Friday, May 16, 2008

Made in China

The other day I was driving my son home from – guess what – his baseball game, and turned on the radio. The newscaster was at that moment mentioning the number of people hurt or killed in some accident. Avrami, who rarely ever hears or reads the news asked in complete innocence, “Why would people want to listen to all that, about people dying or getting hurt?”

I realized that he was right. It wasn’t something we needed to listen to. I switched off the radio.

If you think about it, anyone who reads, watches or listens to the news is bombarded ninety percent of the time with unfortunate, even tragic information. That’s not uplifting.

The excuse is always, “Well, I have to know what’s going on in the world.”

This morning someone admitted to me, “I’m having a hard time feeling moved by this earthquake in China.”

It’s a problem of scale. You hear an impressive number, and it doesn’t get into your heart. You hear a story of a mother who personally guided the excavation equipment to their collapsed apartment building, got permission to knock down the front gate, and called into the rubble, “Don’t worry, Mommy’s here, Mommy’s here” only to find the child and his grandparents have perished – if that doesn’t make you weep you’ve got a hole in your soul.

Certain spectator events, such as natural disasters in the other hemisphere, play on our little boxes in our living rooms or dashboards like another piece of entertainment.

The real issue is why you media people out there choose to cover such stories at the expense of others?

After all, there are tragedies and disasters all the time, every single day, that we rarely hear about.

For instance, every single day, some 16,000 children under age 5 die from starvation and malnutrition. Try to wrap your mind around that (see also here and here and here). That was true on 9/11, that was true when the tsunami struck Asia, that was true when the cyclone hit Burma, that was true when the earthquake hit China and that is true today.

That’s about one little kid dropping dead every five seconds in the most painful way.

Every day, some 500 species of animals or plants become extinct. That’s about one gone every three minutes. (I’ll admit, this number is a guesstimate and the consequences for human life are not crystal-clear.)

Yet every day, more lives are saved through new medicines, new surgeries, new technologies, new environmental initiatives, new social intervention programs....

Every day we have new knowledge, more people connecting to each other, more acts of kindness...

Here’s some really good news – some friends here in Baltimore (who also study ancient Jewish wisdom with me every week), introduced me to the aerogarden – it’s a nifty affordable, almost carefree device to grow bug-free herbs indoors. We are now looking forward to fresh basil year round!

I’ve never met someone who didn’t want to leave the world better off than we found it. Anyone who has ever loved a child wants to. So here are today’s questions for your table:

Is life on earth is getting worse, or is the world in balance getting better?

Shabbat Shalom

PS - Until recently, I had a hard time finding anything made of plastic or wood not made in China. Even our new aerogrow (ordered today) is made in China. Then, for Passover, we bought Avrami a diablo, also known as a “Chinese Yoyo” (see the blog for a photo). Its origin? “Made in Switzerland”. A vestige, or a new trend?

Travel/speaking schedule:
May 19 – Baltimore - “Does a Spiritual Person Wear a Watch?”
May 20 – New York - “The Art of Amazement”
June 17 – Chicago - “A New Twist on the Old Game of Love”
June 18-19 - Los Angeles – TBA
June 24-25 – Los Angeles - TBA

For details, send an email!

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