Book Review – When Bad Things Happen to Good People – Harold S. Kushner


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Life is full of good and bad moments. We desire to be happy but sometimes few tragedies hurt us a lot. Life offers both pain and pleasure. When bad incidents happen and that too at a sudden, we are ruined from inside. Often there are many of us who might have done good to many but have faced bad moments. When we are good, we expect life to be good to us but when life hurt us despite of being good in life, few questions come in our mind: Why this happened to me and Why bad things happen to good people? In the classis book titled “When Bad Things Happen to Good People”, the author, Harold S. Kushner provides some good insights about the general feeling of humans and also tries to figure out the answer to the above questions.

The Background: Harold Kushner wrote this book dedicated to his son, Aaron who was detected with the disease “Progeria”, rapid aging. Aaron was only three years old when he was diagnosed with Progeria and would maximum continue till his early teens. Aaron died two days after his 14th birthday. Kushner was a rabbi, and it was very difficult for him to digest this incident of knowing his son would die at early teens due to a rare disease, Progeria. All his life, Kushner did good, helped many people and was always ready to any social cause. The untimely demise of his son made him to think on the notion of God, whether this was the punishment given by God to good people and that too in the form of his son’s death. The author had brilliantly provided very argumentative analysis about God and his notions that most of us perceive. The choice of good and bad and whether it is the God who is responsible for all the happenings in this world including happening of bad things to good people. This makes the book a very interesting read.

About the Author

Harold Samuel Kushner is a prominent rabbi and author. Born on 3rd April 1935 in Brooklyn, New York, he graduated from Columbia University and have received six honorary doctorates. He is best known for his books, When Bad Things Happen to Good People (1981) and When All You’ve Ever Wanted Isn’t Enough (1986).

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When Bad Things Happen to Good People is his best-selling book which he wrote following the premature death of his son, Aaron due to Progeria.  In 2007, Harold Kushner was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by Jewish Book Council.

About the Book

When Bad Things Happen to Good People was published in 1981. As mentioned earlier, Kushner wrote this book in memory of his son, Aaron. The book is a very good read which deals about human sufferings, God, Omnipotence and theodicy.

Throughout the book, the author has raised many questions about God and why bad things happen to good people. When good people suffer any turmoil which makes their life difficult to live, people starts asking below questions:

  • Why did this happen to me?
  • Do I deserve to be treated like this?
  • Is this a kind of punishment that God offers to his followers?
  • What did I do that I deserve this?
  • How God can be so cruel to give punishment to innocent people, for wrongdoing of others?

The book provides a very good discussion on the above questions. The initial chapters will make readers to think that what we have been taught about God and his doings including running of this universe will seems to be only an attractive answer. The author had brilliantly provided argumentative analysis about God and his limitations. Reader may think about the general perceived notion of “what we get is what we deserve”, if it is really the case.

The idea that God gives people what they deserve, that our misdeeds cause or misfortune, is neat and attractive solution of problem of evil at several levels, but it has a number of serious limitations. It teaches people to blame themselves. It creates guilt even when there is no basis for guilt. It makes people to hate God, even as it makes them hate themselves. And most disturbing of all, it does not even fit the facts.

There is good discussion on the sufferings of righteous person and a wicked person. There are so many examples from author’s life journey where he has given a good insights about the sufferings of many like, parents losing their children, living with multiple sclerosis, accidents, retarded children etc. It might be true that sometimes we have to do painful things to people we love for their benefit, but not every painful thing that happens to us is beneficial.

The author has provided a good argument on why God will create sufferings to the people in order to learn compassion and gratitude? Why should God distort someone else’s life to such a degree in order to enhance our spiritual sensitivity? Such kind of questions and arguments provided in response to those questions makes this book a beautiful read.

There are few incidents which happens accidently and blaming God for those is not a good thing, as per the author. According to Kushner, the accidents, plane crash, train accidents, falling off a bridge etc. are not the punishments provided by God. If that is so, then this mean God is selective. He is selective because if the plane crashed and killed many passengers and few only got injured and few got minor injuries, the outcome is not uniform and what about those passengers who missed the flight? So the person who missed the flight should thank God for not boarding the flight because his life was safe? And what about those who boarded the flight on time? Such kind of examples and arguments will make you think for a while, after reading the book. God is not selective, sometimes there is no reason. These events do not reflect God’s choices. They happen at random, and randomness is another name of chaos.

God has made this universe and the law of nature is uniform and there is no discrepancy in it. One of the things that makes the world livable is the fact that the laws of nature are precise and reliable and always work the same way. Everything has some pros and cons, and this has been discussed so well in this book. We cannot live without gravity but at the same need to live with its dangers. Harold Kushner provides answer to the cause of bad things happening to good people. God is the creature of universe and law of nature which is uniform, and God does not reach down to interrupt the workings of laws of nature to protect the righteous from harm: this is an area which causes bad things to happen to good people and God does not cause it and cannot stop it. One should read the book for such interesting discussion.

Often it is said that it is the environment, upbringing and people suffering which makes them cruel and futile. Some becomes criminal and some kills many innocent people. People become like that because they are the victims of circumstances. Kushner had provided a very crucial point on this notion in the below excerpt:

To say of Hitler, to say of any criminal, that he did not choose to be bad but was a victim of his upbringing, is to make all morality, all discussion of right and wrong, impossible. It leaves unanswered the question of why people in similar circumstances did not all become Hitlers. But worse, to say “It is not his fault, he was not free to choose” is to rob a person of his humanity, and reduce him to the level of an animal who is similarly not free to choose between right and wrong.

Why people in similar circumstances did not all become Hitlers? An unanswered question. Read the book for more such mind blogging discussions. The author has given a good insights on sufferings in the book and he recommends not to compound the damage which one got because of sufferings by hurting oneself one more time or several times.

Instead of asking the questions, “why this happened to me? What did I do to deserve this?” The better question would be, “Now this has happened to me, what am I going to do about it?”

As mentioned earlier, the initial chapters would make readers to question about God and what he does to us in the form of sufferings and punishments. But the concluding chapters takes the readers to know about God and what religion should be. This journey has been presented beautifully by Harold Kushner in this book. The book is a journey from asking the question, “Why this happened to me? “ to asking the question , “Now this has happened to me, what am I going to do about it?”

A good book which deserves to be read, if not read so far.

-Ashish Kumar

Book Review – Ikigai – Hector Garcia and Francesc Miralles



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Life is a journey of moments. Be it happy or sad, one should accept it. Learning form life experiences make us better and help us in our day to day activities. Adding values to our life cannot be a one-time activity and so is the personal development. There are many books on personal development, but the book which I am covering here is little different. Life without a purpose has no meaning and the book, IKIGAI – The Japanese Secret to Long and Happy Life, emphasizes this a lot apart form living in present.  Before going into the depth of the book, it’s important to be aware some aspects in order to understand the book properly which is given below.

The Background: As per WHO, Japan has highest life expectancy in the world. Also, Japan has highest ratio of centenarians in the world: more than 520 for every million (as of September 2016). IKIGAI is a Japanese concept meaning “the happiness of always being busy”. The book brings the lifestyle of an island namely Okinawa, in Japan. Okinawa, where there are 24.55 people over the age of 100 for every 100,000 inhabitants, far more than global average. Going further, Ogimi, a rural town of the island having a population of 3000, has the highest life expectancy in the world. This is the reason behind Ogimi to be called as “Village of Longevity”. Not only they live longer but also suffer from fewer chronic diseases like Cancer and heart diseases, inflammatory disorders are also less common. Having highest life expectancy and highest number of centenarians in the world and it’s a blissful experience to know about the lifestyle of people living in Okinawa. The book covers the same.

About the Authors

IKIGAI- The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life, is written by Hector Garcia and Francesc Miralles. The book published in 2017 is an International Bestseller.

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Hector Garcia: Born in 1981 in Spain, Héctor García is a citizen of Japan, where he has lived for over a decade. He is the author of several books about Japanese culture, including two worldwide bestsellers, A Geek in Japan and Ikigai. A former software engineer, he worked at CERN in Switzerland before moving to Japan.

 

 

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Francesc Miralles: Born in 1968, Fransecs Miralles is a Spanish writer, essayist, translator and musician. He is an award-winning and internationally bestselling author of books about how to live well, together with the novels Love in Small Letters and Wabi-Sabi.

 

 

About the Book

The book provides an energetic rhythm towards life and does motivates to be positive. The book tries to make readers to identify their IKIGAI. Fast moving life has made life a race and in turn we forget to be happy and hence welcoming toxic thoughts. The book is full of positive vibes. Based on the lifestyle of people living in Okinawa, the book covers Secrets of being happy and living long, antiaging, staying young while growing old, IKIGAI diet, being resilient etc.

The book stresses a lot on having clear purpose in life, living in the present, doing exercises/yoga etc. Diet plays an important role in staying heathy and “Okinawa Diet” is well discussed across the globe. In fact, the mortality rate from cardiovascular disease in Okinawa is the lowest in Japan and diet plays a major role apart from doing exercise/yoga. There are separate chapters dedicated for diet and exercised promoting health and longevity. They eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, rarely eat sugar, consumes natural antioxidants etc. The book briefly covers wide exercises including yoga, which originates from India.

The book talks to the point without stretching. The first chapter itself starts with “The art of staying young while growing old”, provides an everlasting impact which build a rhythm of reading rest of the book.  According to the Japanese, everyone has an Ikigai hidden deep inside each of us, and finding it requires a patient search”.  In Okinawa, people don’t retire as having a purpose in life is so important in Japanese culture that the idea of retirement simply doesn’t exist there. There is a brief discussion about the five Blue Zones identified and analyzed by Dan Buettner in his book “The Blue zones” and Okinawa holds first place.

Stress is one of the most common problems in today’s fast-moving life. The negative effects of stressful life is well known and the book discuss the same. As stress has degenerative effect over time, it is one of the major elements which kills longevity and happiness. However, looking at the other side, the authors clearly suggests taking little stress is good. Intense stress is dangerous while low level if stress is beneficial.

As mentioned previously, the book focuses on having a purpose in life. A separate chapter is dedicated for having a purpose in life. There is a fruitful discussion of life with/without a purpose. Having a purpose gives meaning to life which provides energy to achieve it which in turn keeps us busy. The book covers logotherapy and psychoanalysis and their differences which are ways to identify purpose in life. Having purpose in life eliminates existential frustration and existential crisis. Existential frustration arises when our life is without purpose. Existential crisis is typical of modern societies in which people do what they are told to do, or what others do, rather than what they want to do. They often try to fill the gap between what is expected of them and what they want for themselves with economic power or physical pleasure, or by numbing their senses. It can even lead to suicide. One should discover meaning of their life rather than creating it.

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In the book, there is an interesting discussion about multitasking and concentrating on single task, flow and distraction. One should have a flow in life which comes with a clear objective or else vague objective gives confusion. Many people are multitasker today and those who aren’t, try to be a multitasker. According to the authors, multitasking reduces productivity, IQ and creativity whereas concentrating on single task increases the same. One interesting suggestion provided by authors is to go for ‘Technological fasting’ at least once in a week. Technological fasting refers to staying away from whats app, facebook, internet etc.  When you have a clear objective and flow, hours pass smoothly with mind focussed on your work which you enjoy. These are substantiated with several examples.

One of the most interesting part of the book is it bring brief story about those who are supercentenarians- people who lived 110 years or above. There is a dedicated chapter which covers their lifestyle. Jeanne Calment (1875 – 1997) is the oldest person of verified age history, who lived for 122 years. Isn’t it interesting to know their stories who are supercentenarians?

The book not only covers the diet, exercises, antiaging, stress and its consequences etc but also brings about the various culture of Okinawa and how they had maintained a proper balance between culture and technology.

One of the motivating factors the book suggests is to be resilient. Resilience is our ability to deal with the setbacks. Resilient people know to stay focusses. The reason behind one should be resilient enough is to concentrate on the things one can control and not worrying about those one can’t. Meditation helps a lot in becoming resilient and focused. Worrying about things that are beyond our control achieves nothing. We should have a clear sense of what we can change and what we can’t. Most of the problems in life occurs not because of things that happens but how we react. As life is impermanence, live in the present as present is the only thing we can control and feel. The book is a blissful read with eye opening materials bringing optimism and eliminating pessimism.

The book concludes with an epilogue which provided 10 rules of IKIGAI and the first being stay active; don’t retire, apart from live in the moment, reconnect with nature; to name a few.

Some of the main reasons why one should read this book is of course the longevity factor, happiness etc but there is one more reason I found is mentioned below which is an extract from the book itself.

Okinawa is one of the areas in Japan that were most affected by World War II. As a result, not only of conflicts on the battlefield but also of hunger and a lack of resources once the war ended, the average life expectancy was not very high during the 1940s and 1950s. As Okinawans recovered from the destruction, however, they came to be some of the country’s longest living citizens.

Isn’t it interesting to know about the lifestyle of such a place which was once affected badly by World War II?  Lack of resources and hunger, the life expectancy was not high that time but looking today, it has achieved the highest life expectancy in the world with the greatest number of centenarians and supercentenarians.

Please share your opinions on this review post. 🙂

– Ashish Kumar

Behavioral Knowledge



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One of the important characteristics of any person is his behavior which is an important indicator of personality. What needs to be said and the manner in which it needs to be conveyed is important. Behavior is indeed a major factor or better to say it is a deciding factor in almost all aspects of life. Sometimes it is said that knowledge is important but behavioral knowledge is most important. Knowledge doesn’t mean what one learns from books but it is a combination of bookish knowledge and behavioral knowledge. Behavioral knowledge is what one learns from his experience, day to day work, interacting with people etc. Behavior also shapes one’s character which, if lost is a disaster itself.

Life is full of ups and downs. When one achieves something, it is natural to be happy and feel proud. On the opposite side, failure disappoints us leading to depression and frustration in some cases. We always desire to achieve best in our life with our efforts and skills. When one desires to be different and make a difference, behavior does matter. World is full of amazing people having different behavior and it plays an important role in shaping our life. How we behave decides our fate as well. There are many aspects of behavioral knowledge which I have discussed below:

  • Criticism: Criticize only when it is required and necessary. Criticizing others is the easiest thing one can do. It doesn’t take much to criticize others but repercussion may be drastic. Criticism is also a self defense tool. It is also said that being a critic is the easiest thing one can do. Criticism is frequently used everywhere, be it in job or not. In fact, managers in the organizations find various ways to criticize their subordinates. Many criticize just to show their power which is not acceptable at all. There are cases also where unnecessary criticism ended up in belligerent situation. Nobody will tolerate to be criticized when there is no fault from his side. Hence, criticize only when it is required. Constructive criticism should be welcomed and unnecessary criticism must be avoided. In fact, in his famous book titled, “How to win friends and influence people”, the author, Dale Carnegie had suggested not to criticize and condemn.
  • Appreciation: One should appreciate others if he deserves. There is no shame in appreciating others work but unfortunately this practice is not followed. There are hardly few who genuinely appreciate others work and feel happy for their achievement. The reason can be many and one of them is the feeling of jealously. It has been observed that people avoid appreciating other because they feel jealous which should not be the case. Appreciation is a tool of motivation. If you appreciate other, you will be appreciated in return. It is a courtesy which shows your respect and recognition for others. You will not lose anything if you appreciate but you will gain respect from the one whom you appreciated.
  • Judgmental: No doubt, people are judgmental and they pass their judgment. What they conclude in the form of their judgement is what they perceive. They conclude without any analysis. Do we possess enough knowledge to judge others or do we have right to pass judgement? Ask this question before giving your judgement. Many people pass their view suddenly and declare the end result. This can be understood by an example. Suppose a student has completed his higher secondary education and decides to go for career in engineering having firm faith in him that he can pursue engineering and do well in his career but one of the family members were not convinced with his choice as there were no engineers from their family in the past. They bluntly said you cannot become an engineer as none from our family has yet become and hence choose some other career. They simply passed their judgement. Take other example, people do judge with what you eat and wear. People do judge with status symbol or better to say have materialistic approach towards others. Poor people are the best example. Dr APJ Abdul Kalam was born in very poor family and he used to sell newspapers in his childhood to run the family and to bear his expenses for study. People used to pass various comments and judgement on Kalam’s study and his future but the rest is history as he became the Missile Man of India and later the President of India.  There are many other examples where you can come up with such situation. Hence, beware before passing any judgement as you never know where that person will be in future whom you are passing your judgement.  Give suggestions which are welcomed but don’t give your judgement which may be reversed in future.
  • Pragmatic: One should be pragmatic which means being practical. Behave and decide as per the prevailing situation. Be practical enough to realize the complexity of life and be flexible enough to cope up with the changes. Behave as per the situation. Be realistic in your approach.
  • Empathy: Empathy means putting yourself in others situation. It is often said, one should have empathy for others. If someone is in problem, understand their problem and help them if they need but don’t make fool of him. Put it simply, one can feel the pain of hunger only when he has not eaten for few days or else he will never know what hunger means. Similarly, if someone is suffering from any problems, understand it and help him if he asks but don’t make fun of his problem. There are many who enjoys a lot when they see others are suffering from any miss happening which is not at all right. If you enjoy and make fun out of others issues and problems, you may encounter such scenes in your life as well. Don’t laugh on others problems instead have some empathy. Empathetic behavior is very important which is missing now a day. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, in his book titled “Hit Refresh” has insisted and recommended empathy a lot and in any organization, managers must have empathy for their subordinates. Empathy reflects sense of caring attitude which is a kind of motivation. Employee should feel that the management and the organization do care for them.
  • Support: Support is as important as any other thing for anyone. Be it mental or monetary, support is required at some part in life. If you can’t support, don’t criticize as well. Support is not help as it is usually seen. Support means you are standing behind someone whom you trust or understand. There are times when you have to take tough decisions in life but there is no one to support you. That time, if you get anyone who is in support of you and taking your side, it is a kind of energy-booster. It also requires courage to support.
  • Learn: Learning is a continuous process. Don’t consider yourself to be an omniscient person. Life is the best teacher and it teaches us from situation, either good or bad which we experience in our life. Mistakes are part of life and one should learn from the mistakes. Technical or non-technical, learning gives you the result at some point in life. People generally become hopeless in difficult situation but tackling those situations is also a kind of learning. Confused? If you can tackle challenges in life, you have learned to face challenges which ultimately help you in decision making which is very crucial. Having said this, one should also learn to unlearn. What needs to be unlearned is a question? To put simply, learn to unlearn bad attitude and ego. Keep yourself updated and don’t learn those things which needs to be unlearned. Every people has something unique and one should learn from others as well. Learn the positive aspect and unlearn the negative ones.  Learn to discover your strength which you possess. One of the best method of learning yourself is introspection which gives you chance to talk to yourself and discover your areas where it requires improvement. Introspect at least once in a day or in a week as it is a game changer. The essence of introspection can be felt by one of the famous quotes of Swami Vivekananda which says, “Talk to yourself at least once in a day, otherwise you may miss a meeting with an excellent person in this world.”
  • Give and take respect: Respect is the end result what you get from your behavioral knowledge. It is that thing which may or may not have any monetary value but definitely have some recognition which you have earned from others. When you are respected, you have value and your words will have more weightage. Having said this, respect is earned and cannot be purchased and it can be only earned by your behavior which have many aspects discussed in above points like criticism, appreciation, empathy etc. You have to respect others to get respected. Be calm and polite. Respect others opinion as well and don’t force your opinion on others unless it is extremely required. One can purchase lot of stuffs and earn lot of money but may not earn respect. It totally depends on how we behave and how we listen and respect others as well.

Knowledge is necessary part of life and behavioral knowledge is a kind of value addition which shapes one’s personality and character. The various aspects of behavioral knowledge which I shared above is my personal thinking and the list is not exhaustive. What I have thought is important as far is behavior is concerned and that too in the form of knowledge, I tried to share in this article.  In my opinion, behavior is as important as any other thing. Be it work, home or any other place, behavior decides many things in our life. What to say and what not to say is important and crucial. Bad behavior creates problem at the end and it is we who need to decide how to behave as it decides our fate as well. Let me summarize some of the take away from the above discussion:

  • Don’t criticize. If required, approach should be Constructive Criticism.
  • Appreciate others work
  • Don’t pass judgement. Give suggestions if required.
  • Be pragmatic
  • Keep learning from your experiences and mistakes
  • Be empathetic
  • Give respect

I was having this theme in my mind from many months but finally though of writing this article on behavioral aspect of knowledge or what I say, Behavioral Knowledge. What’s your take on behavior? Is behavior plays important part in our life? Does behavior shapes our personality and character? Please share your views…. 🙂 🙂

– Ashish Kumar

Book Review – An Ode to Life – Tajammul Kothari



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Poetry is an art and when you pen down your emotions, feelings and experience with words which can be related to the readers, you become an artist. Writers write in different genre and each has its own style and taste. This blog post is about one of my blogger friend who gave me a chance to go through his debut book titled, “An Ode to Life” containing his collection of poems. My friend Tajammul Kothari is the author of this book and it takes me immense pleasure to write the review for his debut book. I would also like to express my apologies to him as I am writing this book review post after one half years of publication as I was quite involved with my studies and other aspects. Apologies for the same Tajammul. The writer is available at his blog titled Worldly Realization. Kindly visit his blog for his beautiful work.

For all poem lovers including me, this book, An Ode to Life is a gem and is a collection of poems that highlights the different stages in the journey of life. Life has many layers and this book contains several poems depicting different stages of life. The writer has even written a thank you poem titled “A Big Thank you” to all the readers which is a lovely read and I really liked this. The book contains beautiful literary pieces with simple words and in a lucid manner. I firmly believe the one who read will definitely find it worth. The book contains poems of various genres like inspirational, romantic, sad etc. The writer in depth can be seen from an extract of his poem ,“The Road” which says:

 A long winding road called life

In each and every turn there is a surprise

Bright paths to guide you aright or

Dark alleys that hinder your sight

The book also contains romantic poems. I became really impressed the way he has expressed love in one of his poem titled “Love is to Stay” which says:

You can pierce a dagger deep inside

And break this feeble heart of mine

You can kill me with your words unkind

But you can’t murder the love

The sentence “You can’t murder love” is more than enough to say what love is. This is amazing and you will find many such kind of poems with beautiful stanzas in his book and I am sure you will love it. Poetry has its own taste and this book is really worth to read.

The book is available at following:

I would like to congratulate him for getting his work published and also like to thank him for giving me an opportunity to go through his literary pieces and I hope he will continue to offer the readers with his beautiful work in future as well in the form of his writing.

Ashish Kumar