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5 Spiritual Lessons I Learned From My Pregnancy

Sunday, May 24th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

Whether this is your first time out or you’ve already been around the bend, take a moment to congratulate yourself, Ms. Mom. You are a miracle maker. You, hovering over the toilet in the midst of all-day sickness, are in the midst of accomplishing what no one else on this earth but you can do. What pregnancy has taught me thus far is that motherhood, whether it is via pregnancy, foster care, or adoption, is a spiritual calling. Keep these five key lessons in your back pocket when you’re worn out and need a reminder of how divine you truly are.

5. Parenting is a calling, not a career, a chore, or the result of a shopping trip.

“I want a child” is an all-too common phrase in today’s world. If you’ve ever said it, listen very carefully to discern if the emphasis is on “a child” or simply “I want.” Having a child is not the answer to a mid-life crisis or a vision board checklist. Nor should motherhood ever be defined as a chore. If I hear one more person tell me how tired I’m going to be once my child is born I’m going to start wearing a spit up-covered t-shirt that says, “Duh! Who cares?” My child is already my life, not a task on my to-do list that takes away from “me-time,” nor a person who exists to make me feel special. Child rearing is a devout work. Unless you are accepting of the idea that you will, in some way, be on the same level as Mother Teresa, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr. and an ascetic from time to time, just buy a dog and be done with it.

4. Childbirth is a spiritual experience.

Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth should be required reading for every expecting mother. Regardless of how you choose to give birth, you should be aware of the fact that we have been acculturated to treat birth as an illness worthy of hospitalization. A baby is not a tumor in need of removal for the mother’s survival. Giving birth is not only a life-affirming experience, it is the primary connection we have with God and the source of our continued existence. By ignoring this fact and forcing patients to focus on pain, the medical community has done a huge disservice to women. Instead of believing that our bodies are doing exactly what they are meant to do, women focus on the struggles of pregnancy and the pain of labor, psyching themselves up for an experience worthy of a horror film. As a result their fear diminishes their faith in themselves and the very natural spiritual process of bringing new life into this world.

3. As with any spiritual experience, there are great moments of hope and of doubt.

Episode after episode of Call the Midwife has been running on my DVD player for months. Each baby that is born brings a tear to my eye. Finally, the other day I heard myself saying, “I get to do this. Me. This is for me.” Then it hit me that a part of me had doubted all along that I could have this incredible joy for myself. Sometimes we put up walls of doubt to protect our most fragile emotions. The hope that engulfs you every time you have a good ultrasound, a good doctor’s visit, can easily be consumed the following day when you’re sure you haven’t felt your baby move enough. For me, one nosebleed sent me flying into a state of panic. Doubt creates a tough barrier for faith to crack through. But it must, not only for the sake of our relationship with our child, but so that we may fully partake in this incredible blessing.

Continue Reading…

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Will the 21st Century Reunite Church and State?

Sunday, May 24th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

Before, organized, uniformed and relatively disciplined and conventional Arab armies fought under their national flag. Today the armies have been replaced by terrorist gangsters and black-cloaked jihadists. Conventional war has been replaced by terrorist attacks. Battles fought between tanks and infantry in remote deserts have been replaced by battles fought in densely populated civilian areas and behind the protection of human shields.

In my view if such events as the Gaza conflict last summer were played out in the 1960s and 70s, the support for Israel in the West would have been greater than it was even then. The savage and murderous actions of the Palestinians are far more shocking today.

So I again ask the question, what has changed? And the answer is: The morality and values of the West. They have been transformed almost beyond recognition.

The statement was made by Colonel Richard Kemp, former Commander of the British Forces in Afghanistan, in an address to the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, an Israeli think-tank housed at Bar-Ilan University. The direct nature of his dialogue suits his history as a military leader. It is also a far cry from today’s “polite” approach to anything relating to Biblical values in a mainstream media discussion. “Thanks but no thanks,” is what you’ll usually get, followed by some snide accusation of hypocrisy or inferiority. But has this anti-values attitude truly impacted our culture for the better?

Kemp argues, “The destruction of defining values mean that people will now accept physical acts that would before have been utterly abhorrent to them.” As Richard Dreyfuss recently argued in a PJMedia/Diary of a Mad Voter guest post:

Western kids are reportedly trying to join ISIS; why? Perhaps because the only spiritual movement being discussed in public, however ugly its ideology, is extremist Islam. Judeo-Christian spirituality seems pallid and disconnected; certainly Americans are no longer learning the secular faith of the Constitution, the musculature of republican democracy, its values of individual worth, its religious tolerance, its embrace of opportunity and merit.

Kids who grow up in a spiritual void may drift to ideological thuggery because we let go of its most powerful enemy, the mobility of mind that comes from Enlightenment values.

Perhaps one of the greatest questions we can ask ourselves as we head into 2016 isn’t who, but why. If the 20th century was defined by the separation of Church and State, the 21st will need to be defined by the reuniting of God and politics across the moral divide.

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How One Iraqi War Vet is Helping His Fellow Soldiers to Armor Down

Sunday, May 24th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

Veteran Ben King is taking his role as a psychological operations sergeant in the U.S. Army into new territory. Now returned home to civilian life, Ben has created Armor Down. The organization re-contextualizes yoga and mindfulness meditation into a basic training-esque physical fitness routine with one simple goal: To aid in restoring physical and psychological wellness to returning soldiers afflicted with PTSD.

King’s journey into mindfulness was inspired by his own struggle with post-traumatic stress. Defined as, “the intentional, accepting and non-judgmental focus of one’s attention on the emotions, thoughts and sensations occurring in the present moment, which can be trained by meditation practices,” mindfulness is western psychology’s adaptation of an ancient Buddhist practice into non-religious terms. King chronicles in his blog:

Early in my PTS experience rage would erupt and I would lash out violently or with shame filled crying. …

In my present experience, I experience rage as signal of tension in parts of my body. The rage expresses itself sensationally and I use that expression to guide my awareness to those ares of sensation and do what I can to settle them. If they don’t settle I never mind, and go through my many tools to mitigate the consequences. Sometimes I even have to sit and just wait for the rage to pass.

The difference now is that not only do I not feel shame for feeling rage, I feel appreciative. I recognize it as an expression of intelligence, one that is affording me an opportunity to evolve.

This was an exciting revelation because it meant that I didn’t have to live in a sanitized environment scared that something would set me off, on the contrary there was no environment that I couldn’t enter because it didn’t netter [sic.] whether I was feeling good or bad because I know how to work with either.

A certified personal trainer with a master’s degree in public anthropology, King created Armor Down as a way to reach out to veterans in need:

Armor Down pursues its mission by linking content describing or demonstrating these techniques to Quick Response (QR) codes, which can be reproduced on printed materials and scanned by smartphones. It is a key feature of Armor Down that providing content in this manner eliminates the stigma of having to request it and encourages anonymous feedback.

One of Armor Down’s biggest projects is Mindful Memorial Day, a Washington D.C.-based volunteer event that honors fallen soldiers from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan through ceremonies of gratitude. It is a reminder that while we honor the fallen, we must also honor the living by meeting their need to Armor Down into civilian life.

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Did You Receive Your ‘Wife Bonus’ This Year?

Wednesday, May 20th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

In Lifestyles of the Rich and Non-Famous news, Manhattan bankers’ wives have negotiated bonuses for good “work” performance at home:

A wife bonus, I was told, might be hammered out in a pre-nup or post-nup, and distributed on the basis of not only how well her husband’s fund had done but her own performance — how well she managed the home budget, whether the kids got into a “good” school — the same way their husbands were rewarded at investment banks. In turn these bonuses were a ticket to a modicum of financial independence and participation in a social sphere where you don’t just go to lunch, you buy a $10,000 table at the benefit luncheon a friend is hosting.

These real housewives aren’t the only ones measuring their net worth as moms in terms of career metrics, including potential financial gain. There are a slew of professional development experiences out there for women who have turned mothering into a career:

MamaCon, a mothers’ convention, proffers “…top-notch parenting development and education, self-care tips that really work, relationship support, amazing vendors, wine tasting, great food and outstanding entertainment.”

For Mom Bloggers (yes, it’s a title) there’s the Mom 2.0 Summit, “…the premier professional conference for influential mom bloggers and female entrepreneurs who create online content. Every year, women leaders in media and business converge at the Summit to compare notes, discuss ideas, and forecast what’s next for women online and in the marketplace.”

Minority and alternative parents who identify as “blogger or on-line influencers interested in connecting with brands and monetizing your blog” can attend the Niche Parent Network and Conference, a “diverse and multicultural network connecting digital parents with brands that want to reach them.”

There’s also a slew of BabyCons out there, including the New York Baby Show, “the largest show for new and expectant parents in the country.” Self-described as the “loving lollapalooza of Baby Shows,” it’s a 2-day product and information convention. Combine Buy Buy Baby with your local hospital’s first-time parenting class, load it with steroids, and you have the mother of all information-laden “how to be the perfect parent” events.

Has American culture crafted motherhood into a career choice? Is that necessarily a good thing? Or are we seeking to redefine motherhood in contemporary feminist terms, as a choice that doesn’t threaten or conflict with cultural expectations that a woman seek professional fulfillment beyond raising the next generation? Whether it is clever marketing or cultural conformity, does this put more pressure, not less, on today’s mothers?

 

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NYT Buries Research Revealing That Kids Need More Time With Mom, Less Dependence on Government

Tuesday, May 19th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg
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The Old Gray Lady has decided there is “mounting evidence of advantages for children of working mothers.” It’s a politically correct headline that follows the newspaper’s classically liberal slant. But, like one of those extensive designer-drug warning labels, to find out what constitutes “advantages” you have to read the small print.

The “silver bullet” factoids boil down to daughters of working mothers who are 3% more likely to work than the daughters of stay-at-home mothers. The daughters of working moms are earning an average of 23% more and are 4% more likely to hold supervisory positions. And if those whopping statistics aren’t silvery enough, “sons of working mothers in those countries spent an additional hour a week caring for family members and 17 minutes more per week on housework.”

That’s it, myths about working mothers be damned. We’ve got a 4% increase in supervisory positions among their daughters and their sons are spending an extra 17 minutes a week cleaning house. Talk about numbers that change the culture. At this rate, if “working moms” were a TV show they’d be cancelled before their pilot even aired.

The Times brushes by a 2010 meta-analysis of 5 decades’ worth of data on the impact of working mothers on children, mumbling something about how working moms were defended by those statistics as well. However, the numbers beg to differ. According to that meta-analysis:

The positive effects were particularly strong for children from low-income or single-parent families; some studies showed negative effects in middle-class or two-income families.

Bottom line: If you’re a single parent, it’s better to work independently than to rely on or continuously demand more government subsidies. But if you’re part of a two-parent household, one of you should plan to be at home for the sake of your child’s long term well being, especially during those baby and toddler years.

In other words, the data still defends the limited government, pro-family position the Times is unwilling to take.

Nice try, New York Times. But once again you’ve only managed to prove that the hot air you blow is all “sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

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Why We’re Addicted to Nihilism: The Psychology Behind Mad Men’s Empty, Pointless Ending

Monday, May 18th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg
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Sonia Saraiya, writing for Salon, observes the frustration of many fans in the wake of Mad Men‘s rather un-poignant series finale:

I left this finale believing myself to be disappointed in Don Draper, but I’m really disappointed with myself. Disappointed for this narrative of settling for the modern world—which, along with its many perks, like lower infant mortality and longer life expectancy, comes with a horrifying feeling of emptiness from time to time, as we all seem to strive to live an existence that is not great or searing but just okay, just fine, just good enough to get by. Most of us in the first world don’t go bed hungry anymore—but as Peggy observed to the Burger Chef executives, “you’re starving, and not just for dinner.” Don and Peggy and Joan and Sally can’t really flame out beautifully in “Mad Men” because they are modeled to be people just like we are people, and yes, it is disappointing. Some kind of conflagration, of either the body or the soul, would have been so much more cathartic, so much more satisfying. It would have given voice to the roiling emptiness within. But instead we just get scenes from one more day in the lives of these people. One more day is all any of us ever get, until the day we don’t.

It’s a powerful statement coming from a mainstream media source. Not too many are willing to confront the rampant nihilism in today’s media landscape, let alone admit how personally depressed they are by it. Further case in point: Fox’s Backstrom ends with the lead going into rehab because he knows there’s more to life than misery: the show gets cancelled. CBS’s Elementary, facing a similar ratings struggle, has the lead succumb to his heroin addiction: the show is renewed. “Some kind of conflagration” seems to be the ethos of the day, the way to save a dying show. Give the viewers one more train wreck and they’ll keep staring. Depressing doesn’t begin to describe it.

The root of Saraiya’s complaint is that paradise, perfection, nirvana — whatever you want to call it — has been crafted into a commodity that we buy, sell and trade based on personal need. It’s a lame complaint at best, one that accepts the Marxist demand that world perfection is a human struggle instead of a Divine gift. In pursuing the Divine at a hippie retreat, Don retreats into his advertising ethos. Saraiya turns this into an argument against capitalism and, in doing so, caves to the inevitable reality that fed hippie-turned-yuppie disillusionment: You can’t force everyone to drink the Kool Aid (or, in this case, Coke).

Capitalists didn’t turn perfection into a commodity. Marxists simply took it upon themselves to manifest perfection on earth. Like every other revolution before them, the hippies got stuck in the “struggle” bit and have been caught in the muck ever since. Taking a cue from Burning Man, Saraiya’s wish for conflagration echoes the belief that complete destruction is the only way to start over. Think wacko environmentalists who believe humans are a disease on earth and you get the picture. The Kardashians may not be as extreme, but they’re just as pointless.

The sick truth is, no Mad Men fan was hoping for Don to enter some kind of therapy and exit a repaired human being. That was never the way the show was going to go. Right now they’re standing around their office water coolers relishing in their post-series misery the way one would reminisce about a good one-night stand. It was naughty, and now it’s all over, oh woe is me …I can’t wait to do it all again.

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Of Course America Is Giving Up on Christianity — We Gave Up on God Ages Ago

Sunday, May 17th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

If Ben Shapiro’s simply stated point isn’t enough to drive home the idea that the latest Pew survey on religious life in America reported absolutely nothing new, just check out one of the latest episodes of the Kardashians in which Kim Kardashian has to Google who baptized Jesus before concluding that she wanted to “find a guy named John” to baptize her daughter, North West. What’s worse, the “guy named John” concept, the fact that she had to Google it, or the reality that my Jewish friends took more offense to this absurdity than did a supposed Christian?

Jewish Americans had their panic attack over Pew two years ago when it was revealed that a full 66% of Jews agree you don’t need to believe in God in order to be Jewish. Sure, we’re the people who exist because God called us out and made a covenant with us, but really, we’re in it for the 6-figure salary potential. Now the Christians, genetically always two steps behind, have finally gotten their own slap in the face and panic over the moral integrity of America sets in, as if we’ve always believed our presidents and political leaders are really good Christians on the inside. You know, in that Sally Langston sort of way.

Here’s the positive side: There is something to be learned from the Jewish world when it comes to faith. It just means looking towards Israel, a nation that is statistically happier than we are, statistically less religious than we are, and statistically holds a higher rate of faith in God than we do. This past week, Israeli professors became overnight media sensations simply by supporting family values in their classrooms in the most practical way possible: By literally becoming the caretakers of their students’ babies while continuing to teach. When one American professor proceeded to breastfeed her sick baby while teaching in 2012, a national controversy ensued. Because you know how it goes with boobs and the Internet on this side of the ocean. So much for the efficacy of state-mandated sex ed.

Forget panicking over the fact that fewer Americans attend church. Churches (and synagogues, for that matter) have rendered themselves relatively meaningless in this day and age. If you wanted to panic over church attendance you should have done it 40 years ago when the pews began emptying out in favor of drug-laden music festivals and yuppie pursuits of McMansions and “having it all.” My colleague Michael van der Galien is right, we need to counter the secularization of America with biblical values. The answer, however, first requires countering secularization in our religious institutions instead of using them as a mere litmus test for the value and power of our belief.

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[VIDEO] The Secret of Happiness Exposed in One Simple Equation

Wednesday, May 13th, 2015 - by Michael van der Galien

In life, our main goal is to become happy. Think about it: why do we work and try to make as much money as we can? Why do we try to spend time with our children and wife? Why do we buy certain clothes and not the other ones? Or in a more spiritual way: why do we go to church/synagogue/mosque/temple (strikethrough whatever doesn’t apply to you)? And why do some people use drugs, while others don’t even want to go near them?

I’ll tell you why: because we believe those things will make us happy. That’s all there is to it. My neighbor stays at home from work as often as he can because he believes spending time in front of the television will make him happy. The other neighbor doesn’t come home until midnight because he’s working overtime, hoping a higher income will result in more happiness for him (and his family).

Ironically, however, many of us fail in our attempt to reach this supposed perfect state of being, this profound happiness, and we’re actually unhappy or even downright depressed.

How is it possible that by striving for happiness, we create the opposite feeling?

In his latest video for Prager University, radio talk show host Dennis Prager explains why that is.

So, how would you like an equation to determine the exact amount of unhappiness in your life?

Well, I am here to tell you that I have developed an equation. It is U=I-R. U is unhappiness, I is image, and R is reality. The difference between the images you have had for your life and the reality of your life is the amount of unhappiness in your life, which gives you an idea of how powerful images are in hurting us.

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As Prager says, we all have an image of what our life is supposed to be like. “I’m supposed to make this amount of money, I have a perfect marriage with an understanding wife and loving children,” and so on. While it’s perfectly natural and healthy to have goals, these kinds of nearly perfect images actually destroy our chances of experiencing true happiness because most of us just can’t live up to them.  Well, perhaps that 0,01% of the population do, but the other 99,99% have to settle for something else. Prager says,

That’s the biggest part of what mid-life crisis is about. Images kill people. Think of anorexia. Some teenage girls and young women have an image of how they want to look, and in some cases, they will starve themselves to meet that image. This is true for whatever images we have in our life. People imagine family life a certain way, they imagine a spouse a certain way, they imagine their children a certain way, they imagine their job a certain way, they imagine a whole host of things, and then those images are very often shattered.

So what’s the solution for this age old problem? Simple: you either “develop a new image and enjoy that, or just celebrate the reality that you now have.”

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The former approach will work in most cases, but the second solution is absolutely bulletproof. By focusing on ‘images,’ we often forget that we actually have a pretty darn good life. By looking at reality and analyzing it, we realize that we have a lot to be grateful for: a spouse who generally supports us (even though we sometimes mess up), children who may cause us stress every now and then, but who are — at the same time — a great blessing, friends that care for us, a roof above our head, a car to go to work with, a job; the list is endless.

Prager is right: we don’t need images. Reality itself is enough to make us happy.

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The Avengers Pose the Greatest Argument Against Government Control: Motherhood

Thursday, May 7th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

Spoiler alert!

Don’t let the contemporary feminists fool you with their whining about Black Widow’s lack of star power. Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow had the most powerful dialogue in the new release, Avengers: Age of Ultron. For the first time, movie audiences learn of her past as a Soviet agent trained from childhood. They also learn the most devastating aspect of being raised to kill: forced sterilization framed as a graduation rite of passage.

“It’s supposed to make it easier for you to kill,” she explains wistfully. The psychology behind training a school full of girls to become Soviet agents? Their biological mothering instincts must be destroyed if they are to be efficient and effective servants of the State. Now, Natasha the Black Widow can only celebrate vicariously as friends give birth to children and name them in her honor. The State may have marred her biology, but the permanent scars are in her mind and her heart.

Contemporary feminists complain that Black Widow is the mother of the group, but never bother asking why, because their politics force them to be completely out of touch with statistical reality. Despite the vociferous demands for increased access to birth control methods ranging from condoms to abortions, 96% of women ages 18-40 still express a desire to have a child. Why, then, do they demand the State have greater control over their reproductive rights? As the case of the Black Widow illustrates, a demand for control is a contradiction in terms with potentially deadly results.

Also read: 

Avengers: Age of Ultron Spoilers Review

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Stop Blaming Women for America’s Marriage Dilemma

Wednesday, May 6th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

Anti-feminist Suzanne Venker went on a tirade about millennials who don’t marry. The problem, of course, are those women who give the milk away for free or let the man pick up the check at dinner. Seriously. If her rage isn’t stereotypical enough, check out the rom-com reasoning she quotes from Dr. Helen:

Men know there’s a good chance they’ll lose their friends, their respect, their space, their sex life, their money and — if it all goes wrong — their family…They don’t want to enter into a legal contract with someone who could effectively take half their savings, pension and property when the honeymoon period is over.Men aren’t wimping out by staying unmarried or being commitment phobes. They’re being smart.

Smart? Smart is noting that 70% of men ages 18-24 visit porn sites in a typical month. (Thirty percent of those monthly viewers are women.) Men don’t need to pay for dinner when they can pay for the milk (or get it for free!) with no consequences, STDs, pregnancy, or relationships.

The stat that sparked Venker’s rant is the one showing the number of never-married adults age 25 has doubled since 1960. What else has doubled since then? The percentage of college graduates. Whine all you want about women in the workforce, the economic reality (thanks to those obnoxious hippie Boomers) is that women today have to work, married or not. The fact that the unemployment rate nearly doubled from 1960 – 2010 didn’t seem to cross Venker’s mind, either. Unless you can swing a reality TV show in your youth, get “loaned” a house from mom and dad upon marriage, and cash in on those photo shoots and residuals when you start popping out babies, you’re at a loss for a serious, reliable income without some kind of post-high school education.

Severnty-five percent of millennials still want to get married and the majority still want to have children, statistics that effectively blow Venker’s claim out of the water. Want to beat the ethos of contemporary feminism? Your chief complaint needs to be a lot better than “Waaa, it’s not the 1950s any more!”

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What Has Made Adulthood So Damned Scary?

Monday, May 4th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

First it was adult preschool. Now it’s adult summer camp:

Now you’re an adult and your life is all work and emails and commuting. And booze, which is a good addition. But Camp No Counselors wants to get that summer camp feeling back in your life. You and your friends can take a long weekend to the woods of Albany to travel back in time, with water sports, color wars, a talent show and other favorite parts of your childhood camp memories—but with the added benefits of dance parties with live DJs, co-ed cabins and alcohol at every turn. It’s gonna get weird.

Millennials may be poor overall, but the ones who can afford a vacation are mocking the accusation of immaturity by embracing the rejuvenile ethos to the hilt. Camp No Counselors isn’t the only business capitalizing on the summer camp for millennials trend. Time Out New York lists six camps in the region specializing in everything from glamping to zombie survival preparation. Could summer camp be for millennials what Caribbean beach resorts were for Gen-X? Granted, Sandals was all about growing up and getting laid. Summer camp, on the other hand, could easily be seen as a twenty-something’s attempt to grab onto the last vestiges of youth, which leads to the question: What has made adulthood so damned scary?

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A Selfless Parent Is a Bad Parent

Thursday, April 30th, 2015 - by Walter Hudson

My colleague Michael van der Galien directed our attention to a story out of Germany not so long ago about a 65-year-old woman pregnant with quadruplets. Her condition sparked controversy, posing the question: is getting pregnant at that age “amazingly beautiful or extremely egotistical“?

That’s a provocative question. But perhaps we should back up a bit and ask a more fundamental one. Why can’t it be both? From where does this dichotomy between beauty and ego emerge?

The conventional notion of ego suggests an irrational self-worship or whim-fulfillment. However, an alternative school of thought exists wherein ego proceeds from rationality. From this point of view, getting pregnant at 25 proves no less egotistical than getting pregnant at 65. The choice to procreate, by its nature as a choice, fulfills an egoistic desire. In that context, the question becomes not whether pregnancy is egoistic, but whether it proves rationally egoistic beyond a certain age.

Calling this German mother “extremely egotistical” suggests that she places her desire to have children above the wellbeing of those children. If that’s the case, if she wants children in the way that children want toys, then her decision to procreate proves irrational. In that case, she doesn’t want children as such, but a kind of maternal fantasy-fulfillment wherein the children become victims of her irrational pursuit.

However, if her decision to have children has been well-considered in the context of reality, if she has made arrangements by which her children will be cared for in her absence, or if she has good reason to believe she will remain healthy and capable enough to care for them, then her decision may be entirely rational. It all depends on context and intention.

The story provides a launching point for a consideration of the role ego plays in parenting.

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How Blogging Can Kill You…

Thursday, April 2nd, 2015 - by Robert Wargas

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Andrew Sullivan, of whose posturing and pettiness I’ve been critical in the past, retired from blogging in January, citing burnout and health problems.

In a recent interview, Sullivan described in starker detail how constant blogging (up to 40 posts a day) destroyed his health and personal life:

“The truth is, I had to stop primarily because it was killing me,” Sullivan said Sunday night at the 92nd Street Y in Manhattan. “I used to joke that if blogging does kill someone, I would be the first to find out.”

Sullivan also described the “dehumanizing” aspect of ceaseless online commentary:

“I spent a decade of my life, spending around seven hours a day in intimate conversation with around 70,000 to 100,000 people every day,” Sullivan said. “And inevitably, for those seven hours or more, I was not spending time with any actual human being, with a face and a body and a mind and a soul.”

I don’t blame the guy for leaving, and I wish him well in a life away from the often soul-wrending glow of the computer screen.

What Sullivan is describing is something all of us in 2015 face to some degree: with our lives increasingly synced and integrated with electronic online devices, there is a constant need to be “on,” in the moment, all the time… but not with any real people. This is exhausting, in a way that interaction with actual humans is not.

When I first read the Sullivan interview, I laughed a bit when he said that blogging was killing him. After some reflection, I do think it could happen.

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image illustration via shutterstock / 

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What Kind of Person Pretends To Be a Military Veteran?

Wednesday, April 1st, 2015 - by Robert Wargas

If, on any day of the week, you type “stolen valor” into a search engine, the Internet will reward you handsomely with the newest tranche of American losers pretending to be military veterans. When I first became interested in this topic, sometime last year, I was utterly amazed at how common this fakery is. It seems to happen all the time, all over, every day.

One of the latest stolen valor cases comes out of Florida and involves a panhandler—trying to get money from people is a common theme among loser-fakes—trying to pass himself off as a soldier. In most stolen valor videos, the phony is confronted and outed by a real veteran, who can always spot fakes by, among other things, how incorrectly they wear their uniforms. Here we go:

Consider what kind of person would pretend to be a military veteran. The loser-fakes know that military service affords real veterans a certain amount of respect and social status. The loser-fakes wish to replicate that status in their own, necessarily empty lives, so they pretend to be veterans. Now, the average functioning human being would not be able to do this, since the guilt of knowing you’re a fake would negate any pleasure derived from being thanked for your service. The loser-fakes are rather untroubled by this.

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Woman Trades Baby Wishes for Open Marriage

Wednesday, April 1st, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

Robin Rinaldi wanted children more than anything. Instead of pursuing the journey of motherhood, she wound up experiencing what is being dubbed “feminist enlightenment” through sexual exploration, chronicled in her new book The Wild Oats Project:

When she was in her mid-30s and engaged to be married to a man several years older, Rinaldi, the author of a new book called “The Wild Oats Project,” entered premarital counseling with a quack named George. Rinaldi wanted kids, and her future husband did not.

…In fact, he had a vasectomy. And so Rinaldi decided that if she couldn’t have children, at least she should get to have a lot of sex with a lot of different men and women — and men and women together.

Yes, the logic escapes me, too — and I read the whole book. It seems to have something to do with the fact that both having children and having promiscuous sex are expressions of her “femininity.” Regardless, her husband apparently felt so guilty (or spineless) that he agreed to “open” their marriage for a year.

…Trying to suppress maternal desires in an effort to seem enlightened has the potential for disaster — as Rinaldi quickly learned.

Rinaldi’s conclusion: “I learned I didn’t need a man or a child in order to experience true womanhood.” Apparently she needed several men … and other women, for that matter. Which leads to the question, why did she “seethe” when she learned of friends’ pregnancies and dedicate her book to Ruby, the daughter she never had?

Is feminism still a movement focused on women’s equality, or has it become a narcissistic cult proffering temporal ego-satisfying sex in exchange for the eternal fulfillment of motherhood?

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Are We Enslaved by Politics This Passover?

Sunday, March 29th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

Recently I engaged in an interesting Twitter conversation on the ability to confirm a religion’s biblical veracity. My editor, David Swindle, had been approached by Mormons a few days prior and was seeking out further explanation to understand how the Book of Mormon confirmed or contradicted the Word of God. The gentleman he engaged could not answer his question, so I stepped in with Deuteronomy 18:17-22: The Spirit of God does not contradict the Word of God. That is the test of any faith, religion, or spiritual leader claiming to represent the God of the Bible. God is One, He cannot contradict Himself. If a person claims to speak for God, their words better match His, plain and simple.

This concept has been tailored over time in Judaism due to the horrors of diasporas, invasions, and Temple destructions. The scholarly culture that began codifying the oral law that would become the Talmud eventually proclaimed themselves the inheritors of the gift of prophetic interpretation. In a bureaucratic coup, these ancestors of today’s rabbis took command of the prophetic role from God’s hands. Hence, today’s Judaism is informed by the concepts that the biblical manifestation of the prophet died with the second Temple, and the Talmud (Rabbinic oral law) is the equivalent of the Torah, leaving religious authority within the realm of the rabbis.

Yet, Torah teaches us that all human beings fail and that spiritual leaders schooled in this truth are held to a higher standard of behavior, because of their willful acknowledgement of and commitment to this truth. Knowing this, we are to be even more vigilant when it comes to scrutinizing our teachers and their teachings. That doesn’t mean, however, that we are free to judge each other in the process. Being human, we are far too susceptible to getting caught up in the cult of leader-worship, leaving us vulnerable to criticism when our leader fails.

Take, for example, the Forward’s Jay Michaelson questioning why adherents of disgraced Rabbi Barry Freundel didn’t come forward with their suspicions sooner:

How can some of our community’s leading (if self-appointed) cultural sages lionize and valorize someone who, in fact, they didn’t really know that well? …I also wonder what criteria we use to evaluate our spiritual leaders when a serial sex offender can sneak past them. …There are questions that should have been asked, suspicions that should have been raised. But the self-reinforcing loops of elite power — X likes him, X is powerful, therefore I should like him — blinded those entrusted to keep watch.

One of Freundel’s converts, Bethany Mandel, treats Michaelson’s observation as a criticism of her own ability to judge Freundel’s character, while illustrating that as a convert she was the one being judged in turn:

To be clear, Freundel had a great deal of power over us, but while he could sometimes be controlling and manipulative, he could also be our greatest defender. I will never forget the evening when my then-boyfriend and I agreed to host another couple for a meal…. Upon learning of my status as a convert-in-process, the couple refused to eat my food without hearing directly from the rabbi that it was safe according to the laws of kashrut. My then-boyfriend, a friend and the husband literally ran from Dupont Circle to Georgetown to knock on Freundel’s door to ask about the status of my food.

This dangerous cycle of judgment and blame makes us all victims of one another instead of family, friends, or event compatriots. We become so caught up in the opinions of others, whether they be rabbis or fellow Jews, that we lose sight of who God is and our true purpose in being a part of the Jewish world.

In the wake of Israel’s elections we are being baited once again by this cycle of judgment and blame. Rabbis now feel compelled to preach politics from the bench to congregants pressured to question their allegiance to the concluding line of the Passover Seder: “Next year in Jerusalem!” Instead of finding unity in our eternal freedom as Jews, we’re squabbling over political leaders who will come and go. Instead of taking joy in one another, we’re seeking authoritative approval of our political opinions. Instead of rejoicing in our freedom, we are being bound by the threat of destruction. And when we succumb to the fear we transition from freedom to slavery. This victimhood propels our judgment of and separation from one another.

The rabbinic claim to prophecy should motivate us as a community to engage with the Word of God firsthand, not with the goal of disproving one another, but with the aim of being the people God has chosen us to be. When it comes to religious leadership, it is our prerogative to “trust, but verify.” We cannot be blamed for the failings of others. But we are answerable to God for our own actions, and judging one another is not in His playbook.

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VIDEO: Would You Enroll in Preschool for Adults?

Tuesday, March 24th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

The Wall Street Journal is covering the latest trend in rejuveniling among the Millennial set: preschool for adults, where “play is serious business.” Six adults pay anywhere from $300 to $1000 to crowd into a Brooklyn duplex on Tuesday nights from 7 – 10 p.m. and participate in everything from nap time to envisioning themselves as superheroes.

Student Amanda Devereux detailed her reasons for enrolling in the Pre-K at Cosmo:

The self-help and goal-setting aspects were new, but welcome. I can use all the help I can get in making it to the gym, even if it means creating a superhero to get me there. I’m looking forward to seeing whether the preschool experience changes me over the next month, and I’m excited to see where Miss Joni and Miss CanCan take us on our class field trip. Mostly though, I’m excited about the snacks.

Is this latest trend in seeking eternal youth another glorified self-help program, or a sign that our traditional cultural institutions aren’t filled with hope and change? Is there a solution to be found in regressive creativity, or is this just another attempt at blissful ignorance? If you enrolled in preschool today, what would you learn?

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VIDEO: Feminism Needs This Disney Princess Power

Monday, March 23rd, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

Lily James and Kenneth Branagh provided truly thoughtful, eloquent answers to the question of how Disney’s newest Cinderella embodies the reinvention of the princess in a 21st century feminist light.

Contrary to popular culture’s interpretation of sex as power through the crowning of figures like Queen Bey, the star and director of Cinderella each proffer the concept of a feminism that draws its power from a woman’s spirit rather than her body. It is Cinderella’s graceful attitude and her desire to treat others with goodness that is the source of both her beauty and ultimately her power as a woman.

The real question is, in a world full of Dunhams and Kardashians, is feminism ready to go spiritual to find the purpose it so desperately needs?

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Why Israel Is Ground Zero In the War Between Good and Evil

Sunday, March 22nd, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

We Jews squabble enough when it comes to religion, but when it comes to Israel the gloves are off. Nothing is a greater testament to this than the vehement rhetoric coming from the Jewish Left in the wake of Netanyahu and the Right’s landslide victory in this past week’s elections in Israel. Whether it was Peter Beinart calling on the Obama Administration to “punish – yes, punish – the Israeli government” the virulent musings of Max Blumenthal, the anti-Israel Jewish Left came out in full condemnation, not just of Netanyahu, but of Israel at large.

The Forward jumped on the “Bibi is racist” bandwagon, reprinting Jeffrey Goldberg’s Tweet-condemnation of the slanderous tale embraced by Obama and his minions. If you are Jewish and have friends on the Left, I guarantee it didn’t take you longer than 10 minutes after Bibi claimed victory to get at least one Facebook post or Tweet claiming “he stole the election like Bush.” My PJ colleague Ron Radosh wisely diagnosed both the Obama Administration and the mainstream media as having Bibi Derangement Syndrome (BDS). And unfortunately, we Jews are not immune.

This BDS, with all its sound and fury, has not brought the diaspora one ounce closer to understanding or relating to their Israeli counterparts. In fact, with the Obama Administration trumpeting the effort to turn Israel into another Ferguson, the dual loyalty accusations will be held over Jewish American heads, both Left and Right, now more than ever. But we Jews don’t see that. All we see is Obama versus Bibi, Left versus Right, “hope and change” versus “despair” and whatever other hot air blown into an otherwise lifeless, meaningless campaign. From the comforts of a “two legs good, four legs better” America we don’t have to force ourselves to look behind V15′s green curtain, let alone consider that Israeli Jews may have very good reasons for having opinions that differ from our own.

When I had the wonderful opportunity to march in New York City’s Israel Day Parade a few years back, I did so under the banner of an openly progressive Labor Zionist summer camp. My husband, a third generation member, had worked his way up from camper, to counselor, to business manager. Now as an alum he was excited to show me, his then-girlfriend, what he loved about his summers and give me the chance to revel in my Zionist pride. He’d worked the camp too long not to see past the politics, but had too many fond memories to be jaded by a lack of logic. In the end we were there to celebrate Israel, celebrate our freedom, and have fun with friends.

Or so I thought, until more than one angry parade-goer spat at me. “You are evil! You anti-Zionist pig! You’re killing us! You Leftists are killing Israel!” How were a group of teens and twenty-somethings, most of whom had been to Israel, many of whom were either pursuing or had obtained citizenship, and some of whom had or were serving in the IDF possibly killing Israel? These kids weren’t doing anything more than holding a contrary political opinion, yet that was enough to accuse them of being murderers. “Wait a minute,” I thought, “isn’t that what the Left is always accusing us of doing?”

I smiled at the crowd and wished them love through their gritted teeth and rage. Only two days earlier I’d been called a “conservative pig” by another camp alum who would later growl at me repeatedly, “You need to change your politics.” I came wanting to celebrate Israel. I wound up embroiled in a hot, angry mess.

Israel awakens our passions as Jews because Israel is a reminder of our responsibilities to God and to one another. If Israel fails, Holocaust awaits. No one but a Jew could understand the weight of that burden. Yet, instead of recognizing that we, Left and Right, are motivated by these same concerns and fears we allow the real haters of Israel to craft our opinions about one another. Suddenly everyone is an Obama, a Beinart, a Blumenthal. Anger morphs into rage and crafts summer camp teens into the next generation of hardened, bigoted, miserable adults, some of whom will then be motivated to become the next Beinart or Blumenthal in our midst.

King David writes in the Psalms, “be angry, but do not sin. Meditate in your heart upon your bed and be still.”

We’ve never lost Israel to an outside force before first disparaging each other to the point of destruction. I walked away from that parade choosing to shed my ideas of Left and Right and see the political battle for what it truly is: A fight between good and evil. My job, then, is to focus on what God commands me to do: act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with Him without fear. I’m here to help sustain a great nation, not destroy it. It is time my fellow Zionists, Left and Right, see past the propaganda and agree to do the same.

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The Real Problem with American Coffee Isn’t the Beans, but the Culture

Sunday, March 22nd, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

I’m far more of a wine connoisseur than a coffee drinker. Years ago I cut back to half decaf in order to cut back on migraines and stomach trouble. The hi-test sludge my editor prefers could never cross my lips for fear of bodily damage. The one thing I associate with brutal American coffee is brutal American stress: the need to meet a deadline, please a boss, do more, say more, be more with vim and vigor. Just as any alcoholic uses cheap trash, downing brutally burnt beans has become a lousy, albeit necessary way to get a much-needed fix. And that’s where we get coffee wrong in America.

Tel Aviv is littered with cafes and kiosks serving Euro-style coffee. I never got the hang of what to order to balance out my pathetically minimum caffeine requirement, but at Cafe Nachmani I not only learned how to order the right tasting brew, I learned how to enjoy it. I’ve never seen a windowsill in Starbucks lined with art magazines. Not Cosmo or People, literal professional art magazines you’d see in big city galleries and be afraid to touch. The Barnes & Noble cafes are filled with geeks on their laptops, chugging down brew in order to use the free WiFi. At Cafe Nachmani, patrons sipped on cappuccinos and the Israeli favorite, espresso, while lingering over literary mags heavier than half the books lining our chain’s clearance aisle.

Tel Avivans work like mad in a city that never sleeps. They’ve just learned how to enjoy a frenetic pace better than we ever could. It’s amazing how much more you enjoy life when you view it as a pleasure to be lived instead of an obligation to be fueled through.To better answer the question of what you’re drinking, you need to start with why you’re drinking it.

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VIDEO: On This International Day of Happiness, Just Shut Up & Dance

Friday, March 20th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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VIDEO: Would You Get ‘Married at First Sight’?

Thursday, March 19th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

A&E’s “docuseries” Married at First Sight had its second season premiere last night. The theory: arranged marriage cultures have a radically lower divorce rate than non-arranged marriage cultures. Therefore, a group of four experts (a psychologist, a sexologist, a sociologist and a spiritual advisor) conduct thorough testing to match up couples who will literally meet each other at the altar.

With a 66% success rate in its first season, the matchmaking panel appears to have a lower divorce rate than America at large. In the era of Tinder-generated fruitless casual sex, is trusting your romantic future to a pre-arranged scenario a logical alternative to a series of dead-end one night stands?

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VIDEO: How Feminism Becomes a Religion on College Campuses

Tuesday, March 17th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

Melissa McGrath, an undergraduate student at Ohio State University, was invited to participate in her college’s TEDx Talk, because, although not in possession of a doctorate, McGrath has  “a valid story to tell, and (she thinks) that will shine through.” Her thesis: Feminism proffers salvation.

Her “valid story” plays like a tent-revival testimonial about how feminist theory, reinforced by college professors, informed her that it was not her fault that she was sexually assaulted on campus. Avoiding the details of her assault, McGrath instead focuses on feminist liturgy as a method for teaching “intersectionality” that is, how the human race is tied together in a Marxist state of oppressor and oppressed.

Pulling all the approved contemporary feminist buzzwords from “white privilege” to “rape culture” McGrath weaves the kind of soap box narrative trademarked by the best faith-based snake oil salesmen (and women) of the 20th century. Her’s is a speech proving that feminism isn’t just ideology, but idolatry; a religion whose places of worship are in university classrooms, whose holy texts are available at your nearest bookstore, and whose icons live on “Pinterest boards” and social media outlets.

Cover image “Female Jesus” by Juno.

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Why I Am Jewish

Sunday, March 15th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

The essay is the second in a series of inter-faith dialogues, see the first from Jon Bishop on March 8, “Why I Am Catholic.”

Despite the multiple accusations I have received from my own brothers and sisters any time I’ve dared to make a critical observation about our people, I very proudly declare myself to be a Jew. This is not because I feel an obligation to my ancestors, my community, or my tradition although I respect them and their roles in the formation of my identity.

Rather, I choose to be a Jew just as Abraham did, because I choose to be free.

I missed out on the social conformity gene. Never have I managed to fit into any particular social group. At times I was hated for it, but contrary to popular opinion of what being a Jew means, it was thanks to being Jewish that I learned to love being a stand-out in the crowd. At 15 I told my teachers I was legally changing my name to Shoshana, and because of that brash declaration I became one of the coolest kids in school. Why Shoshana? Because that’s what Susans in Israel are called and Israel is the culmination and fulfillment of being a Jew. We don’t just get our own houses of worship, we get an entire nation to call our own. Land is freedom.

And when you are so different and so unique, that spatial freedom is essential to your survival. Whether prophets, cowboys, American patriots, or Zionists, the experiences that speak to me echo the Word of God:

Trust the Lord with all your heart, do not rely on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will level your path.

It felt good to stand apart from the crowd precisely because human thinking never made very much sense to me. God makes sense. And what I still do not understand remains the most intriguing mystery in all the universe to comprehend. “I want to know God’s thoughts,” Einstein said, “the rest are just details.” Ben Carson told me to “think big.” You can’t get any bigger than God. “I have broken the bars of your yoke so that you can walk upright,” God reveals to the wandering Jews. God is freedom.

God’s freedom is eternal.

Torah is a guidebook, a covenant that when undertaken agrees that we “choose life so that we may live.” Ezekiel’s dry bones rose from their graves and breathed new life in 1948. While the rest of the world amuses itself with the walking dead, we trust in the words of Isaiah:

Your dead will live, my corpses will rise: awake and sing, you who dwell in the dust; for your dew like the morning dew, and the earth will bring the ghosts to life.

I do not need to wage war or rage in desperation, wear black spikes or combat gear, raise my fist in defiance, align myself with a cause, or fence myself into the opinions of others in order to be free. I simply need to live as God intended in covenant with Him. God spoke creation into being and the word of the Lord breathed life into the dead. Tanakh is freedom.

“How did you find it in you to survive?” I asked my cantor who lived through the Warsaw Ghetto and the Auschwitz death march.

He replied, “I saw the skull and crossbones on the Nazi soldier’s belt along with the words ‘soldier of God’. They were lying. ‘This is not God,’ I thought. And that gave me the will to survive.”

I am a Jew, and I choose to be a Jew, because despite what the world may lead you to believe, being a Jew means dwelling in eternal freedom.

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