Friday, June 01, 2018

A Man, a Plan, a Canal . . .

The goal of this email is to bring some reorientation to your Shabbat Table. Plea
In memory of my grandparents, global travelers, who's yahrzeits were just observed.
Happy birthday to Kyle in California. Bon Voyage to Harmon in Panamá.


Sailing the CanalReceived a call from our daughter Goldy this morning. Her year-in-Israel program has taken them to Poland for a few days. They are having a visceral experience seeing where their ancestors lived and where their distant cousins were slaughtered. She said it is the single most meaningful activity of her entire year abroad.
Later in the day, a call came in from the other side of the globe, Panama.

Our friend Harmon just passed through the Canal to begin another great sailboat race.

And thinking about these two calls from opposite sides of the globe representing two opposite orientations, got me thinking about.... the globe and orientation.

And thinking about the globe and orientation reminded me of one of my favorite trivia questions....

For your table:

If you are heading through the Panama Canal from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic, which direction are you facing?

The answer is completely counter-intuitive and most peopel don't believe it until they look at a map.

Harmon has a passion for sailing, but one would in no way call it an addiction.

But could a person become addicted to sailing?

Here's question #2 for your table:

2. What would you suppose is the most common addiction?

I'l give you a hint: it's rarely diagnosed.

If you were Chinese, you might say smoking.

In China, there are about three hundred million smokers (some report 350M), blissfully unaware that cigarettes are killing about one million of them every year.

(And a state-owned monopoly profits from every puff.)

Step back and look at the big picture - over a billion smokers worldwide and killing about seven million every year - that's about nineteen thousand per day.

In other words, there are as many adults dying from cigarettes as there are kids dying from malnutrition (or surviving it and living a stunted life).

But smoking doesn't even come close to the world's biggest addiction.

(Remember, it's rarely diagnosed.)

Maybe mentioning malnutrition will trigger someone to guess food addiction, and they'll have a point - it's certainly an epidemic in so many place. There's even a World Obesity homepage (

Yet as bad as that sounds, it isn't the biggest addiction.

It might be easier to answer if we follow Pirkei Avot which states: When seeking wisdom, begin by defining your terms.

So.... what does "addiction" mean?

Habit? Dependency?

How about this:

Addiction is a primary, chronic dysfunction of brain reward, motivation and memory....leading to characteristic biological, psychological, social and spiritual manifestations, reflected in pursuing reward and/or relief by unhealthy or undesired behaviors.

That's an abbreviated version of the ASAM definition. According to the American Psychiatric Association:

Addiction is a complex condition, a brain disease that is manifested by compulsive substance use despite harmful consequence.

What I'm going to suggest is that one of the most addictive behaviors I have seen, that is never diagnosed as an addiction, is complaining.

Some people's habit of complaining seems to me to fit these broad definitions of addiction.

Take the APA definition and substitute "complaining" for "substance abuse".

The final questions for your table are:

3. Does it fit?

The answer depends: does a person's habitual and relentless habit of complaining have harmful consequences?

4. If you are a complaining person, where does that come from?

5. If you are on the other end of that complaint, how are you supposed to respond that will actually be helpful?

Shabbat Shalom

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