Spirituality/Inspiration/Service: Extended Notes


 On the promotion of human flourishing

Tyler J. VanderWeelea
Edited by Kenneth W. Wachter, University of California, Berkeley, CA, and approved June 16, 2017 (received for review February 21, 2017)

Abstract: Many empirical studies throughout the social and biomedical sciences focus only on very narrow outcomes such as income, or a single specific disease state, or a measure of positive affect. Human well-being or flourishing, however, consists in a much broader range of states and outcomes, certainly including mental and physical health, but also encompassing happiness and life satisfaction, meaning and purpose, character and virtue, and close social relationships. The empirical literature from longitudinal, experimental, and quasiexperimental studies is reviewed in attempt to identify major determinants of human flourishing, broadly conceived. Measures of human flourishing are proposed. Discussion is given to the implications of a broader conception of human flourishing, and of the research reviewed, for policy, and for future research in the biomedical and social sciences.

… On the Promotion of Human Flourishing

If it is the case that the family, work, education, and religious community are important determinants of various aspects of human flourishing, as indeed they seem to be, then this has profound implications for societal organization and resource allocation. If we desire societal good, broadly construed as human flourishing, and crudely represented by the measures described above, then the structures, policies, laws, and incentives, financial or otherwise, that contribute to family, work, education, and religious community will likely be important ways in which society itself can better flourish. … The focus of this essay has been on individual pathways to personal flourishing, that is, on decisions or actions an individual might take to flourish. However, a well-functioning government and society, with sufficient material resources, is of course also crucial in sustaining the pathways described above that promote individual flourishing. An efficient and effective government, a well-functioning financial system, the absence of corruption, and civic stability are all important in supporting families, work, education, and religious communities in the promotion of individual flourishing; and the study of how more macro- and state-level factors influence individual flourishing is needed as well. However, the relevant effects here are arguably in both directions. The state of government and the policies it undertakes will influence individual flourishing. However, individual health, relationships, life satisfaction, purpose, and, perhaps especially, virtue will likely also contribute to the strengthening of the institutions that allow a society to thrive. A deeper consideration of, focus on, and understanding of outcomes such as purpose, and virtue, moving beyond measures of only income or health, may contribute not only to a broader and more profound individual flourishing, but also to a better functioning society as well.


Onward and Upward  Frances Anne Kemble (born in 1809) wrote these lines:  “A sacred burden is this life ye bear: Look on it, lift it, bear it solemnly, Stand up and walk beneath it steadfastly. Fail not for sorrow, falter not for sin, But onward, upward, till the goal ye win.”
Abraham Lincoln (also born in 1809) … one site claims that he said “onward and upward,” in a speech in 1859…
James Lowell (born in 1819) wrote:”They must upward still, and onward, who would keep abreast of Truth.”
… they all could have been influenced by a common saying of the time…____
Mary Church Terrell (born 1863) is often referred to. She said this: “And so, lifting as we climb, onward and upward we go, struggling and striving, and hoping that the buds and blossoms of our desires will burst into glorious fruition ere long. With courage, born of success achieved in the past, with a keen sense of the responsibility which we shall continue to assume, we look forward to a future large with promise and hope. Seeking no favors because of our color, nor patronage because of our needs, we knock at the bar of justice, asking an equal chance.”
C.S. Lewis (born 1898) is sometimes cited as well for a quotation: “Onward and Upward! To Narnia and the North!”


excelsior: interj, adv, n1. excellent: used as a motto and as a trademark for various products, esp in the US for fine wood shavings used for packing breakable objects2. upwards[C19: from Latin: higher]Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged, 12th Edition 2014 © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2014



The Chambered Nautilus  by OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES, SR.

Being a Hero — Everyone Can Be a Hero

We often focus so much on what kids do not do well that we do not give them any chance to excel, to shine and to be heroes. This is the story of how a class of special education “troublemakers” proved that everyone can be a hero. Last month, I traveled to North QLD to work with over 1,000 students on a special project I run here in Australia, called Together for Humanity, with my colleague, Imam Ahmad Abu Ghazaleh. … It was the middle of the day and we were getting ready to run our “Community Building”, in which “Making a Difference” is a key message…. We gave each group an assignment that at first seemed impossible to solve, aimed at getting the kids to think outside the box. For about 10 minutes, the kids were not allowed to communicate with one another, only with us. They raised their hands and said, “But Ronit, it’s impossible to do this” or “Ahmad, how can you expect us to do something like that?” At one stage, when the frustration level was too high, Ahmad said, “I will give you a clue. It is solvable! There is a solution, just think!” Suddenly, two students from two different groups found the solution. Shortly after, all the groups implemented the solution in total silence, while their teachers were shocked to see their participation and cooperation. The first two students were the agents of change and we used them to start the discussion on making a difference by sharing, by helping, by contributing and by taking risks. We told the kids about our personal lives, our fears and our challenges and that heroes are not the strong kids with the muscles but those who are creative, take risks, stand up for justice and dare to be kind in spite of fear, in spite of risk, in spite of challenges. There is a hero in each of us and heroes can make a difference regardless of their age, culture, academic success, body features, religion, wealth or social status. Being a hero is a mindset that everyone can adopt…. The game led to a discussion about people around cultures, languages, religions and about judging people based on their clothes, appearance, accent or customs. We talked about what make us Australian. The kids were surprised to discover that both Ahmad and myself were Australian, although we were not born in Australia, we have foreign accents, we look different, we have unusual names and we were wearing strange clothes. … Ahmad and I looked at them with pride. They were awesome. One of the heroes of the class, the kid who had found the solution first, came to give us his feedback and said, “Thank you very much!” We smiled back and said, “Thank you very much for showing the whole class there is a hero in each of us and how heroes make a difference”….“Don’t judge people by their look. Sharing is caring”“I got to learan’t to be respectful for what I god and what other’s don’t”“I learned about different coultor and be kind and other people will be nice back”“Give what your getting”“don’t judge people who they are friendly”“Information about religions and what you can do in life. How many kids die”“that you don’t have to be older than 20 to change the world. Sharing is caring”“to be kind to my brothers and sisters”…

As the country celebrates National Heroes Day today, Cebu Gov. Hilario Davide III is encouraging everyone to be a hero since everyone can be a hero. “For me, everyone of us here, in our little way, we are heroes. What’s a hero to you? Somebody selfless, somebody who has made sacrifices for others, not necessarily dying for others. You don’t have to die to be a hero,” Davide told reporters when asked for a message to mark National Heroes Day. He said farmers, journalists, public officials, government employees, and anyone in the community could be rightfully called a hero, if they would be selfless and would sacrifice themselves for others. The National Heroes Day, which is a non-working holiday in the country, is commemorated today to remember Filipino heroes who started the Philippine Revolution more than a century ago and those who sacrificed themselves for the republic. But while traditional heroes include those who have died in wars in order to liberate our country, there are also modern day heroes, who live among us, Davide said. “Really, heroes sacrifice and contribute to the community, regardless of the size of the community and his or her contributions for the development of the community,” he said. “It’s how you carry your life; how you live your life,” he added…. Last August 12, the province celebrated Farmers Day. Davide said that during the activity, they declared farmers the “heroes of the land” as they were the ones who toiled the land to produce food for the people.

Everyone Can Be a Hero

Submitted By: samus127 Date Submitted: 02/03/2009 7:07 PM   These days there are many heroes that help us and tell us the right path in our lives. But sometimes we forget about them before we thank them for what they have done. We can meet and find heroes everywhere. Some heroes do not appear as heroes but as ordinary people. That is why everyone can be a hero. Some of the heroes today are people that help you if you drop your books in school. They are heroes because they take the time to help us when they could be doing something else. Another example of a hero would be a soldier who fights for his country to defend it and save it from destruction. He/She dedicates their lives to fight for their country and the people that make it up. But theses heroes are forgotten very quickly. The person that handed you your books in school will be forgotten and you will never remember him or her in the future. The soldier that came from war will also be rewarded with a medal and respected but will soon be forgotten and the world will move on. Today firefighters are considered to be heroes because they save people from deadly fires and from sudden death. After the 9/11 attacks firefighters have helped to recover many people from the rubble. They were rewarded for their honor and respected for the time being. But now almost everyone has forgotten about them. They are now part of the past and not many people feel about them the same way they use to. Heroes help us in our everyday lives. Our parents are also our heroes. They help us with our homework, make food for us and do many other things that will have a positive effect on our future lives.

There’s a Hero Inside of Everyone, and We’re Not Saying That to Make You Feel Good Science journalist Elizabeth Svoboda’s new book examines the roots and reasons of heroism, from evolution and biology to meditation and volunteering By Matt Kettmannsmithsonian.com September 30, 2013
For millennia, humankind has been captivated by heroic deeds, and the brave souls who carry out such life-saving tasks dominate both the epic poems of yesteryear and the newspaper headlines of today. But what if we all possess the capacity to rise to the occasion when disaster strikes, to save a fellow soul from dying, to work selflessly on behalf of the poor and downtrodden? We do, believes Bay Area-based science journalist Elizabeth Svoboda, who lays out all of the recent research on humanity’s innate heroism in her new book What Makes a Hero? The Surprising Science of Selflessness. In addition to showing how classic heroes aren’t much different than everyday soup kitchen volunteers or even people who sacrifice a bit of time to console a sick or grieving friend, Svoboda argues that we can actually hone our brains to be better prepared for becoming a real life-saver if such a situation ever arises. After thinking about the topic for so long, what is your definition of a hero now?
The best thing I can come up with is that heroism is doing something where you’re really taking risks to help somebody else, and you’re not expecting to gain from that risk to yourself. It doesn’t have to be as narrow as giving up your life for someone else on the battlefield or saving someone from a burning house—as long as you are putting yourself on the line in some way, in my book, that qualifies as heroism.
And what your book is basically saying is that we can all train to be heroes, right?
That’s a good way to sum it up, or that we all have the potential for heroic actions, and that there are things we can do to prepare ourselves to increase the chances that we will be useful in such a situation and actually get involved.
Like how?
Phil Zimbardo, a psychologist in San Francisco [best known for leading the famous Stanford prison experiment that showed a human tendency toward evil, and is now taught in most courses on psychology and ethics], believes that its important to talk about psychological pitfalls that our brains fall into—like the bystander effect. The more people there are standing around watching an incident, the less likely it is that any one of them will intervene. With this extra knowledge, we can catch ourselves from falling prey to the bystander effect and say, “hey, I don’t care if no one is stepping up, I’m going to do it.”
So, it’s still in a pretty early form, but there is evidence that we can become more compassionate and more aware of the social forces that can hold us back from helping. It’s something that educators and people across the country are interested in on a broad scale.
Did you find that humans are biologically hardwired for heroism?
A lot of the research is focused more on generosity and giving than on doing heroic deeds, per se. Economist Bill Harbaugh at the University of Oregon did a really cool study about what happens in people’s brains when they made the decision to give to charity. He was surprised to find that when people make these decisions, a part of the brain called the nucleus accumbens was very active. That’s an area of the brain associated with processing pleasure and rewards. What he took from this is that when you give of yourself to help someone else, it feels really good. That’s something hopefully in the future we’ll be able to capitalize on—maybe we can train people to like it even more.
Many of these brain studies seem to show over and over again that when you choose to donate to a charity you like, the brain will light up like how you feel if you won a video game or got on a roller coaster or had some other pleasurable experience. If you think about it, it makes sense: When we do something for somebody else, we are imagining how it’s going to benefit that person. It makes us feel purposeful, and I think purpose is a huge source of life satisfaction for people.
There is also research indicating that we are more likely to help when it’s just one starving face, rather than many. So the adopt-a-starving child campaign actually does work?
It really does. Some marketers have sensed this from the beginning, that people respond to faces and people respond to individual stories. But in more recent years, a psychologist named Paul Slovic has been demonstrating experimentally that we are much more likely to give to a single starving child than a large group of starving children, and even less to a group of two children that just one. This is an effect that shows up very early as we go up the number scale. And it gets worse. If we read in a newspaper that 10,000 were killed in a massacre in some country we never heard of, we are probably going to tune that right out. Even if we know intellectually that 10,000 is a lot of people, our brains are not good at processing what 10,000 deaths are going to mean. We don’t feel like we can do anything meaningful, so we tend to step back and see it as an abstraction.
Are those who have suffered themselves in life more likely to act heroically than others?
The researcher who has done a lot of this investigation is Ervin Staub. He did a study where he found people who had gone through specific bouts of suffering, some had suffered violent assaults, others had gone through natural disasters, and so on. Once they had gone through that, if they heard about Asian tsunami victims, for instance, they were more likely to say that they intended to donate to them. He thinks there is something about knowing how tough certain circumstances can be if they happen to have gone through similar circumstances.
There seems to be a sense in society that if you are doing something helpful to feel good about yourself, then it’s somehow not pure. Is it bad to feel good about doing good?
If the good deed gets done and if the person gets a benefit, I don’t see it as problematic or impure if you feel good as a result. The fact that you’re feeling good might even motivate you to do similar things in the future.
So how do we go about teaching people to be heroes?
There are a number of different approaches you can take. When I spent time with the Real Life Superheroes in New York City [a network of crime-fighters called the New York Initiative], I really saw how well they support each other in doing generous things together, bringing clothes to the homeless or walking dogs at the animal shelter. They would do this as a group or in teams. Like if you have a buddy who helps you jog every morning, getting involved with friends in these altruistic ventures can inspire you to follow through.
It also helps to think about what you have in common with other people. There was an interesting study presented at a compassionate science conference last year about an experiment where people were tapping their hands in time with someone else. When a person was assigned to complete a long task, the other person was more likely to help the person who had been tapping in time with them than helping someone who had not. So when we feel we have something in common with someone, even if it’s something that seems like it wouldn’t matter, we have more natural empathy and identification with him or her. That can motivate us to step forward.
Zimbardo advocates for everyday heroism, or taking small opportunities to help people around you. That can be as basic as buying somebody a Big Mac who looks like they need a meal or sticking up for a colleague at work. Things like that are pretty low-key, but they are also what scientists call very pro-social. When you do those kinds of acts, you get really comfortable looking for what other people need. If ever you do have a big heroism opportunity come up, you’ll be better prepared to respond to the pressure of the moment. It’s like everyday hero training.
And that’s the other thing: to be a hero in the classic sense, a situation requiring such a deed must present itself, right?
Certainly, there is an element of chance to it, but one of the things I’m arguing is that we don’t necessarily have to be one of the death-defying, split-second chance heroes. If you devote your life to an altruistic cause and devote a significant amount of yourself to that, that’s heroic too, but in a different way. That’s the type of selflessness that goes underappreciated all the time. I want those people to know they are just as valuable as the person who does the big front-page heroic act.
Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/innovation/theres-a-hero-inside-of-everyone-and-were-not-saying-that-to-make-you-feel-good-299563/#wpQHw2DGKAXVIaJp.99

The Starfish Story: one step towards changing the world

By Peter Straube
You may have heard this one, but I find that it doesn’t hurt to be reminded of it every once in a while.  First let me tell you the story, and then we can talk about it.
Once upon a time, there was an old man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach every morning before he began his work. Early one morning, he was walking along the shore after a big storm had passed and found the vast beach littered with starfish as far as the eye could see, stretching in both directions.
Off in the distance, the old man noticed a small boy approaching.  As the boy walked, he paused every so often and as he grew closer, the man could see that he was occasionally bending down to pick up an object and throw it into the sea.  The boy came closer still and the man called out, “Good morning!  May I ask what it is that you are doing?”
The young boy paused, looked up, and replied “Throwing starfish into the ocean. The tide has washed them up onto the beach and they can’t return to the sea by themselves,” the youth replied. “When the sun gets high, they will die, unless I throw them back into the water.”
The old man replied, “But there must be tens of thousands of starfish on this beach. I’m afraid you won’t really be able to make much of a difference.”
The boy bent down, picked up yet another starfish and threw it as far as he could into the ocean. Then he turned, smiled and said, “It made a difference to that one!”
adapted from The Star Thrower, by Loren Eiseley (1907 – 1977) We all have the opportunity to help create positive change, but if you’re like me, you sometimes find yourself thinking, “I’m already really busy, and how much of a difference can I really make?”  I think this is especially true when we’re talking about addressing massive social problems like tackling world hunger or finding a cure for cancer, but it pops up all of the time in our everyday lives, as well. So when I catch myself thinking that way, it helps to remember this story.  You might not be able to change the entire world, but at least you can change a small part of it, for someone.
They say that one of the most common reasons we procrastinate is because we see the challenge before us as overwhelming, and that a good way to counter that is to break the big challenge down into smaller pieces and then take those one at a time–like one starfish at a time.  And to that one starfish, it can make a world of difference. “A single, ordinary person still can make a difference – and single, ordinary people are doing precisely that every day.”— Chris Bohjalian, Vermont-based author and speaker


Unsung Hero Scholarship Program Cincinnati State Unsung Hero Award and Scholarship ProgramHonoring front-line employees and supervisors who exemplify professional excellence in the Tristate Region. Purpose and goals:“The Unsung Hero Award was created to honor outstanding employees who rarely, if ever, receive the recognition they deserve. There are many events honoring executives and leaders who have contributed a great deal to the economic welfare of our city, and rightfully so. There are few events that recognize the contributions of others in their organization.” “Also, the Unsung Hero Awards create a substantive scholarship fund for unemployed and under-employed workers with financial need to access Cincinnati State’s Workforce Development Center training. The goal is to enhance their skills leading to rewarding careers.”

http://www.learningtogive.org/units/we-can-all-do-our-share/heroes-our-community  Ask students to name some people in the community who are heroes. Can they think of any people who take their turn and help everyone by what they do? Volunteer firefighters, Musicians, Parents that volunteer at school, People that bake for bake sales, Artists, People who help the elderly, People that plan celebrations for everyone to enjoy, i.e., 4th of July, First Responders, People who teach: Sunday school, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, 4-H, Kids who help younger kids learn something new, People who help their neighbors, People who coach: Little League, soccer, football, and baseball

Go Inspire Go Community Heroes is a unique, innovative and inspiring pilot school program to motivate young students about the impact they can make in the world through acts of kindness and community service. Background Like so many parents out there, Kala Shah, mom of three boys under 10, was searching for concrete ways to teach her kids about gratitude, compassion and service. A chance meeting with Go Inspire Go Founder Toan Lam uncovered that they both shared a vision — to harness the generosity of young kids and unleash their great potential to make their mark in the world. Kala invited Toan to present the Go Inspire Go Lesson on Compassion (GIG SPARK) at her kids’ school, and the Community Heroes club was born! Vision Kids want to make a difference, but they just don’t know how. The Community Heroes club provides inspiration and the tools to spark imagination and action. By sowing the seeds of compassion in elementary school, these students will grow into service veterans by middle and high school, conducting sophisticated and deeply impactful projects within the community.

Action for Boston Community Development ABCD means different things to different people. Their first job. A warm home. A windfall — thanks to ABCD’s free tax preparation. And the budgeting skills to manage that windfall. For some, ABCD means classes to take the next step, whatever that step might be. Learning English. Computer skills. Finishing high school. A college degree. ABCD helps people power up and dream big.  ABCD IS A NON-PROFIT HUMAN SERVICES ORGANIZATION that provides low-income residents in the Greater Boston region with the tools and resources needed to transition from poverty to stability and from stability to success. The organization is governed by a Board of Directors comprised of public officials, representatives from the private sector and low-income community members who are democratically selected by a local ABCD Advisory Board of their peers to represent ABCD community sites. A PREDECESSOR TO THE ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY ACT OF 1964 – the War on Poverty –ABCD was established in 1962 as part of a Ford Foundation demonstration project. Subsequently,ABCD was federally designated the anti-poverty community action agency for Boston under the Economic Opportunity Act. Such community action agencies provide services, assistance and other activities “of sufficient scope and size to help improve human performance, motivation and productivity or better the conditions under which people live, learn and work.” In 2015, ABCD’s designated service area was extended to include Everett, Malden and Medford, as well as Boston. OPERATING THROUGH NEIGHBORHOOD COMMUNITY SERVICE CENTERS throughout Greater Boston, ABCD can rapidly respond to changing community needs. Each year, more than 100,000adults, elders, children, and families participate in these customized and innovative local projects, as well as in some of the organization’s long-standing support programs — housing and homeless prevention services, fuel assistance, adult basic education and job training, early education and care, and more. The structure of the ABCD service delivery system provides capacity for:> Flexible response to local needs through development of specialized and innovative neighborhood service programs> Easy access to culturally competent local sites, along with customer connection to large citywide programs> Constant flow of information on community needs to program planners and evaluators