Daily Life


What Makes Thanksgiving the Happiest Day?

Thanksgiving is upon us. Soon, we’ll be shopping for Thanksgiving dinner, buying more than 50 million turkeys and spending more than $2.8 billion at the grocery store. Over 25 million people will hop on an airplane, and millions more will hit the road or board a train, in order to spend Thanksgiving with loved ones. The traveling, shopping, cooking and spending will be worth it as studies indicate that out of all American holidays, Thanksgiving is the one that consistently makes us happy. As the number of Americans who choose not to......

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Is Violence Ever Okay?

Generally speaking, I abhor violence. I’d like to think that if I was an adult back in 1967, I would have joined the Flower Power movement and stuck flowers in the rifles of national guardsmen at the National Mall as a protest of war. For as long as I can remember, I have trusted the wisdom which teaches that one should not meet violence with violence. We should “turn the other cheek.” Nevertheless, a few weeks ago I found myself so taken with a story shared with me where unnecessary violence seemed......

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Why Fewer People Believe In Science

The fact that only 33% of Americans believe in evolution – that according to a Pew survey conducted earlier this year, and in line with past years’ results – may be disturbing enough, but additional research shows that this is just the tip of a much larger, and potentially dangerous iceberg against which our culture is crashing. More and more people reject scientific knowledge as a reasonable basis understanding the world, or for decisions they make about a whole range of political, medical and other fundamentally important issues. Don’t get me wrong,......

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Why It Matters If We Love Conspiracy Theories

The X-Files is returning to TV for a six-part “event,” and even if you’re like me (and have never seen a single episode of the hugely popular 1993-2002 series), its return raises some interesting questions. No, this is not me going all Fox Mulder on you and stirring the pot on some new conspiracy theory. And yes, I know who the show’s Scully and Mulder characters are, even though I never saw the show. I don’t live under a rock! The most serious question it raises for me, and for Public Radio......

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Why I Wrote a Thank-You Note to My Dead Grandmother

Late Saturday night, long after the trick-or-treaters had filled their buckets, after my loud neighbors finished what I can only assume was a full-blown EDM rave in the middle of the suburbs, and even after my two week-old daughter went down for her nighttime stretch, I wrote a thank you note to my dead grandmother. Not an email. Not a journal entry. Not even on my personal stationary, no matter how proud she would be to see “Rabbi” before her grandson’s name. I used the nicest thank you note I could find,......

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Ghost Stories Live on For a Reason

There always seems to be an explanation. At least on Scooby Doo there is. After spending the episode chasing after some apparent paranormal disturbance, the gang invariably discovered that it was “old Mr. Peterson” all along, wearing a mask in order to scare the rightful heirs out of their inheritance…or something. In other words, everything makes sense – nothing to see here. But then, just at the story’s end, there would be an unexplained howl, as if to say: Not so fast. Even though Scooby Doo was just a cartoon, in the......

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Yik Yak Is Back

The popular social platform Yik Yak is back in the news. Not that it was ever gone, but some are now pushing in that direction – and raising important questions about privacy, decency and first amendment rights. When I wrote about Yik Yak earlier this year, it was in the spotlight for fostering hyper-local (within a 1.5 mile radius) anonymous communication, especially popular on college campuses. What I wrote then still stands: We need an ethic of communication that matches the new forms of communication which are now so accessible. Real commitment......

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Why We Live Where We Live

It’s hard to keep track of friends and relatives when they move around so much. My address book (when I still used one made of paper) was full of crossed-out addresses and phone numbers and email contacts. Now it’s the same problem on the electronic version: three phone numbers for one person, all tagged “home.” I don’t know which is the old and which has replaced it, or even if any of them is current. For me the underlying question, however, isn’t “Where are they now?”, but “Why aren’t they where they......

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Beyond Bored: Entering the Soul of Creativity

Recently, I introduced meditation to my high school spirituality class. I joined them, closing my eyes, peeking to see how people were doing. The second time I opened my eyes, I noticed more than one student fiddling with their smartphones. As we debriefed afterward, I asked what challenges they encountered as I guided the group to sit with awareness of breath and body. One student volunteered that she was so uncomfortable with the silence she just had to fidget with her iPhone. The boredom was unbearable. When we ‘zone out,’ we do......

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Not So Fast, Columbus Critics

October 12 is Columbus Day – a day to celebrate Christopher Columbus’ 1492 arrival in the Americas. The holiday has been observed annually in the United States since the 1970s, every second Monday in October. But many are asking, should we really be celebrating this event? After all, Columbus’ arrival took a terrible toll on indigenous peoples (as did the arrival of many explorer-conquerers who followed). Anti-Columbus Day critics point out: These Europeans brought diseases, oppression, slavery, coerced conversions and a host of other tragedies to the indigenous communities they encountered. And......

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