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April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review May 27, 2009 / 4 Sivan 5769

The deadliness of certainty

By Kathleen Parker

Kathleen Parker
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http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Freud recognized that human beings have a sex drive and even a death drive. Is it possible that we also have an aphorism drive?


We do seem attracted to pat answers and pithy summations — especially from our politicians. It isn't enough to be wise or effective; one must be quotable.


In fact, aphorism is the oldest written art form, according to aphorism expert and author James Geary ("The World in a Phrase: A Brief History of the Aphorism"). Before famed aphorists Mark Twain, Dorothy Parker and Woody Allen put the party in repartee, Buddha, Jesus and Muhammad were creating buzz. Five thousand years ago, the Egyptians and Chinese were chiseling out sturdy statements of universal truth.


Les bons mots tend to make us feel better, lending form to our thoughts and order to our emotions. They're especially useful in times of duress. Eulogies and editorials invariably feature those three little words: "As [fill in the blank] said."


Here comes one now: "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." Ahhhh. Feeling better already. Thus was born the Hallelujah Chorus.


Then again, more often these days, a politician's happy turn of phrase makes me feel worse. I don't know whether to clap my hands or clutch my wallet. Why does the very thing intended to make one feel uplifted and inspired make me feel manipulated and skeptical?


Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert, writing recently in the New York Times, inadvertently may have offered a clue. He was explaining that people are happiest when they are certain. We don't like not knowing, apparently, even when what we know is awful.


Gilbert cited various experiments to make his point, including one involving the certifiably awful colostomy. People who knew their colostomies would be permanent were happier than people whose colostomies might someday be reversed. Gilbert's conclusion: People would rather know than not know. Knowing, they can make psychological adjustments.


"We find our bootstraps and tug," he wrote. "But we can't come to terms with circumstances whose terms we don't yet know."


Gilbert's observations were in the context of our current economic woes. As soon as we know how bad things are (or aren't), he said, we'll adapt and get along just fine.


He may be right as far as it goes, but the same uncertainty that makes human beings unhappy also stimulates the creativity that makes us happy. Was Leonardo da Vinci happy? Homer? George Washington? Man's drive to create isn't born of contentment but of anxiety attached to the unconscious agitation that comes from the greatest certainty ever devised: Death.


Here is a truism, if not an aphorism. Without death and the certainty of physical finitude, Homo sapiens would never have left the cave. Unhappiness and uncertainty — rather than happiness and certitude — are what get us off our duffs.


No misery. No Sistine Chapel.


So what happens to the creative spirit when government steps in to soothe our anxieties? Without unhappiness, what happens to culture? Without adversity, what happens to motivation? Parents know. Suffice to say, the work ethic is not strong among the coddled.


Most important, with all needs met, what happens to freedom — that human recoil against imposed order?


When Rahm Emanuel said, "You never want a serious crisis to go to waste," he wasn't the first or the last to express the sentiment. George W. Bush was accused of taking advantage of Americans' post-Sept. 11 terror to expand executive power. Barack Obama will be remembered for creating budget-busting social programs while Americans were caught in the headlights of unemployment and economic reversal.


The citizen's fear is the politician's elixir.


Certainty may be the promise of government, but uncertainty is the grease of free markets. Uncertainty was also America's midwife. Without a tolerance for uncertainty — and unhappiness — our nation's Founders might have remained in their rockers.


Previous generations understood that life is a gamble of uncertain returns. They were sometimes sad because life is sometimes sad. They were good at coping in bad times because downturns were more familiar than upticks.


Today, we apparently trade liberty for certainty and our once-swashbuckling spirit for contentment, preferably in pill form. All we need is a nice aphorism to help the medicine go down. Here's one beloved by conservatives to get things rolling: "A government big enough to give you everything you want is a government big enough to take from you everything you have."


Happy now?

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