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The Importance of The Afterlife

Samuel Scheffler, professor of philosophy and law at NYU, makes an argument in a New York Times Sunday Review article that we need to believe in an afterlife not necessarily because the Soul lives on but because without a belief in the survival of humanity our sense of purpose here would be thrown into disarray. Think what would happen if we knew an asteroid would end humanity just after we died? Would we care about cancer research or better engineering or many other professions that deal with an extended future for mankind? And what about having children? It’s both interesting and thought provoking to consider the necessity of an afterlife from this perspective!

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Nairobi Mall Shooting

Unfortunately, we are too often reminded of the sheer amount of violence that occurs daily in the world. Yesterday, I briefly watched a television show on the Science Channel about aliens. Several physicists suggested that if aliens had the warp drive technology to travel many light years to our planet then it was likely they would be friendly. They reasoned that a society that advanced would have long destroyed each other had they not grown beyond violence. I see ego as the need to dominate, manipulate, and use others. If all of us learn to observe and unhook from ego, then we are doing our part to make the planet a better place!

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Dealing with insomnia

Having experienced several bouts of severe insomnia in my past I found it informative to find out something I ready knew: that although insomnia is painful emotionally and can lead to physical exhaustion and other challenges but one’s cognitive abilities remain largely intact. In other words, though you may feel less intelligent or capable as a result of much less sleep, in reality, you can function well regardless. I did. The challenge, of course, is to address the underlying cause and dynamics before one’s health and well-being is affected. For me, this was complex and multifaceted. For some, it may be less so: cut out substances that interfere with sleep like caffeine and change your job/ relationship or whatever is truly not working in your life. A really good coach or therapist might be helpful too. Sleeping pills are problematic and a slippery slope so be careful!

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Too many rehab centers

With a population just over twelve thousand, Malibu has 35 drug and alcohol rehab centers. With celebrity clients and a top notch location, facilities there can charge fees that are often two or three times going rates elsewhere – from 60 to 100 thousand dollars per month. Many programs are more new age too with less reliance on twelve step models and more customized treatment such as yoga, meditation, hypnotherapy and beyond. Is this a good thing? Perhaps for the wealthy but local residents are perturbed. As the French say: ce la vie!

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Two-State Illusion

Ian Lustick, a U-Penn political science professor and Middle East expert since 1980, argues intelligently that a two-state solution to the mess in Israel between Palestinians and Jews is not only an illusion but its continued belief is causing harm to the piece process itself. He outlines why self-interest propels each party to continue to propose a solution that will never occur and has long lost it’s viability. For instance, professor Lustick suggests that the Palestinian Authority “needs it’s people to believe progress is being made toward a two-state solution so it can continue to get the economic aid and diplomatic support that subsidize the lifestyle of its leaders, the jobs of tens of thousands of soldiers, spies, police officers, civil servants, and the authority’s prominence in a Palestinian society that views it as corrupt and incompetent.” He goes on to outline American, Israeli, and “peace process” industry motives as well before discussing more realistic solutions.

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Skill and Will

Sanchez may have the will but I’m not convinced he has the skill nor do many. I remember watching Sanchez’ first two seasons with the Jets when he got credit for taking them to the AFC championship game. Somewhere along the way Rex Ryan married him as well – big mistake. Sanchez was never that good, the Jets defense was superb then. Like any organization, top management matters a lot and the Jets have been abysmal in this regard. Getting too attached to anyone or anything is problematic in life and business. This is especially true in sports. Flexibility and fluidity are a far better substitute just look at the Patriots; true they’ve had Brady but when he got injured Matt Cassel, a no-name backup got the job done. Belichick as we all know is far beyond Ryan in intelligence and coaching skill but its his flexibility and willingness to let go of players who no longer fit that stands apart from mere mortals like Ryan!

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Dr. Brett- opportunity for change

The idea that we must do something significant about the civil war in Syria seems silly to Mr. Friedman who argues that Sunnis and Shiites have been fighting since the 7th century over the rightful heir to the Prophet Muhammad’s “spiritual and political leadership.” He notes that without boots on the ground to control and develop the center, any intervention will fail as our intervention to take out the dictator Qaddafi has plunged Libya unnoticed into severe economic and political crisis. And since that is not happening, “arm and shame” is our only sensible foreign policy there. I like Friedman and this article is worth reading in detail. It’s an excellent summary of why America’s credibility is not at stake here. Perhaps Obama’s credibility is but as Friedman suggests, Arab civilizations have largely missed every giant opportunity for positive change.

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Dr. Brett- the value of suffering

I’ve done a fair amount of suffering in my lifetime as have many of us. Sometimes, I tell clients that appearances are deceiving and that I’ve suffered far more than my confident, occasionally nonchalant style may show. One thing I’ve learned from suffering is that we can get stronger, more clear, and more aware but that doesn’t make it easy. Sometimes, all the suffering makes life seem pointless and yet other times, it makes us feel grateful for what we have. I agree with the Dalai Lama that helping others and working hard helps – so does creativity. There is nothing like that feeling of creativity to make us feel more alive and feel like our life experience, no matter how hard it is, is worthwhile. I also work on loving and letting go because all of us are faced with these ways of being every day. And the more we love and the more capable of letting go we become, the greater we enjoy the journey!

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Dr. Brett- dignity and self-respect

Katy Butler’s mother chose not to have a heart operation at 85 years old that may or may not have prolonged her life another few years. Though many people encouraged her to go for it, including her daughter the author of this article, she declined in large part because she didn’t want to take the risk of ending up like a vegetable as many elderly do when they have serious operations at advanced ages. Einstein chose not to prolong his life at the end when he refused surgery for an aortic aneurysm. He wanted to die with dignity and self-respect having done “his share.” Far too many people try to save their elderly parents from dying gracefully by doing everything possible to give them an extra few months of life. Not only does this tax the Medicare system to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars each year but it often results in additional suffering. A friend of mine had a “do not resuscitate order” for her dying mother that was ignored by busy hospital staff which led to weeks of horrendous and unnecessary suffering and of course cost Medicare hundreds of thousands more. Learning to accept death is not easy for any of us but keeping people alive for the wrong reasons isn’t right. Valerie Harper led a long, dignified life and she chose to let go when she was ready even if others around her weren’t – very cool!

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Dr. Brett- Business Perspective

My twin brother Bill has told me on several occasions to fly Virgin America. He was excited sharing his perspective that they did a much better job of customer service compared to old school airlines. We both agreed that Richard Branson has a special touch and that most everything he does seems better than most. I was both surprised and not so surprised to find out that the airline has been losing money but then again the airline business is brutal. And Branson’s company, Virgin Group, only owns 25 percent of Virgin America.  Maybe he should own more? Regardless, I am looking forward to flying Virgin America and hope that they succeed in large part because flying has become less and less fun since 911. Feeling cramped and unappreciated has become the norm. Occasionally, I quip that if I ran my business the way most airlines do I’d be begging for food!