Posts in Susan’s Musings

Don’t Like Your DNA? Change It!

March 15th, 2018 Posted by Susan's Musings 32 comments

If you, like me, have been learning from my husband for any length of time, you will be familiar with the idea that the physical world reflects the spiritual world. The fact that our eyes project an upside-down image of whatever we see unto our retinas isn’t a failure of evolution, it is a Divine message. Our eyes can easily lead us astray whether it is when we see a decadent piece of chocolate cake, a beautiful person or a ‘must-have’ gadget.

In contrast, our balance mechanism is located in our ears. Evolutionarily speaking, this makes little sense.  Our heads are in constant motion. The only reason we don’t lose our balance when we tilt our head is the equivalent of thousands of lines of software compensating for our head’s motion.  Evolution should have ensured that our balance mechanism would be in a more stable part of our bodies like the shoulders or hips. This isn’t a failure of evolution, it is a Divine message. We process information more rationally and unemotionally when we hear or read it rather than when we see a picture.

The media is agog with the news from NASA that, after spending a prolonged amount of time in the zero-gravity environment of space, astronaut Scott Kelly’s DNA differs from his earthbound twin brother Mark’s DNA. While scientists will discuss how strongly controlled the experiment was and whether the DNA changed permanently or it is only expressing itself differently, we should be asking what spiritual message we can draw from this.

Life is full of changes, surprises and unexpected happenings. Anyone who has lived for a number of decades has seen people who have lived honorably their whole lives become corrupted by dishonesty or immorality. They have also seen people living depraved lives make a complete turnaround and become scrupulously moral. We have watched society change its mind about what is good and what is evil and observed events uproot previously held definitions of normal.

We might have thought that one constant in our lives is our DNA. It turns out that we would have been mistaken. We can do things that will alter our very biology. Whether our actual genetic code changes, or the changes are at the epi-genetic level, the point is that our actions impact even the basic code of our bodies. I’m sure you won’t be surprised that this message has a spiritual companion. If you have listened to Clash of Destiny: Decoding the Secrets of Israel and Islam or heard a number of our free teachings, you will have encountered the nation of Amalek.  Amalek, descended from Jacob’s twin Esau,  is Israel’s mirror-image. When Amalek thrives (like Haman in the Scroll of Esther), the Jewish people suffer. When the Jewish people behave righteously, Amalek suffers. In our time, Amalek is a spiritual rather than a racial identity. We can trace the nation through the Bible as it moves from Esau’s grandson to Agag to Haman and post-Biblical documents from ancient Jewish wisdom centuries prior to the 1900s talk of how Amalek will migrate to Germany.

However, the important point is that an Amalekite can convert to Judaism! A person born with that twisted spiritual DNA can make choices and do things that change his core essence. Indeed, in Israel today descendants of various top WW II Nazi officials live as Torah observant Jews. We do not have to allow our DNA to control us.

Of course, there is a flip side to this as well. As individuals and as a society we can take righteous DNA and corrupt it. Having been bequeathed gifts and blessings by those who came before us, we can alter ourselves until we squander that largesse. When we change our behavior enough, even our physical DNA may no longer match that which we inherited.

Do we improve or damage our physical and spiritual DNA with our actions? That decision is ours to make. 

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My Country is Greater than Your Country

March 7th, 2018 Posted by Susan's Musings 16 comments

When I wrote a Musing about comfort reading, I received a number of gifts from readers in the form of book suggestions. One of these was from my friend, Judy (who happens to be the author of the highly recommended book, The Skeptic and the Rabbi). She suggested the 44 Scotland Street series by Alexander McCall Smith. While I haven’t started that series yet, her suggestion prodded me to read the first book in the writer’s  The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series. 

I am hooked. Along with enjoying these charmingly written, evocative and delightful books—I am currently reading the eleventh in the series—I am intrigued by something I have noticed. The protagonist of the books is Mma Precious Ramotswe, founder and owner of the only detective agency in Botswana. I admit to knowing little of Botswana before starting these books, but Mr. McCall Smith is clearly in love with the country in which he lived for many years.

Mma Ramotswe is warm and wise. She is also highly patriotic and convinced of the superiority of her country as well as proud that she is a Motswana (member of the Tswana tribe). On occasion, she compares her country to others on the continent of Africa and her tribe to other tribes. There is no cultural equivalency here; her heritage is clearly superior. At the same time, she is a loving foster mother to two children of Bushman background and helps people from all countries and tribes, often at no charge.

I began to wonder what the response might be if a similar series was written extolling, shall we say, the United States among other North American countries. Or perhaps, claiming that Oklahoma was more praiseworthy than New York? Is it all right to compare one’s ethnic heritage with someone else’s to the detriment of the second? Mma Ramotswe’s pride is endearing. Why don’t I find it xenophobic and racist?

My answer is that her delight in her country and tribe are a part of her coming across as a real character. They help make her the gracious, loving woman that she is. How she feels about her country is an extension of the gratitude and love with which she remembers her father, Obed Ramotswe. Despite losing her mother at a young age, she had a secure and protected childhood that allowed her to grow into a confident and giving woman who can overcome challenges and rejoice in her life. 

I think that one of the failings of our modern culture is the suggestion that somehow ‘belonging’ is a negative thing. The impression given is that we must act as if everyone and everything is equal. Yet, human beings have a very natural need to belong whether to a family, a neighborhood, a city, state, country, religion, ethnicity or any other sort of group. It is through that opening that we can expand and relate to others.

In the sandlots of previous generations, young boys taunted one another saying, “My dad can beat up your dad.” While they, usually, outgrew that level of childishness, there is a feeling of safety in thinking of your family as powerful. Only when we are safe can we emotionally make room for caring about others. Loving, and being loved by, the close and the particular leads to our loving the broad and general.

To our detriment, much of our educational and cultural system has reversed this idea. We are encouraged to focus on our family’s dysfunctionality, our nation’s sins and our group’s victimization. There is a place for recognizing failures and disappointments and sad historical truths. However, that should not come prior to or in place of learning anything about greatness.

Starting from a place of gratitude for the circumstances of our birth, no matter what they objectively are, establishes a launching pad for a healthy life. Even, or perhaps especially,  for those few who are truly born into  personal and communal terrible circumstances, it is vital to find some source of specialness. This is, perhaps, one of the evils of the theory of unaided materialistic evolution forced on our schoolchildren. How much greater to be created as a child of God rather than to be descended from an ape.

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See Something; Say Nothing

March 1st, 2018 Posted by Susan's Musings 31 comments

Today is Purim. Among other things this means that, this week, many people with an agenda are trying to validate their ideas by quoting verses from the Scroll of Esther. Are you a staunch 2nd Amendment advocate? You can find Scriptural support. Do you think that gun ownership should be outlawed? You can find Scriptural support. This doesn’t mean that Scripture has nothing to say on the topic. It means that the ancient Jewish wisdom that emanates from Scripture can’t be easily absorbed or transmitted in one quick column lacking context, subtlety and serious arguments and debate.

On the other hand, it is Purim, so I am going to join the crowd and link to the holiday, not directly on the gun issue, but on two news media items I saw in the press this week. The first was an article by the editor-in-chief of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency claiming that the speech given at CPAC by the NRA’s executive-vice-president could exacerbate anti-Semitism. Since Wayne LaPierre mentioned Saul Alinsky, Michael Bloomberg and George Soros, his speech could be seen as a dog whistle to anti-Semites. To the author’s credit, he acknowledges that it is hard to discuss the gun-control movement without mentioning Soros and Bloomberg as leaders in it, but he thinks that it, somehow, well, kind of, shouldn’t be said because even if Wayne LaPierre isn’t anti-Semitic himself, he might be seen as encouraging others to be so.

The second item was a news report that BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) in San Francisco was refusing to share surveillance video showing groups of teenagers terrorizing passengers. The reason? Debora Allen, a member of the BART Board of Directors, reports that, “To release these videos would create a high level of racially insensitive commentary toward the district,” she was told. “And in addition it would create a racial bias in the riders against minorities on the trains.” This is similar to reports from other areas of the country where citizens feel that crime information is suppressed if the alleged criminals are African-American.

The link between these two commentaries is the mindset that if we don’t identify groups, people won’t notice that there are certain group tendencies. I remember hearing from a friend who lived in the old Soviet Union that airplane accidents on internal flights happened not infrequently. However, since talking about them would tarnish the image of the successful Communist state, they were not publicly reported. It is as if when nothing was said, people might not notice that their loved ones never returned home. Note to the Politburo – people did notice.

In the movement to eradicate the First Amendment that has gained momentum on American college campuses, the ruling elites share a conceit that if they don’t acknowledge information, the stupid masses won’t figure it out for themselves. The same idea is seen in other countries. That is blatantly untrue. People do notice and do know that Jews are, unfortunately, disproportionately members of the far-Left and Black teenagers are, unfortunately, disproportionately involved in crime. Recognizing reality makes you neither anti-Semitic nor racist. But acknowledging a problem does help those who wish to counter these pathologies in the Jewish or Black community to do so. Do these realities give support to people who truly are hate-filled? People filled with hate don’t actually need reality to support their feelings. By not speaking openly and intimidating good people to be quiet, you simply drive the conversation underground which is fertile territory for hyperbole, exaggeration and prejudice.

How does this tie in to the Purim story? Do you notice that despite the Scroll of Esther emphasizing that ancient Persia was made up of different and diverse communities, there was no difficulty in identifying either the Jews or the Amelekites?  Each of us is a member of many groups. Our age, gender, nationality, religion, ethnicity, level of education and geographic location are only a few of the ways with which we are labelled. Sometimes we fit stereotypes, sometimes we do not. But it is futile to pretend that if we are not told so we won’t notice identifying features of one another.

I personally find George Soros’ behavior despicable and am frequently embarrassed by Michael Bloomberg’s activities. It is actually not irrelevant at all that Saul Alinsky is another Jew, even if that causes me shame. Neither is it irrelevant that many noteworthy scientists, entrepreneurs and jurists who contribute immeasurably to the world are of Jewish descent. I believe that God’s promise to the nation of Israel means that as a people we have the potential to soar higher or plummet lower than other nations. No one needs to point out either of these realities for them to be easily seen.

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Failing Our Children – Again

February 22nd, 2018 Posted by Susan's Musings 46 comments

We, as a society, have failed our children when they cannot safely go to school, concerts or about their daily lives. We have also failed them when we promote policies that increase their chances of  growing up in unstable households and being illiterate, unpracticed in logical thinking, unnecessarily drugged, addicted to violent video games, in a culture that devalues life, and without a moral compass. Compounding our failures is not a good idea.

My heart, like yours, goes out to those children who faced gunfire in Parkland, Florida and whose lives were lost or forever changed by that event. A massacre like that, just as previous mass shootings, should call us to re-evaluate and assess our nation. However, while emotions should prod us to action, just what those actions should be must be dictated only by facts and reality. Emotions, by their very definition are unstable and volatile. Justice and policy should not be.


Granite Men; Marshmallow Boys

February 15th, 2018 Posted by Susan's Musings 19 comments

Imagine a woman in the mid 1800s crossing North America by wagon train. Now imagine her amazement if she was to travel a  similar distance today by jet. Multiple blessings of gratitude would spill from her lips. I tried to keep this in mind recently when I was cramped into a small seat, grazing shoulders with my neighbor, not quite sure where to place my legs and basically confined to that place for six hours.

Still, the trip was long. I was not disciplined enough to focus on work or even to concentrate on the current book I am enjoying reading. American Airlines, aware that a benumbed clientele makes for a successful flight, provided each passenger with a personal entertainment device that had more movies available than I have ever seen on an international flight  let alone a domestic one.


Please Tell Me It’s Satire

February 9th, 2018 Posted by Susan's Musings 24 comments

A few times this past week while reading my daily paper I found myself checking whether I was actually following the Onion, a news satire organization. Each page had one or more articles that made me think, “This can’t be real.” Listening to the radio compounded the problem.

There was the opinion piece explaining to men that they should double down on mentoring women despite the fact that they might be falsely accused of sexual harassment. After all, mentoring women is such an important ideal that they should willingly risk their reputation, family and livelihood to do so.

To my astonishment, another article spoke of cities considering instituting rent-control policies. In the two cities in which I have lived that had strong rent-control policies in place, wealthy people paid ludicrously small sums to stay put while less wealthy areas turned into boarded up slums since landlords couldn’t survive on the low rents they were forced to charge. Rent control was far from a rousing success.


That Which is Born

February 1st, 2018 Posted by Susan's Musings 27 comments

My husband and I celebrated two joyous events early this week. On Sunday, we were guests at a ninetieth birthday brunch and a day later we welcomed a young lady whose age we are now counting in days rather than years.

Rosie, may she live and be well, and my mother, may she rest in peace, began a friendship when they were five-year-old neighbors. When Rosie’s oldest sister married my mother’s uncle the ties grew stronger. On Sunday, her five children honored her at a birthday brunch where she was lovingly feted by over sixty children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, and friends. A day later, our newest granddaughter made her appearance.

The juxtaposition of the events got me to thinking. There is a saying in ancient Jewish wisdom, “Who is wise? He who sees what is born.” Note that it doesn’t say, “He who sees the future.” We aren’t being told that one needs prophecy to be wise; one needs to be able to see that which is likely to happen if we expand our vision beyond the present.


Through No Fault of Their Own

January 25th, 2018 Posted by Susan's Musings 60 comments

Sometimes, phrases get repeated often enough that they become widely accepted. This doesn’t mean that they are true. I’m not talking about deliberate untruths as in Nazi Joseph Goebbels’ statement, “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.” I am talking about words we think of as truisms, ones that are often faulty, but which we casually accept as reality.

For example, I remember a friend responding with, “Where there’s smoke there’s fire,” when hard-to-believe rumors surfaced of scandalous behavior by a local religious leader. We all know too well today of the danger in ignoring horrible behavior that must be addressed.  However, inverting America’s legal principle into “Guilty until proven innocent”  places titanic power in the hands of the hate-filled, the overzealous, careless, or even just the  mistaken. One venomous tweet today can destroy a perfectly innocent life. Automatically believing that, “Where there’s smoke there’s fire,” substitutes one injustice for another.

With the discussion of DACA front and center, one repeatedly hears that the Dreamers (a politically brilliant term that obscures the issue) came to the United States illegally through, “…no fault of their own.” We aren’t really talking about fault; we mean that the illegal action of entering or remaining in the country was not actively theirs. Their parents made a choice that placed them in that position.


Cringe and Applaud: The Reality of President Trump

January 18th, 2018 Posted by Susan's Musings 66 comments

I received an email asking why I have been uncritical about President Trump’s character and words. His rough and vulgar way of talking is in direct contrast to my emphasis on refined speech. I wouldn’t tolerate his brash boastfulness in my circle of friends and to top it all off, my correspondent notes that the President’s history of adultery runs counter to my values.

My correspondent is correct in all her facts. I wrote about my struggles in coming to terms with supporting Donald Trump during the primaries and I wrote about why I chose to support him in the election.  Once he was elected I have stayed silent about his “outrages” for a number of reasons.


O Magazine’s 2010 Deplorable Moment

January 12th, 2018 Posted by Susan's Musings 60 comments

By all accounts, Oprah Winfrey gave an impressive speech at the Golden Globes. It has been a heavy work week for me and I haven’t managed to listen to it myself, but since she is an articulate and personable woman who has made a career out of connecting with millions of people (largely female), her triumph is unsurprising. With her name being mentioned in just about every news report this week, I was reminded that I have written a few times about her in my Musings.

In 2010, I posted a letter to the editor I had written to her magazine. Upon re-reading, I think the problem on which I focused only grew as seen when Hillary Clinton labeled a huge swathe of the population as “deplorable.”  Here is a reprint of that Musing.