What I Learned This Week

I’m thinking this might be a weekly tradition where I briefly share what I’ve learned this week. Here goes.

Audio Learning

I’m starting to listen to the Hidden Brain podcast hosted by Shankar Vedantam. Here’s what I learned listening to the October 12 and 19 episodes.

  • Agronomist Norman Borlaug is my new hero. Because of his pioneering and arduous work in creating genetically modified wheat for Mexico in the 1960’s, he is credited with saving tens of millions of lives and won the Nobel Peace Prize.
  • Doomscrolling. v., def.: When you thumb through your social media or newsfeed to find out what horrible news has happened.
  • Moral certainty creates moral blinders. When you are certain in your own mind about what is right and what is wrong, no amount of data, evidence or relational influence will be able to change your mind. In fact, you only look for information that reinforces your convictions. Psychologist Linda Skitka provides evidence that our world, to its detriment, is now, more than ever, driven by conviction instead of evidence; too little humility and too much hutzpah.
  • 200 years ago, 90% of the world was in extreme poverty. Today only 9% of the world is in extreme poverty. And 75% of the reduction took place in the last 30 years. –Steven Pinker, psychologist, Harvard University
  • The world, by most measurements is getting better and better. Why don’t most of us believe it? Steven Pinker says that bad can happen quickly and good usually happens slowly. When news coverage is focused on what’s, well, new, most information will be negative. While people are dying in war today, there are fewer wars taking place than any previous time in earth’s history. While people are dying from COVID-19, the average lifespan of humans is longer than any previous time in earth’s history.

Television Learning

  • With all his flaws, I’ve always been a David Letterman fan. His new season of interviews entitled My Next Guest Needs No Introduction, was dropped yesterday on Netflix. In the first episode, I learned that you can become a lawyer without going to law school, just like Kim Kardashian. There’s a legal way to do it via an apprenticeship. But yes, you still have to take the bar.
  • Ted Lasso, the Apple TV+ sitcom starring Jason Sudeikis, is a delightfully sweet show. Everything about the show, including Sudeikis himself would tell you it’s trite and contrived. And yet, it’s lovely. You can’t convince me otherwise because I have a moral conviction about it, and as you’ve already learned, your arguments against it will fail.

Clergy Still Say Good Stuff

  • Father Vazken Movsessian. My deep thanks to Vazken for helping me get a primer on the attack on Armenians in Artsakh by Azerbaijan and the resulting humanitarian crisis. The quote that sticks with me from my time with him: “Azerbaijan wants to finish what Turkey started in 1915.” I’m praying for peace in Artsakh. Watch for info on a Glendale community prayer vigil in early November.
  • Reverend Galen Goben. From his sermon last Sunday reminding his listeners that they are hidden in God: “Your heart, the place that God invites you to, is the place where God commands the universe.”
  • From a Well-Respected Pastor Who Shall Remain Nameless. “You haven’t truly experienced the beauty of Huntington Library and Gardens until you’ve toured them high.”

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