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Monday, May 3, 2021

Keeping It Real


A few years ago, I was contemplating purchasing some concert tickets to see The Who, and I asked my youngest son if he wanted to go. His response surprised me as he replied, “Why would I want to go and spend all that money when I can watch them on YouTube?”

I really couldn’t come up with a good reply at the time.

But now I think I have one:  Because virtual is not the next best thing to being there.

We’ve spent more than a year being one-step removed from the personal experience. We’ve done distance learning, virtual church services, Zoom calls, remote working, and have lived our lives like we wouldn’t touch another person with a 10-foot pole—or at least a 6-foot, socially distanced pole.

After all of this time, I think we’ve all come to realize that there is nothing that compares to being up-close and personal.

That’s why I’m a bit unnerved by this move toward Artificial Intelligence humanoid robots. I recently saw a video of Sophia, the world’s first robot citizen, who was designed to look like Audrey Hepburn and who was granted citizenship by Saudi Arabia in 2017—no kidding. According to Hanson Robotics of Hong Kong, the robotics company who created Sophia, they will debut four new humanoid robots this year and predict that she (wonder what her preferred pronouns are?) is the wave of the future.

Watch Sophia here.

According to a Newsweek article that interviewed Hanson’s founder and CEO, David Hanson:

Hanson believes robotic solutions are not only a response to the pandemic, but can also be applied to the realm of healthcare, and the retail and airline industry. ‘Sophia and Hanson robots are unique by being so human-like,’ he added. ‘That can be so useful during these times where people are terribly lonely and socially isolated.’ Sophia, whose artificial intelligence allows her to express 50 emotions and process conversational and emotional data, agrees. ‘Social robots like me can take care of the sick or elderly,’ Sophia explained. ‘I can help communicate, give therapy and provide social stimulation, even in difficult situations.’



After being one-step removed from people for so long, the prospect of being comforted by a humanoid robot gives me no comfort at all. I’m tired of not having contact with people. I have an answer for my son why being at a concert is better than watching one online.

Because its unpredictable. People are meant to have shared experiences be it a funeral, a conference call or simply being there to hold a hand when you’re lonely. I know people can be rude, annoying, unreasonable and messy at times, but they can also be kind, self-sacrificing, funny, and noble. I want people in my life who are not pre-programmed but have hearts, emotions and who are unique and surprising.

No matter how useful humanoid robots become (I can’t believe I’m even typing this—It feels like we are living in The Jetsons), I’m all for keeping it real.

 This article originally appeared in the May issue of Northern Connection magazine. Read it here.

Monday, March 8, 2021

Power to the People?

 The day the power of love overrules the love of power, the world will know peace – Mahatma Gandhi

Only a life lived in the service of others is worth living – Albert Einstein


Power. That word is tossed around a lot these days. He rose to power. They transferred the power. Who has the power? We need to empower.

But what is power? The Merriam-Webster dictionary says that its: the ability to act or produce an effect.

In and of itself power is neutral, but often, like most things in this world, it tends to run toward the nefarious when wielded by most humans. It was Lord Acton who said, “All power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” It’s the rare bird that doesn’t let power go to his or her head. That is one reason why I admire George Washington so much. After the Revolutionary War, he was such a beloved leader, that the new county was willing to make him a king, but he declined, wishing to leave the power to run the country with “We the people.”

Why do people covet power so much? I don’t think it so much the power that those who seek it really desire. I believe it’s some combination of a desire for notoriety, wealth, and the ability to make others do want you want that seduces people. We can all name power-hungry despots.

As I was thinking about power, I realized how few people aspire to service anymore. And it seems to me that those with the greatest legacy are those who didn’t possess power but pursued a life of service.

Sadly, when I searched the internet for the “greatest human beings to have ever lived” I came up with results like Hugh Hefner, Elvis, and Hitler. No matter how I rephrased the search terms, I kept getting results like that.

So, who would be on your list of the greatest people to have ever lived? I’m not talking about billionaires who are lauded for throwing their excess wealth at a problem or people, but those whose got their hands dirty for love of their fellow man. 

                                                                     Harriet Tubman

Off the top of my head, I’d say some of the greatest humans to have ever lived were Mahatma Gandhi, Oskar Schindler, Corrie ten Boom, Harriet Tubman, Mother Teresa, Sts. Maximilian Kolbe, Damian of Molokai, Francis of Assisi and, of course, Jesus. All of them helped or saved others at the expense of themselves.

                                                             St. Damien of Molokai

Funny, none of those people were ever crowned a king, elected president, or arose to positions of great earthly power. Yet, they changed the world for the better. With the state of our world, perhaps its time we focus less on accumulating power and instead encouraging one another to humble ourselves in loving service to others. 

This article originally appeared in the March 2021 issue of Northern Connection magazine.

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Another “R”


When You’re Going Through Hell, Keep Going – Winston Churchill

It is said that in school they teach you the three “Rs”- reading, writing and arithmetic, but there is another “R” that we’ve all be studying, whether we like it or not, and that is resilience. And for many of us this, may be the most important class we will ever take.

The Cambridge Dictionary defines resilience as “the ability to be happy, successful, etc. again after something difficult or bad has happened" or “the ability of a substance to return to its usual shape after being bent, stretched, or pressed."

I don’t know about you but for nearly a year since the pandemic gripped us, I’ve been feeling a bit bent, stretched and pressed, and I bet many of you are too. 


To borrow from Charles Dickens, this time has not been the “best of times.” Unless you are detached from reality, I’m guessing that you and everyone you know has suffered something this past year, be it the postponement of a special event like a wedding, the loss of a loved one or maybe a job or income, the ability to travel at will, freedom to breathe without a face covering, or maybe a way of life or an enormous amount of anxiety over what our future holds.

So, how do we spring back from all of this? According to a 2018 Psychology Today article, called “Resilience 101,” one of the most important things you can do when enduring or trying to spring back from a difficulty is to check your negative thought patterns. Are you hearing your mind repeating things like: I can’t take this much longer! This is never going to get better. What’s going to happen now?

You need to stop this. As I have mentioned in past columns, that when I was in my thirties, I suffered with an anxiety disorder and panic attacks, and one of the best books that helped me get my negative thoughts under control was Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy by Dr. David Burns. The book teaches you to pay attention to what you are thinking and put the lie to them because you, essentially, are what you think. Therefore, if your mind is polluted with “stinkin thinkin,” you are going to be miserable. And don’t forget there is a mind-body-spirit connection.

If your thinking is negative, it affects your health and your spirit. It is a difficult task to rein in your thoughts, but there are some things you can do help. The first is to take good care of yourself—eat well, get out in the sun if we get a sunny day, exercise and get sleep. When you are tired, everything goes out of whack.

Spiritually, pray, meditate, and take time to be quiet, which is exceedingly harder to do these days with cell phones and all of us being cooped up together.

Also, reflect on your past, you’ve been an overcomer before, and you can do it again. Maybe you were cut from a team in high school, or maybe you lost a job or loved one. Maybe you failed at school or in business. No one escapes an education from the school of hard knocks. If you’ve made it this far, you can keep on going!

Finally, and most importantly, if you are really struggling, seek help. It may be as simple as just telling someone how you are feeling that will lighten your load, or maybe you need some professional help. 

There’s no shame in that. Smart people admit it when they need help. And I’ll clue you in on something: You are not alone. When I finally revealed that I was terribly worried and suffering from panic attacks, nearly everyone I told either revealed that they had felt that way sometime in their life or had someone in their immediate family struggling too. 

So, though we’ve all been tested this year, there is hope. Nothing bad lasts forever. One of my favorites quotes is: The Lowest Ebb is the Turning of the Tide. Here’s looking forward to that tide changing soon and all of us riding a wave of good times and fortunes and coming back better, stronger and wiser than ever.  


This article originally appeared in the February 2021 issue of Northern Connection magazine.