Entries in the 'New Publications' Category

Newsmax: “How To Cope With The Emotional Toll Of Irma“

The largest portal Newsmax published my new article “How to Cope With the Emotional Toll of Irma

When the winds calm, power returns, and food and gas are available again, there will still be people who need help. Besides the obvious physical cost of the storm, there is another aftermath that survivors will have to handle. Many of these people will have lost everything dear to them to the wind and the water: their memories, pictures, and memorabilia of loved ones who passed away. No insurance can cover this. There is only one recompense for the emotional loss that such people have endured—new human connections. Forging companionships and solidarity of residents is crucial to restoring the vitality of every disaster ravaged community.

Today, most people are so detached from one another that when they need real friends to help them, many have no one to turn to. Despite our advanced technological means of communication, it is growing harder for us to communicate with one another.

We may think that self-absorption is the personal problem of the self-absorbed, but it is anything but! In truth, the quality of human connections has immense consequences on all of society, and ultimately on the entire planet.

Acclaimed Prof. Nicholas Christakis described human society as a type of “superorganism.” Everything we do, say, and even think, he explains, ripples through society and incites similar emotions, ideas, thoughts, and actions in other people.

We can prove this by this very simple experiment. Within our families, with a few friends, or even with just one friend, if this is all we have, dedicate one day to thinking not about what I want and what will please me, but about what the person or people with whom we are experimenting feel. They, in turn, will do the same toward us.

I can testify that the results will astound you. When everyone focuses on making everyone else happy, it makes life better all around. No one is left out.

If we conduct this type of experiment on a large scale, it will echo through the country and change the way we think about society and how we relate to other people. When masses of people focus on bonding, it makes recovery from trauma, any trauma, infinitely more rapid, effective, and lasting.

The current structure of society, where people are disconnected and mistrustful of each other, makes it much harder on them to endure traumas such as natural disasters. Even day-to-day life is far more difficult when your social life can be encapsulated into a 5-inch communication box, a.k.a. “smartphone.”

The current wave of natural disasters is not the last one, nor is it the worst. If we neglect our social ties, the next wave might prove too challenging to cope with, and who knows what social toll it will take.

Therefore, we can turn the current bane into a boon. Since tens of thousands of people are already concentrated in storm shelters, we can turn them into “connection centers.” Instead of waiting for the all-clear sound to go home, people can busy themselves forming friendships that will stay with them for the rest of their lives. The workshop that I shared in last week’s column demonstrates how easy it is to connect. All we need is to sit together in small groups and share these four things: 1) the most emotional moment for us in this event, 2) if and how Irma has shaped our attitude toward other people, 3) how we hope to express this new attitude, and 4) the benefits of sharing our experiences and thoughts in this manner.

Beyond the social benefit, there is another, more elusive prize to positive human connections: their impact on the environment. Social isolation undermines our emotional and mental stability, and drives us to look for compensation for our lack of human companionship. When this condition affects hundreds of millions of people, it affects everything, including even the environment.

The superorganism that Christakis describes is not confined to human society. Just like our own bodies consist of all levels of existence—mineral, vegetative, and animate—the superorganism of humanity is part of an even larger system that is our planet. When someone’s kidneys fail, it is the whole person who is sick, not just his or her kidneys. Likewise, when humanity is sick, it makes all of Earth unwell.

The symptoms may seem unrelated, but just as a headache doesn’t mean I have a problem with my head, Earth is showing its symptoms in ways we don’t understand. But what we do know is that we are an ailing society, and curing it will cure the entire superorganism we all live in. For this reason, if we want to abate natural disasters, we must heal our own society, or more precisely, our ill connections with one another.
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Haaretz: “At the Kabbalah Congress, I Found My Ego”

The largest Israeli newspaper הארץ (Haaretz) published a report on the world kabbalistic congress All As One, held in Tel Aviv on 02/21-23/17 “At the Kabbalah Congress, I Found My Ego”:

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Continent: “Hurricane After The Hurricane”

The online newspaper Continent published my article “Hurricane after the Hurricane“:

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Newsmax: “Restoring Nature’s ‘Sanity’ Begins With Restoring Our Own Connections“

The largest portal Newsmax published my new article “Restoring Nature’s ‘Sanity’ Begins With Restoring Our Own Connections

While I am writing this, reports of hurricane Irma’s devastation are still pouring in. Clearly, nature has flipped. Scientists have been warning for years that global warming means stronger storms and increasingly frequent freak weather. But knowing this will happen and seeing it unfolding are two different things.

But this column is not about disasters. It is about hope and about taking action.

In my previous column, I wrote that our main problem is not natural disasters, but our alienation from each other. I suggested a practical way to create positive conversation and shared a link to a free download of my book Completing the Circle, which, among other things, offers connection games and ideas for conversations that help people connect.

A few days later, I learned that two young men, who happen to also be studying with me, initiated such a discussion with survivors of hurricane Harvey, and even filmed the conversation. If you want to have hope in the future of America, you owe it to yourself to watch the abbreviated documentation. These beautiful, intelligent young people did not know each other prior to that meeting, and judging by their appearances, chances are their paths would never have converged were it not for Harvey’s devastation. Yet, these millennials prove by their very conduct that solidarity throughout America is possible.

This horrific hurricane season will be over in a couple of months, and the fires in Western United States will be extinguished. If we put this menacing summer behind us and go on as before, we’ll have wasted a chance to make a real change.

One of the participants in the filmed discussion said, “The mindset that we have, everybody here sitting at this table, hopefully they pass it forward.” Another one added that when “there is only one goal, to help people, it restores my faith in humanity seeing everyone working together hand to hand … making connection that I believe wouldn’t be possible if it wasn’t for such a devastating situation, and it’s sad to say that. Hopefully, the media portrays that and shows that people can come together even without a time of need and that we’re not separated by belief, religion, or any of the other factors.”

Naturally, such isolated initiatives cannot change the face of the country. But this is nonetheless a proof of concept, which is why I’m sharing it here. The authorities can and should utilize people’s currently enhanced sensitivity and direct them toward seeing the power of connection.

After less than 45 minutes of discussion, the participants, who as I said, did not know each other prior to meeting, felt so close that they exchanged emails and phone numbers. If it’s that easy, given the right mode of discussion, why shouldn’t every American benefit from this?

In fact, human connection is more impactful than we think. In the early 1970s, renowned physicist Dennis Gabor said, “Till now man has been up against Nature; from now on he will be up against his own nature.” But instead of focusing on human nature, we are looking for ways to fix nature itself, and in doing so, we’re missing the whole point. Our own ill-will causes every problem in the world. Global warming, financial meltdowns that impoverish millions of people, war, famine, depression, substance abuse, inequality, and racism are all man-made disasters. If we fixed our ill-will, which causes all these crises, we wouldn’t have a worry in the world.

And the way to fix ill-will is by establishing positive human connections. This is why I am so adamant about discussions like the one I mention here.

There comes a time when you must look in the mirror and say, “I’m done blaming others for my problems; I have to take responsibility.” As a society, we are at that point. Now is our time to start “practicing” positivity toward each other. It is a conscious effort that may feel a little unnatural at first, but as we all know, practice makes perfect. And in this case, it takes very little practice to make huge progress, just look at that video.

If every person in your community attended just one or two such meetings a week, within a month the whole neighborhood would change. Going to the supermarket would mean going to see friends because you would know other shoppers, or you would know their friends, who would introduce you to their friends, and you would come home smiling. In such an atmosphere, it will be natural to care for one another and society will easily find its balance.

In such a caring space, the rest of our problems will sort themselves out, which will affect our entire environment, from human society all of nature. As it turns out, restoring nature’s sanity begins with our positive connections.
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The Russian Canadian: “You Are Where Your Thoughts Are, Part 2“

The Toronto newspaper The Russian Canadian published the second part of my article “You Are Where Your Thoughts Are.”

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Related Material:
The Russian Canadian: “You Are Where Your Thoughts Are.“

Continent: “Social Networks As A Tool For Creating Internal Links”

The online newspaper Continent published my article “Social Networks As A Tool For Creating Internal Links“:

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Newsmax: “Maintaining Spirit of the People Key to Harvey Reconstruction“

Newsmax, with 12 million readers, published my new article “Maintaining Spirit of the People Key to Harvey Reconstruction“:

Even though I spent last weekend in Germany at a convention with my European students, I followed closely the unfolding catastrophe in Houston. The reports in the media and the stories I heard from my students out there were heartbreaking. This event is undoubtedly a trauma that will stay with people for years to come.

At the same time, I think that as a society, the worst thing that Texans can do for themselves is to assume a passive, victim attitude. The reconstruction should begin as soon as possible, and the first thing to reinforce is the people’s spirits.

Money can be recouped, property can be rebuilt, but no one can mend a broken spirit except for the people whose spirits were broken. I saw the reports of Houstonians rescuing each other from flooded homes, and this is exactly the right spirit. However, it is one thing to feel empathy for your neighbor during a crisis, and an entirely different thing to feel it on a day-to-day basis, yet this is what people really need.

Today’s American society is so fractured that even the worst flooding in U.S. history did not quench the divisiveness altogether. Kenneth Storey, for example, a substitute Tampa University professor, was fired after tweeting “hopefully this will help them [Texans] realize the GOP doesnt [sic] care about them,” adding that he is “only blaming those who support the GOP.” But I don’t believe that even one of the first responders, Cajun Navy volunteers, and countless other good Samaritans who plucked people out of flooded homes and submerged cars asked the stranded, desperate people for whom they voted before helping them to safety.

And yet, unless residents and authorities alike make a conscious effort to maintain this solidarity, it will vanish as soon as the water dries. Regrettably, it is not genuine unity, but instinctive empathy that emerges during crises. Had it been real, it would have been there prior to the storm, as well.

Glenn Thrush of The New York Times pointed out that Harvey offers President Trump “an opportunity to recapture some of the unifying power of his office.” It would be wonderful if Trump could focus on unity and solidarity, but I don’t think Houston residents should wait for anyone. Shelters are normally stressful places. Thousands of strangers huddling together for weeks with no privacy and with less than minimal facilities for maintaining civil life is hardly a recipe for happiness.

Yet, if used correctly, these conditions can form bonds that would not form under normal circumstances. If I were there, I would invite people to sit together in a circle, because a circle makes everyone equally important, and over coffee, I would suggest that we all share our most optimistic vision for a life after Harvey. Afterward, I would ask, “What would it take to accomplish these visions?” I have no doubt that with some mutual responsibility and care, most people’s visions are achievable. But without solidarity, these visions will be wishful thinking.

Our daily routines and everyday hardships make us forget a very important fact: We are all dependent on each other. Other people manufacture the food we eat, and other people employ us or we employ them so we can all support ourselves and our families. Our self-esteem depends on other people’s appreciation of us, and our mood depends to a great extent on the mood of the people around us. What we know is what we are told or shown, and what we think is intimately connected to what others around us think. In short, we are interdependent physically, economically, intellectually, and emotionally. Yet, how many of us feel that our connections with people around us are positive and constructive?

Apocalypses such as Harvey are game changers. They are opportunities to rethink everything and lift society to a completely new level of connection. The state of Texas can and should use the bane of the storm as a societal boon that will make Houston a role-model city in America.

My own students and friends are planning to go to the shelters as soon as conditions permit and engage with people to encourage them and help them connect with one another. If I could, I would go there myself and do the same. Since I cannot, I’m offering a free download of my book, “Completing the Circle,” containing connection games, ideas for conversations that help people connect, and lots more. If Texas lets this opportunity for change pass, it will make the next disaster even worse.

A couple of days ago, one of my students, whose family in Houston is still stranded, wrote me these positive words: “We are Texans! Texas can get thru [sic] anything; we just gotta keep on working hard & together.” Yes, togetherness is the key to all of our success now and always.
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7 Days: “Social Networks As A Tool For Creating Internal Links”:

Chicago’s Russian periodical 7 Days published my article: “Social Networks As A Tool For Creating Internal Links”

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Center Makor: Who Needs Education?

In Boston, the newspaper Center Makor published my article “Who Needs Education?“:

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Newsmax : “There Will Be No Winners in the Second Civil War“

The largest portal Newsmax published my new article “There Will Be No Winners in the Second Civil War“:

Earlier this week, CNN news anchor Don Lemon stated that the president “is clearly trying to ignite a civil war in this country.” In response to Lemon’s words, historian and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said in an interview on “Tucker Carlson Tonight”: “I think we should take the threat of civil war very seriously.”

Referencing Dennis Prager’s piece, “America’s Second Civil War,” Gingrich added, “What you’re seeing with Antifa, what you’re seeing on college campuses, what you’re seeing, to some extent, in the bureaucracy, is a real division of the country. …I wish we could all sing Kumbaya and come together but I don’t think that’s what’s gonna happen. …As a historian, my view is pretty straightforward: one side or the other wins.”

America is already so rife with extremists on both sides of the political aisle that many people see war not only as imminent, but as virtually inevitable. If that’s the case, we’d better get busy digging ourselves bunkers… and graves.

And not just in the U.S. A civil war in America will not end in America. If the country plunges into battle, many will be vying for the loot. China, Russia, North Korea, Iran, and others will destroy whatever the war doesn’t, the American empire will become history, and a third world war, with multiple nuclear powers, will follow. There will be no winners because, to quote Machiavelli, “Wars begin when you will, but they do not end when you please.”

Is there really no alternative?

I think there is, or I wouldn’t be writing here. In my previous column, I noted that President Trump needs to take a more appeasing tone in order to start building national cohesion. It’s great to state, “No matter our color, creed, religion or political party, we are ALL AMERICANS FIRST,” but doing so right after the Charlottesville murderous car ramming is the epitome of poor timing. Such statements should be part of the president’s routine, not rare occasions.

Trump excels in using social media. If he uses it to broadcast a constant stream of unifying messages, notwithstanding the cynicism of the press, he will win over the American people’s hearts regardless of their political affiliation.

I wholly agree that America requires massive infrastructure projects. But the real infrastructure of the country is its people, not its asphalt roads or railroads. The administration needs to implement ASAP solidarity programs that will create a uniform American identity. People need to learn that an ideology that undermines freedom of speech, freedom of religious practice, and freedom of the press, cannot use the First Amendment to legitimize itself.

Even more importantly, people need to learn that plurality of views is not a recipe for war; it is precisely what has made America great in the first place. When people of different approaches and views strive for the same goal, they are far more likely to achieve it. If the goal is the well-being of all Americans, the entire country will benefit from it, and this goal should top the priority list of every American.

It might not seem possible to patch up the divided United States, but
1) no one has ever sincerely tried, and
2) the other option is war.

With my students, I have developed simple and easily applicable techniques that create a sense of unity and connection even among the most unlikely populations, such as Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs, ultra-Orthodox and devout agnostics, and affluent and needy. These techniques work wonders wherever we have tried them: North America, Western and Eastern Europe, and in Israel.

Today’s world is pushing toward connection. The interconnectedness of reality requires that we learn how to work in a world where everyone is dependent on everyone else. When we think in terms of “one side or the other wins,” we cannot succeed because we are perpetuating a mindset of separation. This will inevitably create unions of extremists that will feed on hatred of the other side, which in turn will lead to war. The only way to avoid this route is to make unity mainstream.

If this seems unrealistic, think of your own body. Without the unity of radically different organs all working in unison for the common cause of sustaining you and keeping you healthy, you would not exist. Therefore, unity is not unrealistic; it is the only realistic option for society.

The sooner we make American solidarity the prime value of America, the better it is for the entire country. Any decision that Trump’s administration and Congress make from here on should first and foremost promote unity and solidarity because this is truly the only realistic option.
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