Days of Awe / Personal Reflections

October 1, 2017

Days of Awe / Personal Reflections


Mark Rubin

The Days of Awe aka High Holy Days—the days which encompass Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur—ended at sundown on September 30. Ten days, for reflection and repentance. Jews look back, of course, for reflecting and repenting demand that perspective, but our most important 10 days are very much about going forward.

Reflecting, in a blog, leaves me totally comfortable. Repenting? Not so much. No big confessions here!

During the last several days much has been on my mind. The sorting process leaves me focused on Luck* and Openness. (There’s also a trial in eight weeks, moving, PredictIt –my new cool distraction, etc.)

Luck and I know one another well. A better than average brain, and a mostly healthy body. Luck! An education, promoted and paid for by parents who wanted more for their children than what they had. Luck! An upper-middle class American upbringing, not without its challenges, but with a ton of White Privilege too many in our society fail to acknowledge. Luck! Great people among me. Luck! And “right place, right time” moments, so often, that I’ve been feeling a tad selfish of late. Luck, totally!

Right about now “he works hard,” “we make our own luck,” and other similar thoughts are surely present among my readers. Sure. Absolutely. Necessary elements for success and happiness. But without my bounty, I’m a hard-working, decent guy who bumps up against the Man and the Wall every day.

The luck part of my reflections crystallized on Saturday morning, when President Donald Trump shared some thoughts in three tweets about the hurricane and the Mayor of San Juan. (I’m sure no one sees much luck in Puerto Rico right now.)

The Mayor of San Juan, who was very complimentary only a few days ago, has now been told by the Democrats that you must be nasty to Trump.

Such poor leadership ability by the Mayor of San Juan, and others in Puerto Rico, who are not able to get their workers to help. They …

… want everything to be done for them when it should be a community effort. 10,000 Federal workers now on Island doing a fantastic job.


On to Openness. I read Thomas Edsall’s piece, The Trump Voter Paradox, in the Times a few days ago. Mr. Edsall focuses on Divided We Stand: Three Psychological Regions of the United States and Their Political, Economic, Social and Health Correlates.” The paper analyzes standardized personality tests given to 1.6 million people in the U.S. between 1999 and 2010.

The paper’s authors divide our nation into three psychological regions, based on traits identified in the test results.** The biggest region—running from Montana to Michigan, down through the Midwest, and encompassing most of the Southern states—“is defined by moderately high levels of extroversion, agreeableness, and conscientiousness, moderately low neuroticism, and very low openness.”

Mr. Edsall reports on his attempts to gain an understanding of the paper’s findings. In part he focuses on the seeming contradiction between open and friendly and the authoritarianism we see, increasingly, among some who support President Trump. (People found, often, in the biggest psychological region.) The explanation? People who associate themselves with authoritarianism don’t tend to be open. Further, when all is well in the referenced region, people are happy. Not so much when their gestalt feels threatened. (I suspect using the word gestalt threatens plenty of people—feels foreign and vaguely counter-something—but it’s the right word here.)

Candidly, I don’t understand the threat from The Other, which leaves people not Open. Why do so many need everyone to be like them? Sharing their belief system? Their customs? Their values? Truly, what’s that all about, and from where does it come.

Mr. Edsall doesn’t tell us why. The Divided We Stand authors don’t, either. I’m not criticizing them, for they are reporting on the phenomena. But I’d really like to understand why, across societies and cultures, so many human beings need, so deeply, to surround themselves with people like them.

One more thing. Any nexus between those who fear the Other, and a lack of appreciation for luck? Both concepts shared space in my head, but I can’t draw linkages. Help!

*A Mark Rubin Writes search found Odds and Ends. The first part ends with: Just call me lucky. Embarrassed I am that I had to reach back more than three yeasr to find any meaningful reference to luck

**The study reflects gross findings. Many people, everywhere, don’t conform to statistical norms.

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