My dear father, Fred Blumenthal (ZT”L), like many from his generation, used to read Reader’s Digest. I remember that there was a section called “Points to Ponder,” which I thought was a good title for things that can have a deeper and more profound meaning in our lives. So in this vein, I’d like to share a variety of thoughts that may give you pause to ponder as well.
Humor is medicine.
1. “America is the best country in the U.S.”
This is sarcastically stated by comedian Judah Friedlander, who makes fun of a lot of stupid things people do in this country, including thinking America is in the USA (and not the other way around)!
2. “Who is Rabbi Tellus?”
In a synagogue that I grew up with as a little child, the Rabbi in his weekly sermons always used to quote from the Rabbis and say, “The Rabbis tell us…,” but my Oma (grandmother), who was hard of hearing, used to misunderstand what he was saying and would ask afterwards, “Who is Rabbi Tellus?” Of course, this made everyone laugh and helped us remember that laughter is an elixir of life almost as important as the sermon itself.
Suffering is a distraction.
3. “A world without G-d is savagery.”
I don’t remember where I heard or read this, but I really like it. Think about what life in this world would be like without G-d; that’s right, it would be complete chaos, corruption, and savagery (not just the elements of it we have now!). Having faith and knowing that G-d is with us and watching us makes it easier to do the right thing in life and avoid the mass devolution into a dog-eat-dog world.
4. “Violence is the short road, and illness is the long road.”
I recently heard this in a wild west action movie where one of the main characters considers the difference between violence and sickness as a way to the end of human life: violence can be more brutal but kills faster, whereas illness eats away at a person over time. Regardless of how and when you die, what’s most important is how you lived.
5. “You’re not choosing the pain, but you’re choosing the suffering.”
This is from psychologist Lori Gottlieb, who explains that we all feel pain from hurtful things in our lives, but it is we who choose whether to simply suffer with it or learn from it and do something constructive to improve our lives.
Striving is what we’re here for.
6. “In choosing one thing, we must reject another.”
We can’t have it all. All of life is about making choices. Whenever you choose one thing, you are rejecting others. Almost by definition, you can’t ever be fully happy with your choices because you had to give up other things for them. Moreover, you’ll never really know if you made the “right” choice.
7. “Normal is just a setting on a washing machine.”
I read this in Catherine Gildiner’s book, Good Morning Monster. The question this invokes is whether there are really any “normal” people out there in this world or whether we are all just varying degrees of tarnished human beings trying to not only survive but also make things better.
8. “Failure is a process.”
I heard this on the television show Alone, where contestants try to outsurvive their competition. The point is that failing (no matter how badly or how many times) doesn’t make you a failure; it’s just part of the process of learning to succeed!
There is always cause for hope.
9. “A foolish man lives for himself; a wise man lives for a purpose.”
This is a quote attributed to Italian Renaissance banker and politician Cosimo de’ Medici. Despite being enormously wealthy and a huge patron of the arts and culture, he realized that living with purpose is really what provides meaning, resilience, and hope.
10. “Wherever shadows fall, light is always nearby.”
This is from a Thai martial arts movie. It reminds me of the Jewish belief of how just one small light can dispel a lot of darkness in the world. This is another culturally hopeful way to put it: whenever we are overcome by dark shadows, we can rest assured that light and life are not far away.