Snow and The Choice of Joy

By Ran Zilca • 3 min read
snowman

I grew up in a warm country, and always fantasized about the snow. It seemed magical, romantic, beautiful, and the ultimate state of calm. As a child, snow represented the world that is outside of my small country. A world that is vast and exciting, where white flakes fill the air in wintertime and people sit by the fireplace and watch them out the window. I did not have a chance to see a single flake of snow until I was 30, when I moved to New York, already a young father of a toddler.

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The Psychological Antidote – Part II

By Ran Zilca • 5 min read
Peace

In a previous post, the process of dehumanization was suggested as the psychological foundation leading to the atrocities conducted by organizations like ISIS. The opposite process of humanization was then suggested as the antidote for the development of extreme, violent behavior. This idea can be summarized as follows:

  1. When violent, savage behavior erupts (as in the case of ISIS), it has to be addressed firmly and eradicated.
  2. Separately, it is important to understand the process that eventually leads to the creation of such violent behavior. If we understand the process, we may be able to stop or even reverse it before it evolves into violence.
  3. Science tells us that at the heart of that process there is a psychological phenomenon called dehumanization – the act of demonizing people from a different group, making it (falsely) appear as a legitimate target of violence.
  4. The antidote is therefore the opposite process, called humanization – where one recognizes that others share similar human qualities with them.
  5. If humanization is indeed the antidote, and if it only works at an early stage, we should seek places where the process of dehumanization is just starting, and neutralize it by reaching out to others who are starting to form the view that we are not human like them, and prove them wrong.

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The Psychological Antidote to ISIS – Part I

By Ran Zilca • 3 min read
LYON, FRANCE - 11 JANUARY 2015: Anti terrorism protest

The atrocities we see in the news in past months raise fundamental questions about human nature. We would like to think that humans are superior to other species. When we encounter brutal acts of violence, we say that the ones who conduct them are “animals”. Yet while animals will hunt for food or defend their home, they will otherwise strive to remain peaceful. Well-fed lions rarely attack, and cobras dance to the flute of the snake-charmer, as long as he keeps a safe distance. It is, in fact, uniquely human to go fiercely against one’s own species, to engage in violence for its own sake, and to plan murder on a massive scale. Can we humans look at ourselves in the mirror today and confidently like what we see? If aliens are watching us from faraway galaxies, how would they describe us today? Are we the predators at the top of the food chain, or perhaps a virus infecting the planet, as Agent Smith in the film The Matrix suggested?

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How to Avoid the Bullshit

By Ran Zilca • 4 min read
Bullshit

So, you’ve decided that to want to change your life for the better. Become happier. Be a better person. Find meaning. Be positive. Gain clarity. Reduce stress. Become more focused.

Where do you start?

It used to be that the choices were limited. Only a few decades ago, a person would turn to their religion as the sole source of information, but today the world offers a multitude of movements, strategies, and spiritual traditions to choose from, all of them holding the promise of a better future.

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Have a New York Moment Today (Wherever You Are)

By Ran Zilca • 2 min read
Brooklyn Bridge and Downtown Manhattan at dusk

This Friday morning, I was walking in the snow down 1st Ave. It was 8am, and everyone was rushing to work, trying to walk quickly through the piling snow. Traffic was backed on the avenue, and drivers were honking at each other, letting out their frustration from the weather and from the TGIF that turned into a daytime nightmare. On the side streets, some people were shoveling snow and sprinkling rock salt on the sidewalk. The snow came at the worst possible time of the day, and perhaps the worst possible day of the week.

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Go on The Road Right Now

By Ran Zilca • 2 min read
Go on the road

One of the things that is unique to humans is our ability to find patterns, to naturally seek and identify structure in everything we observe. Abilities like recognizing visual shapes, spotting harmonious musical arrangements, and detecting consistent concepts, all lie at the heart of human intelligence. In fact, we are so focused on finding patterns in the world, that we often falsely identify meaningful patterns in random, meaningless situations. This phenomenon, called Apophenia, is something that all of us have experienced at some point: The hidden messages when you play the Beatles records backwards, the tree that looks like a crying man, and of course the face that stares at you from the power outlet.

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In 2015 Choose Your Resolutions Wisely – Go For the Day After

By Ran Zilca • 1 min read
The Day After

Most people do not keep their New Year’s resolutions. More than 90% of us fail to accomplish the things that we so passionately resolved to do, only a year before. The reasons vary, but more than often it’s not about willpower, determination, or motivation. We simply focus on the wrong goals.

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Top Five New Years’ Resolutions from the Wisdom of Taxi Drivers

By Ran Zilca • 6 min read
Taxi

2014 has been a year of travel for me. I found myself flying domestically and internationally very often, and taking long cab rides to and from airports. If you travel much, you know that most taxi drivers do not notice much about their passengers, but there is a small group of drivers that represent the village elders of our society. These are the drivers who spend their entire workdays listening to people and observing their behavior, and over time model their collective stories into insightful life-perspectives. If you are lucky (as I have been on several occasions), such drivers will share their advice with you, and anchor it in a good story that will help you pass the time on your ride.

Here is some free advice I was able to gather from taxi drivers that I decided to adopt as my 2015’s New Years’ resolutions:

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Your Inventory of Good

By Ran Zilca • 2 min read
Gratitude

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines gratitude as “a feeling of appreciation or thanks”, and appreciation as “an ability to understand the worth, quality, or importance of something”. To be grateful is to run an inventory-check of the good things in your life, and to be reminded of their value. It’s an interesting exercise, because when you do it you often realize that the list is longer than you thought, and that each item on it has immense. It is well-known people often realize the value of things only when they no longer have them – it is easier to assess the value of a loss. Being grateful means that you check the balance of your life-account intentionally. You don’t have to lose it to appreciate its wealth, and when you find it, it’s like finding a treasure or winning the lottery.

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Stop Looking. Open Your Eyes and Start Seeing.

By Ran Zilca • 2 min read
Looking but not seeing

A few days ago I gave my daughter a ride back from school. It was a sunny fall day, and the sky was clear blue. We both enjoyed the cool air and remained quiet, looking out the window, taking it all in, and postponing the typical “how was your day” conversation. When we arrived at our street, she looked up to the top of the trees that are lined up on both sides of the road, broke the silence, and said: “These trees are really beautiful. Were they always here?” And indeed, the trees were beautiful that afternoon, dressed in colors of fall, their tops touching each other, forming a tunnel that enveloped the road. Of course, they were always there, on the daily route back from school. Yet in the two years since we had moved, my daughter and I never really noticed them.

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