Harvey: Mirror into Humanity

I don’t know if the Law of Thirds is true or even if it really exists, but Natan Sharansky, who spent nine years in a Soviet prison camp in Siberia, wrote that a third of U.S.S.R. citizens were staunch supportive of the Communist regime, a third were staunch opponents of the regime and the final third kept their opinions to themselves and just tried to survive. I have also read that at the time of the American Revolution a third of the colonists supported the King, a third rebelled against him and a third kept their opinions to themselves.

It would be easy to divide America into thirds as well.  One-third leaning left, one-third right and another third less ideologically driven, keeping an eye on what is best for them at any time. However the devastation in Texas suggests a more interesting way to apply my Law of Thirds.

About one-third of people mustered resources to help themselves and others. They watched out for neighbors or headed into the area to assist in rescues, often at great cost and risk to themselves. They opened their homes and pocketbooks to those in need and they kept the plight of those in danger in their hearts, prayers and minds.

Another third saw self-centered opportunity in the disaster. Those on the spot looted.  Others saw an opportunity to direct government or charity money to themselves by pretending to help others.  Yet others used the disaster to advance their own causes.  For instance, they gleefully pounced on the storm’s severity as proof of their global warming agenda. Some of them used the confusion and media focus to trash people they dislike, such as President and Melania Trump or Joel and Victoria Osteen.

The last third scan the news reports but don’t really see that people facing tribulation in faraway places has anything to do with them.

These groups include people on all sides of the American political divide. In the final analysis, those that want to help and are willing to sacrifice their own comfort and resources to do so are those people who can work together to build a strong country. They may disagree on tactics and beliefs, they may need information not readily available to make proper decisions, but they are builders and contributors.

The next group, those who only see themselves no matter what window they look through, are the destroyers. Perhaps they uncharacteristically didn’t live up to their own standards in this particular instance or perhaps they need to fundamentally reform. Without something changing they are a danger to all.

The final group, those who are basically asleep, need to be awakened, prodded and encouraged to actualize their human potential. When things are going well they can be ignored, but at times of peril doing nothing and lack of commitment becomes its own form of danger.

While Houston and other areas in the storm zone are the focus this week, there is never a shortage of need for compassion, contributions and hard work. Sometimes those in need belong to large groups of people and other times small, some crises are publicized and others are known only to a few.  We all have the opportunity to respond helpfully to trouble, to manipulate it for our own benefit, or to ignore it.

Lots of people and organizations spout grandiose ideas. Saving the world is all well and good, but a good test of whether someone is truly seeking to serve themselves or whether they actually care for others can be seen by their consistent actions over the course of years more than it can by grand statements that float in vacuous air.

19 thoughts on “Harvey: Mirror into Humanity”

  1. Also, I liked your sailing analogy comment about being able to change direction with momentum, and being stuck in the doldrums when not enough momentum exists.

    1. Dear Susan,
      I loved this article and also the many intelligent replies. Some of the conservatives including our president are building this up in the news as “proof” that Americans join together in the midst of tragedies and that “Texans are tough and can take anything” etc. etc. ad nauseam. I believe that your “Law of Thirds” suggests instead that everything is the same as always and “there is nothing new under the sun” as usual. As a child of the 60’s and the “Jesus Movement,” I remember thinking that the world was going to end any moment and that I would never see my 30’s! Then, many years later, I remember when I finally “got” our Christian Doxology: “As it was in the beginning, it is now and ever shall be: World without end, Amen.” Do you think this applies in a way? I mean life will go on no matter what. Still, my heart and prayers go out to them and I will donate to reputable charities. I love you and the Rabbi!
      Dianne Pickford

      1. Dianne, I think you’re making a good point. The potential for human greatness and failing and the potential for nature to deliver a whopping blow doesn’t change. I remember people saying that they wouldn’t have children in the Sixties because of the threat of nuclear war. Those children had they been born could be grandparents now.

  2. Susan, I’m familiar with the ‘Law of Thirds’ as a lover of US History, and it fits with the picture of humanity. Our family fled Harvey on Monday just before our neighborhood was flooded sadly. We’d been preparing years ahead for disasters. My husband and adult son drove back to check out the damage yesterday. They were unable to access our road by car; there’s roughly five feet of water in it. The men walked through fencing on another block to gain access to our home. Remarkably, though water did seep into our home buckling up the flooring in a bedroom, our home did not flood. Also, a neighbor who remained home told them that looters came by at night on a jet ski but he scared them away; his home didn’t flood either. However, our other neighbors’ homes have flooded. The area has no working sewage system. As a result we aren’t returning this week. We’ve had three offers to stay with others in drier parts of town. Faith communities everywhere are also helping people to recover, including ours. May any of your other friends in trouble or sorrow find comfort, trusting in ancient wisdom from God!

    1. LJ, I’m relieved to hear that although you had damage, your house didn’t flood. How awful that people tried to take advantage-looting is one degree worse than theft. Glad your neighbor was there. Stay well.

    2. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Dear LJ-
      That those despicable looters came by on expensive jet skis puts the lie to the shamefaced pandering of the Left that looters are just poor desperate people trying to find bread and peanut butter to survive. Like many traditions, that of shooting looters should be reinstated.

      1. Dear Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin ,
        I hope you’re both well. I’m reminded here of two other events in my life.

        First, someone had stolen my used flip-flops while I went ice-skating mid-week at an ice-rink in a Houston shopping mall. I went by myself on that day, and didn’t think anyone would see these small, black rubber shoes that I placed hidden under a chair. It was pouring rain outside when I left the rink, but I was able to obtain plastic bags to put under my feet to walk to my car. I hadn’t expected the rain or the theft.

        I was infuriated by this theft because of three things: 1) Theft is wrong and illegal. 2) Steeling someone’s old flip-flops is disgusting, and the perpetrator(s) of this crime were either immature prankster(s) or immoral folk(s) and 3) Two women I know reacted, with flawed logic, to my tale by being immediately sympathetic to the criminal’s plight, assuming the perpetrator(s) to be completely poor and desperate!

        It was a lesson learned the hard way; I should’ve known better and splurged on a locker.

        Second, I was approached near a McDonald’s restaurant at Bainbridge Island (WA) Ferry Boat by so-called transient folks, posing as a cripple and the cripple’s poor friend. The only reason that I know about these ‘posers’ was that I went back there the following day and saw them WALKING around perfectly well through the windows of the same McDonald’s restaurant! The poor friend had an unlit cigarette in her mouth and the fake cripple was getting himself some coffee with perfectly good legs!

        I don’t give change out, unless I’m required to plug a meter! So, I didn’t feed their twisted souls.
        Personal Harvey Update:

        Today is our first official day at our home. On my block, one water sub-merged car was stolen from a driveway, but it’s been recovered. Another water submerged car’s window was smashed and items were stolen from it. Looters had loaded up a flatbed trailer and removed our neighbors’ belongings such as a refrigerator and furniture early this morning. The police did catch up with them and made them return the property. This was the scene upon our return this morning just after nine o’clock.

        Your point about the jet skis is spot on, RDL! The trucks coming around here are nice, and they’re steeling from others who’ve just been devastated. The police said that they sell these items at a nearby Trader’s Market (a swap meet with a different name.) Clearly, they should expect what metal might hit them as they pillage from private property owners around here.

        We self-evacuated, barely, and our watchful neighbor rescued more than fifty people with a friend in a large Penske Truck the day after we left, and then he had to be rescued by boat the following day. Our neighborhood was hit pretty hard and we suffered foundation issues, but our personal property was unaffected thankfully.

        Thank you both for the wonderful wisdom you’ve abundantly shared. We’ve been hoping to be able to attend an event, and so we often check your website for dates. If an opportunity arises, we’ll plan to be there.

  3. Dear Susan, Thank you for sharing . I think the 1/3 sleepers are waking up…I hope. Also some of the left, and right. Pray and give $ , to the organizations that will use it wisely for the people’s needs. The big politically motivated media seems to be against the truth. I choose not to watch, I’m down to just couple news programs, even then I’m cautious .Global warmers want nothing but lots and lots of money and power. . and entangled with big media.Let’s pray for all this, our kids are counting on us. Thank you Susan, God Bless you

    1. Thank you, Rebecca. I have actually spent very little time watching news this week on any medium but I was struck by stupid, negative headlines when I did look which were in direct contrast to the personal stories I was seeing through my own network of people helping.

  4. Hi Ms. Susan. Your Law of Thirds deserves consideration in many fields of human endeavor. I’ve no idea if you ever listen to the talk show host Herman Cain on a variety of stations. But Herman Cain, a former candidate for President, from his manifold experiences has developed cutting insights into current political processes. Mr. Cain applies your Law of Thirds also to the U.S. Congress and especially to the Republicans. To wit, one third of Republicans are genuinely concerned and committed to keep their sacred promises to We the People, one third are the bad apples who work against their fellows (RINO’s?) to sabotage the Republican Party and its long-standing promises. The remaining third are the wishy-washy namby-pambies who sit in unobtrusive silence and follow the prevailing influence, hoping to preserve their positions and status, escape controversy and keep their seats on the Congressional Gravy Train.

    In this I am reminded strongly of the Rabbi’s ‘handed’ law concerning the Exodus from Egypt, whereby but 1/5 (20%) of the transplanted Israelites had the faith and gumption to seize the challenge of God to follow Moses to seek the Promised Land. The rest who remained behind to serve the pharaohs must have become the chaff of history.

    1. I haven’t listened to Mr. Cain – truthfully I don’t listen to a lot of radio, but I will look for him. Thanks, James.

  5. Susan, thank you for your message but, if I may, I would like to make
    a comment on what your wrote, i.e., “…encouraged to actualize their human potential. ”
    Please, please type in “human potential movement” in the Internet and you will
    see that actualizing human potenetial is one of the last things people
    should be encouraged to do! Basically, people will believe they don’t need
    God and can achieve what is best without Him. I don’t believe you agree with
    that and hopefully your readers do not either, but they may need education
    on the real meaning of that term, which is humanistic.
    B.B. Howard

    1. Oh dear, Betty. How many words can we need to stop using because they’ve been appropriated?

      1. Greetings Mrs. Lapin,

        I was bouncing all over the internet on this one. That is the word actualize.

        You also used the words “asleep” and “awakened”. When I am asleep I can only have potential energy. When I awaken I can exert kinetic energy.

        To make actual or real; to turn into action or fact. Definitions you can find at online dictionaries. I even went to my own hardbound dictionary and looked up the definition of actualize.

        You took a subject, Mirror into Humanity, and actualized, in my opinion, your thoughts by posting them online for our benefit.

        I also found three businesses that use the word actualize as part of their name

        Definition of realization: Conversion of assets, goods, or services into cash or receivables through sale. Also called actualization.

        The Human Potential Movement does not change in any way the definition of actualize/actualization by their use of such phrasing as “self-fulfillment” or “self-actualization” but as you stated “appropriated” the word for their own actualization. HPM uses the modifier ‘self’ or being from within one’s self.

        From the pdf “Human Potential Movement”:
        In the 1940s and 1950s the humanistic psychologist Abraham Maslow developed a psychological approach called the “Third Force,” because it rejected previous approaches based on psychoanalysis and behaviorism, and instead emphasized an individual’s power to grow and change in the present and to achieve self-fulfillment (or “self-actualization”).

        …the human will is by nature actively turned away from God. Thus, any kind of HPM “self-actualization” that claims spiritual enlightenment is an illusion. In fact, the capacity for self-enlightenment has been mortally crippled by the fall into sin (Genesis 3). -end of quote-

        This can be found by googling: “human potential movement” pdf

        I believe the poster was conflating a word with a movement. I believe the poster was correct about the HPV movement but erred in the definition and use of a word. The intent of the poster was noble but misdirected.

        You defined three groups of people rather well and how they respond. I don’t see these group’s as necessarily being equal in number but groups never the less as you have outlined.

        I apologize if I have intruded and for being so ‘wordy’.

  6. Susan, you put it so well. As I see it, the difference between the three groups is one factor-love. Those open to love give of themselves to others, in prayer and in service. They demonstrate their love and their faith in deeds, in mitzvot. Those who ignore the needs of others by taking for themselves at the expense of others, have had their ability to love stunted in one way or another. The third group are basically asleep spiritually.

    The good news is that with love and compassion and insight, sometimes those in the second group can be transformed from takers into givers. It is a work of the spirit of God, working in them to bring about repentance, t’shuvah.

    Members of the third group can also be transformed, but it is usually more difficult because they are comfortable in status quo. They are neither hot nor cold. They do not comprehend their own lukewarmness, their own spiritual need for the fire of God’s love to consume the dross and refine the gold.

    I sometimes think God uses the sufferings of disasters like Harvey to shake up all of us, regardless of which group we fall into. All are given an opportunity to see who they are, what they are made of, and reach beyond themselves to become better people, to change from takers or lukewarm sleepers into wide-awake, on-fire givers. May all of us use the opportunities the Lord gives us to do well for the glory of His Name. Blessings to you and Rabbi Daniel and your whole family.

    1. That’s a lovely way to put it, Joyce. In a sailing analogy, when you are going the wrong way you can tack and change course, but it is harder to move out of the doldrums.

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