclaim that spirit, those qualities that define the best of humanity, September 11 will come to symbolize the day that we changed ourselves.

Sacrificing the individuals who have sacrificed for us.

Posted: August 2nd, 2010 | Author: admin | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | No Comments »
A New York City fireman calls for 10 more resc...
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Last week the house rejected a bill that would provide medical care for residents, volunteers and rescue workers whose health has been impacted by the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center. A New York Times Editorial categorized this inaction as “Feckless and Cruel”, and while I hate to resort to name calling, that characterizes it pretty well. Think back to 9/11 and the days that followed, ordinary men and women descended upon ground zero, the Pentagon and Shanksville, PA, looking not for retribution, but for the opportunity to help. They were and will remain inspirational in the hearts of not just Americans but of people all over the globe.

While the Republican partisanism (is that a word?) of the 111th congress’ role call on HR 847 speaks for itself, the Democratic majority is not without blame as they insisted that the bill be subject to a 2/3 majority vote in order to pass rather than to a plurality vote where aspects of the bill may have debated on the house floor.

Democrat or Republican, on September 12, 2001, I have to believe that all members of the 111th Congress were equally moved by the scenes of rescuers digging through rubble, the pictures of missing people pinned to walls and the image of a tattered American flag waving atop a mountain of devastation. These are images that I will never forget. I am saddened that the memories of both Democrats and Republicans in Congress have been dulled by political agenda.

Perhaps the delayed tragedy of 9/11 is forgetting that brief moment when there were no Democrats or Republicans, we were all simply Americans.  Americans whose only goal was to help each other in our collective time of need. Honorable members of Congress, I ask you to put aside your differences and remember that day. Remember the ordinary men and women who became heroes. They came to our aid when the country needed them. Today, they need you.

Greatest hits (or misses)

Posted: May 14th, 2010 | Author: admin | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | No Comments »
7 train entering Vernon Boulevard / Jackson Av...
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When I started this blog in February of last year, I had no expectation that people would actually read it. At the very least it would provide a mechanism for me to record my thoughts, musings and opinions. Now 600+ people from over 70 countries read this blog. Frankly that blows me away. As there are both a lot of new readers, I decided to high-lite 5 of the more popular earlier posts that newer readers may have missed.

Once again, thank you to those that read this. Please feel free to comment, email me and recommend Consensual Delusion to your friends, colleagues, and family.

This entry on how my 1st son’s birth changed my perspective was picked up by Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, Tina Kelly and the New York Times “Local” blog last year.

This post, “Die Once”, is about my dad wrestling with his mortality.

After reading “Crisis and Opportunity”, a friend from high school asked me “when did you become so smart?” I’ll take the back-handed compliment.

I am actually grouping these 2 posts together as they both illustrate the very fuzzy boundaries that define science and mysticism. Both posts attempt to show the reader that we believe we know much more than we actually know. And that is both supremely arrogant and very dangerous; “master planned obsolescence” and  “Is your reality, really reality?”

Lastly, in my opinion, this may be one of my most useful posts from a day to day living perspective. If my kids take anything away from this blog, hopefully it will be this message, “Don’t count on 2nd chances.”

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Do One Thing.

Posted: March 13th, 2010 | Author: admin | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | No Comments »

Staff and residents of Covenant House NJ joined us for services last night.

I can not help but cry when I hear the stories of marginalization encountered by these youth. I cry more when I see the concern, dedication and selfless compassion of the staff.

We have so much. It takes so little to make someone’s life just that much easier. A safe place to sleep. A hot meal. A shower. Shoes. A smile. A small reminder that there is goodness and love in our world, no matter how dark and alone it may seem. A reminder for me. A reminder for you. And a reminder for them.

Please visit their site Do1thing.org

Many Laws. Only One Simple Rule.

Posted: March 12th, 2010 | Author: admin | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

There is one simple rule that would make our lives would be so much brighter, so much richer and so much more meaningful, if we simply just lived it. In any language, in any faith, it reminds us of how truly wonderful we humans can be when our individual thoughts and actions are aligned in commonality of purpose, to the benefit of all.

One simple rule expressed in a multitude of ways. One simple rule that is both universally relevant yet as ancient as humanity itself. One simple rule that unites us in our past, guides us in our present and points us to our shared destiny.  Just one simple rule.

“Son, that which seems evil unto thee do not do to thy companion”

-Babylonian legend of Ahitar

“Never impose on others what you would not choose for yourself.”

-Confucius, The Analects

“What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor; That is the whole Torah. while the rest is commentary, go and learn it.”

-Hillel, the Talmud -Shabbat 31a, the “Great Principle”

“Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them.

-Jesus of Nazareth, Matthew 7:12

“Hurt no one so that no one may hurt you”

-The Prophet Muhammad, the Farewell Sermon

“One should never do that to another which one regards as injurious to one’s own self. This, in brief, is the rule of dharma. Other behavior is due to selfish desires.”

-BrihaspatiThe  Mahabharata

If your neighbor’s jackal escapes into your garden, you should return the animal to its owner; that is how you would want your neighbor to treat you.”

-African proverb

Plagued by the meaning of the plagues. Or what would MLK say?

Posted: January 14th, 2010 | Author: admin | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | No Comments »

Number Two chose this weekend for his Bar Mitzvah. He wanted it to coincide with our national observance honoring Dr. Martin Luther King and the continual struggle to bring equality to all members of our society.  He also chose it because it happened to be the passages in the book of Exodus where the God of the Israelites unleashes the first of the 10 plagues on Pharaoh and the people of Egypt.

He wrote an insightful D’var Torah, or teaching, that discusses the relationship of MLK and the struggle of all righteous individuals to move our society toward one of equality and Moses bringing the word of God to Pharaoh and the demand to let the Israelites go. Number Two put his soul into this lesson. He lives his life by simply not tolerating acts of inequality, oppression or cruelty. And that makes me proud.

My disconnect comes when he talks about the power of the God of Israel; a forceful “kick-ass” God who is portrayed as intent on sending a message to both the Israelites and the Egyptians.  My disconnect is not with my son, but with the actual the passage in Exodus 9:15-16 “I could have stretched forth My hand and stricken you [Pharaoh] and your people with pestilence, and you would have been effaced from the earth. Nevertheless I have spared you for this purpose: in order to show you My power and in order that My fame may resound throughout the world.”

In my mind, the plagues are acts of compassion, not a demonstration of force and vengence. The God of creation could have not only wiped the Egyptians from the face of the Earth, but from history itself, however they were his children too.  So we are witnesses to the sequence of  plagues, delivered as increasingly severe but measured responses, only after Pharaoh repeatedly rejects each demand to let the people go. Acts of compassion. That may not be the traditional interpretation or even the non-traditional interpretation, but its mine. And I would believe that is the lesson that was truly meant to be resounded throughout the world. What would MLK say?

2010 is calling. How will you answer?

Posted: December 31st, 2009 | Author: admin | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | No Comments »

The good news: in the last 20 years the total number of armed conflicts across the globe has been reduced by almost 60%, the number of ongoing conflicts has dropped by 50% and the world’s displaced population has decreased by 16%.

The bad news: Globally, there are almost 80 wars currently being waged and of these, 29 are ongoing, sustained conflicts. The total number of refugees and internally displaced people as a result of war is currently about 42 million -which is equivalent to the combined population of the 44 largest cities in the United States.

Viewed from afar, statistics show conditions are certainly improving. Viewed from the ground, in a refugee camp, somewhere  in the Democratic Republic of Congo, each day is a living hell.

Hoping 2010 will be better, will do nothing to actually make it better. So take it upon yourself to insure that in some small way it is better. If you have a little extra, please pass it on to those who have nothing. If you have a voice, please use it for those who can not or will not be heard. 2010 is an opportunity to do something good. To act selflessly. To become something bigger than yourself 365 times. Make the most of it. Happy New Year and go in peace.

war: what is it good for? absolutely nothing.

Posted: December 7th, 2009 | Author: admin | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

Are we as a nation becoming desensitized to war? Desensitized to the physical and emotional damage, both immediate and delayed, that is  being sustained by our children, siblings and parents? Desensitized to what we are asking these men and women to do? To what we are asking them to endure day after day, month after month and year after year? Desensitized to the consequences of our actions as a nation as well as the consequences of our individual actions or inaction with regard to the events which are unfolding around us?

When will war become obsolete? When the thought of waging war becomes too horrendous to for nations, NGOs and individuals to contemplate. When the true effects of war are universally recognized and understood, both intellectually and emotionally. When we collectively and individually decide to look across the table, across the street, across town, across our country and across our borders and see people as people. As sons and daughters. As mothers and fathers. As husbands and wives. As people that love and are loved. As people without added labels, descriptions, qualifiers or other words tacked on that are designed to separate them from ourselves.

Unachievable? Utopian nonsense? Impossible? Perhaps today but who knows about tomorrow or the day after that. Someone has to be the first one. Perhaps that someone will be you?

Should we laugh or cry?

Posted: September 23rd, 2009 | Author: admin | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »

My sister-in-law (the one from Boston) once called me a right-wing-wacko. The one from Milwaukee just called me a wacko. I have also been called a communist, a fascist as well as a slew of pejoratives that would make George Carlin blush. My point is that no one has ever called me or accused me of being a Move-on fanatic. Regardless, as a self-described fiscal conservative, social progressive and all-around agitator of thought (or thoughtlessness) I felt compelled to pass this video on. Something Terrible is Happening! Will Ferrell & friends

Should we laugh at the surgically shaped satire or cry about the pressing social ills infecting our nation? Perhaps we should try something really radical; rational discourse, unemotional and objective reasoning framed by the goal of leading to the best outcome for the citizens of our nation.

for full disclosure: my wife is a physician as is my brother-in-law, sister-in-law and father-in-law. Numerous other close friends and extended family are also physicians or work in health care related fields. Constructive reform of the system is not going to advance my family or myself economically. But maybe at some point it will help inch our society just a little closer to one of collective compassion. And I can gladly accept that prognosis.

Facebook'n with Bob Spehalski

Posted: September 6th, 2009 | Author: admin | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »

I have not spoken to Bob Spehalski since he graduated from college in 1981. Bob is a few years older than me and back then was one of the most responsible, thoughtful and selfless guys you could ever hope to meet. I, on the other hand, was arrogant, selfish and immature. Recently Bob and I became reconnected on Facebook. We had an interesting exchange with regards to health care that I believe warrants being formally memorialized.

It started when several friends posted this message as their status: No one should die because they cannot afford health care, and no one should go broke because they get sick. If you agree, please post this as your status for the rest of the day.

I posted it as my status and this is what transpired.

Bob: I’m glad to hear you don’t support ObamaCare

Dan: The only death tribunals that I see are run by the for profit insurance companies. Medicare seems to work efficiently and effectively. And no dies, suffers or goes broke being humane. Now that is settled, don’t get me started on the cost vs. Value of college!

Dan: IMO, as humans we have a collective and individual responsibility to look after each other. Not that gvt or especially big gvt is correct, efficient or most importantly compassionate, it just happens to be in place and with applied activism can be harnessed to help protect those who are not able to protect themselves. The responsibility of a democracy is to protect the rights of the minority while carrying out the will of the majority.

Bob: The United States is not a democracy Dan. If you want to know how the a government run healthcare system treats its people, check out Oregon. If you have a terminal illness and it is too expensive to keep you alive, they send you a letter denying to pay for care, but are compassionate enough to offer at drug to let you go out painlessly. Like you might do to your dog.

Dan: Bob, I understand that the US operates as republic but our country, culture and society are inextricably tied to the philosophies and principles of democracy.

I can not talk to the Oregon point as I simply don’t have the facts. I do know that no one covered by Medicare has been euthanized. I also know that for profit insurance companies are primarily focused on operating health as opposed to patient health.

What I am intrigued about is your strong emotional reaction. I’d like to better understand where you are coming from as a step toward broadening my perspective and engaging in meaningful dialogue.

Bob: Dan, I agree with your original principles, who wouldn’t. But my reaction is coming from my strong opinion that government run healthcare has the very real potential of severely limiting personal freedoms and choices in all areas of our lives. In addition, I think it will ultimately come down to a choice of either rationing healthcare or bankrupting the country. This is pretty much what has happened whenever and wherever it has been tried or currently exists. Maybe Medicare works for the relatively few that are currently on it, but I don’t feel it would be sustainable for all.

Dan: OK, from an economic perspective the health care system is just broken and consequently it costs all of us too much. The insurance companies exist to maximize profit, pitting providers against subscribers. Take a look at the current and immediate past complaints brought against them by the attorney generals in all 50 states.

re: uncovered citizens, they currently get service via charity care at public hospitals, which you pay for indirectly. By incorporating them into a system, care costs will be reduced purely by the nature of how treatment is delivered. Couple that with well care and an economic impact can be made. Add tort reform and enforcement of pharmaceutical cos with regard to marketing and patent abuse and you have a new game.

Of course the moral obligation is still the primary one but there are sound economic advantages.

re: limiting choice, if you have money, you can choose what, when and where. Reform or reconstruction is not going to change that.

From the above you can tell that Bob is still a thoughtful, selfless and really nice guy. He is just earning more money, paying a mortgage, putting kids through college, saving for retirement and concerned about the state of our economy. Bob is responsible and obviously expects a degree of responsibility from our elected leaders. And that is the real issue. Are our elected officials acting responsibly? Are they putting their own personal and partisan issues aside and working for the citizenry? Are they too invested in what is and as a consequence ignoring what can be? Are we, the people, holding them accountable? Unfortunately at this juncture, I think Bob and I both agree that the answers are all no.

Happy Birthday #1. How your birth changed my perceptions forever.

Posted: August 17th, 2009 | Author: admin | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment »

Today is #1’s birthday, so most importantly, Happy Birthday #1 -I love you very much and hope that you have a wonderful day!

Prior to his birth, being a parent was never real to me. Even though I watched my wife grow larger, saw the ultra-sounds, was with her when she went into premature labor and then sentenced to bed rest for 8 weeks, actually having a baby was more surrealistic than realistic. The entire concept was an abstraction, the scheduled Cesarean was a date marked on the calendar, a day when I would not go to work. A day with other events scheduled before and after. I was completely naive, selfish and simply unprepared for the remarkable ramifications that would unfold.

A little back story for those who don’t know me: growing up I could be characterized as difficult. I probably got into more trouble than the average kid. I could be mean, insensitive, aggressive and generally difficult. I gave my parents, my JHS teachers and peers a tough time. I was a bit more subdued while attending a private HS but some of the more wild traits re-emerged in college and beyond. By the time I met my wife and got married in late 80’s I was more “mature” but certainly still aggressive and prone to rage, especially when frustrated. My view of the world and overall philosophy could be characterized as zero sum or all or nothing. Your gain was my loss and my gain, well I didn’t really care about the ramifications of my gain. If you were not with me you were the enemy.

Back to August 17, 1994. While my wife was in the OR, I was outside, trying to get my scrubs on when the anesthesiologist burst out and rushed me inside. I saw my wife on the table and her insides were literally on a tray as the Ob/Gyn was extracting my son. He looked perfect, like a movie prop  (as all Cesarean babies are -they don’t get squeezed during delivery). My wife was fine and she held him. I was pretty scared to hold him, frankly more scared than each of the times when I was shot at, but I did it anyway. And I think that is when it hit me. That was when my life began to turn, when my anger, fear and aggression began to dissolve.

When I held my son I had an epiphany; I realized that everyone on this earth is some-one’s child. And that someone hopefully loves them as much as I loved this little boy. And further, they may even be some-one’s mother or father, they may be a person who loves their kids and is loved by their kids.

My perception was changed. I was changed. I was made more human by understanding our commonality. Black, White, Asian. Christian, Jew, Muslim. Male or female. It doesn’t matter, we were all born and we were all someone’s child. With that understanding, how can we not love and feel compassionate to each other?

Thank you #1, you and your brother have changed my life forever for the better. I do and will always love you both. I am forever grateful that you guys came into my life.

thoughts and actions

Posted: March 17th, 2009 | Author: admin | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »

Some believe that right action advances us to right thought. Others hold that the opposite is true; right thought brings about right action. In either case, the desired end result is achieving a state of both right thought and right action. Or to live a life, where one is more compassionate, more empathetic and more outwardly focused. And perhaps a life, where one is not so invested in an opinion such as the right way or the wrong way to actually live consciously, compassionately and with empathy.