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Friday, January 10, 2014

Making the world a better place - Part 2

Free Grunge Textures, Flickr

Here we are again, for part 2 of "Making the world a better place" with the help of Heinlein's inspiring quotes!

This time we will focus on what the world needs more of (in my humble opinion; please feel free to comment and let us know if you agree or not, and why!)

1) Compassion and insight

Compassion is not the same as pity, and it is more than empathy. When we truly feel compassion, we are at one with others. This is a challenge as we, human beings, have a tendency to create categories in which we mentally confine others who are different from us in an attempt to preserve our own value.

But others, as different as they may seem at first glance, are not so different from us. In fact, they are the reflection of ourselves (sometimes a reflection we do not wish to see, but that's another story). I remember feeling intimidated by communication attempts during a trip to China, until I realized that if we have a different language, different customs (and different food!), we are all made of the same basic elements, and are all subject to the same needs, emotions and aspirations. As soon as I reminded myself that "we are all human, after all", I made two new friends!

Great Wall of China, 2010

In my opinion, any living thing deserves our compassion, partly for Buddhist-like reasons, but that would justify another post altogether.

So here are the quotes by Heinlein that inspired me to write about compassion and insight:

One of the sanest, surest and most generous joys of life comes from being happy 
over the good fortune of others.


Love is that condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own. 

Let's all pause and wonder who we really love in this world.

Compassion and insight enable us to see things for what they are and not for what we want them to be. Heinlein, a man must I specify, noticed something that I wish more of us were aware of:

Once a month, some women act like men act all the time.

Bantering put aside, I really wish we were able to stop putting people in well-defined and mutually exclusive boxes. It just so gets on my nerves. I'm not the only one, judging by the experience of a certain dad whose blog I stumbled upon recently. For his excellent recounting of what happened (read: race and gender issues) when he posted a photo of himself taking care of his daughters, click here.

I know another devoted dad who got offended by the ad that's making everyone cry these days:

Did you tear up? I know I did. But wet eyes put aside, the question as to why only moms are portrayed in this ad, coming from a very involved dad, is a legit one.

In the same vein, a student from York University recently requested to not have to work with female students, and the university seriously examined options to accommodate his beliefs. I only have one question: what if he had asked to not work with Black, or Jewish people? Would there even be a controversy? Why is this considered a tough dilemma when it involves women? Why is it "kind of okay" to segregate when it comes to gender? For more on this hot topic, click here.

Recently I was at a party where the host explained what foods were available, and invited the moms (and the moms only) to feed their kids (while the dads were also around). I didn't say anything (sometimes my tact button does work), but I was no less perplexed. Maybe it's the same reason that prompted another host (at another party) to ask only the men to help carry some wood in for the fire. My question remains: why?

Maybe what we are missing the most is this:

2) Critical thinking

Maybe we just need to shake our sheep-like tendency to accept anything and everything as the truth and/or the norm. Maybe we need to walk around with a question mark above our head more often, ready to question what's thrown at us.

It's too easy to tweak people's opinions, especially if such people lack education or information. If we could all become a little bit more skeptical, instead of swallowing everything we hear or read, it would do us great!

A few examples of missing critical thinking in Heinlein's quotes:

There ain't no such thing as a free lunch.

As I have read somewhere (I believe it was about Facebook): If the product or service is free, then you are the product that's being sold. Something will be taken from you in exchange of what you got for free, I promise. Even if it was "just" your personal information. Advertisement is a plague. Don't let it get the best of you. Don't let it convince you that you need this or will be happier with that.

Faith strikes me as intellectual laziness.

I respect everyone's faith (except when it implies hurting others obviously - cultural relativism has its limits) because it's not my place to judge, and because I want to be respected in my beliefs as well, but I sure hope we all examine our beliefs closely before making them part of who we are and trying to share them with others. Are your beliefs yours? Or have they been imposed on you? (Even - and especially - if it happened surreptitiously.) Also: what purpose do they serve? Is it a good one? Or is it an intolerant, hateful one?

A generation which ignores history has no past — and no future.

We need perspective to be able to evaluate and understand current events and trends. The only way to gain that perspective is to know what has been going on before... as well as what is going on right now in other parts of the planet. Let's stop thinking "this way is THE way" or "it has never been this bad before", and let's examine how it's been done before and elsewhere. I promise it will be humbling.

At least once every human should have to run for his life, to teach him that milk does not come from supermarkets, that safety does not come from policemen, that "news" is not something that happens to other people. He might learn how his ancestors lived and that he himself is no different - in the crunch his life depends on his agility, alertness, and personal resourcefulness.

To extract ourselves from following the crowds, this might be what we need more of:

3) Freedom and responsibility

Our life is not always the way we want it to be, and part of it is out of our control, but what if we were self-sabotaging? What if we were imposing things on ourselves that we could simply say no to? I like Heinlein's go-getter approach to that:

I am free, no matter what rules surround me. If I find them tolerable, I tolerate them; if I find them too obnoxious, I break them. I am free because I know that I alone am morally responsible for everything I do. Do not confuse "duty" with what other people expect of you; they are utterly different. Duty is a debt you owe to yourself to fulfill obligations you have assumed voluntarily. Paying that debt can entail anything from years of patient work to instant willingness to die. Difficult it may be, but the reward is self-respect. But there is no reward at all for doing what other people expect of you, and to do so is not merely difficult, but impossible. It is easier to deal with a foot pad than it is with the leech who wants "just a few minutes of your time, please—this won't take long." Time is your total capital, and the minutes of your life are painfully few. If you allow yourself to fall into the vice of agreeing to such requests, they quickly snowball to the point where these parasites will use up 100 percent of your time—and squawk for more! So learn to say No—and to be rude about it when necessary. Otherwise you will not have time to carry out your duty, or to do your own work, and certainly no time for love and happiness. The termites will nibble away your life and leave none of it for you. (This rule does not mean that you must not do a favor for a friend, or even a stranger. But let the choice be yours. Don't do it because it is "expected" of you.)

I don't know if I would go as far as "being rude about it", and I'm all for helping each other - a lot of my life is based on that - but self-respect starts with asking yourself if you really have time for what others are asking of you.

And to finish up beautifully, there might be something else that deserves an open-minded approach, as Heinlein succinctly but nicely put it:

4) Sex

I don't see why human people make such a heavy trip out of sex. It isn't anything complex, it is simply the best thing in life, even better than food.

I wish everyone was that candid about it. That's all I have to say.

Please share your thoughts! I cannot wait to read them.

When in doubt, choose the oldest version


  1. Once again I read your article with interest - thank you for taking time to post so we can all read and enjoy.

    Out of the many things you said the one below I've highlighted"Bantering put aside, I really wish we were able to stop putting people in well-defined and mutually exclusive boxes.". I don't know why that one 'jumped out' at me .......But it is something that we do ... we all tend to live in little or bigger boxes. If we can identify with others in similar boxes do we get on better? I'll let you and others decide.....

    Hey a rectangle is a different shape and it could get on well with a round shape - please do not pigeon hole me - is something I've heard people say.

    Compassion - empathy - thinking of others or as your last item says

    What the World needs now is love........ BTW good version to choose

    All the best Jan

    1. I think the boxes are mostly the product of our imagination.

      Thank you for you comment, Jan! :-)

  2. I like that you linked responsibility with freedom because it is a huge part of the freedoms we give to our kids and should be even to adults!!!
    Compassion/empathy - I think this is such a big thing and all to often is missing in society as a whole!!

    Great post with great ways to improve at least our little spot in the world and maybe we can start a trickle effect!!!

    1. Yes, let's start right now Kim! :-)

      Thank you for coming by.

  3. "Fucking is the word of God" Dorian Paskowitz

    Couldn't agree any less. And obviously you've never had my chicken Madera.

    "It's too easy to tweak people's opinions, especially if such people lack education or information. If we could all become a little bit more skeptical, instead of swallowing everything we hear or read, it would do us great!"

    I agree completely. The problem is, the flow of existence is dependent on a higher percentage of sheople than individuals. It's the absolute core of my madness.

    Probably the best post I have read here, and that's saying something.

  4. I want to try that chicken!

    Thanks Roy for your lively comments, as usual. :-)

  5. "I don't see why human people make such a heavy trip out of sex. It isn't anything complex, it is simply the best thing in life, even better than food."

    When I eat, I sometimes think about sex. When I have sex, I certainly never think about eating... not food, anyways!

    1. Bahaha! :-)

      You forget that some have been known to think about their grocery list while engaging in carnal activities!

      If you are interested in the French language, I suggest you do a research on the words chair et chère. You will see how sex and food can be closely related... phonetically! :-)

  6. Interesting and entertaining post, Julie!

    I've always looked for commonalities among people. Not hard to see if we look.

    1. You remind me of a song. "It's easy if you try..." :-)