Adele presenting the Dalai Lama her book

During Krista's interview with this week's guest, Adele Diamond, she told a story about meeting the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala, India at a Mind and Life Institute dialogue. There, she offered him a gift — a collection of writings from rabbis including Abraham Joshua Heschel, authors Isaac Bashevis Singer, and Rachel Naomi Remen, and this passage from Roman Catholic priest and writer Henri Nouwen’s book, The Wounded Healer:

"The man who can articulate the movements of his inner life, who can give names to his varied experiences, need no longer be a victim of himself, but he is able slowly and consistently to remove the obstacles that prevent the spirit from entering."

Here, Nouwen is addressing ministers, but I read his statement as a potential result of cultivating executive function, things like inhibitory control, working memory, and cognitive flexibility. I find hope in the thought that childhood development focused on fostering executive function and engaging the whole self — through things like dramatic play and deliberate refection — will produce adults who better understand their inner lives and live with greater emotional intelligence, and in doing so remove obstacles to human connection that our culture has built by putting IQ first.

Adele Diamond cites Rabbi Heschel as someone who has strongly influenced her perspective. I’m struck by how she relates Heschel’s practical wisdom and bold notions of faith to how we raise children with strong inner lives. In her conversation with Krista, Adele mentions the following Heschel passage from Between God and Man:

"Deeds set upon ideal goals, deeds performed not with careless ease and routine but in exertion and submission to their ends are stronger than the surprise and attack of caprice. Serving sacred goals may change mean motives. For such deeds are exacting. Whatever our motive may have been prior to the act, the act itself demands undivided attention. Thus the desire for reward is not the driving force of the poet in his creative moments, and the pursuit of pleasure or profit is not the essence of a religious or moral act.

At the moment in which an artist is absorbed in playing a concerto the thought of applause, fame or remuneration is far from his mind. His complete attention, his whole being is involved in the music. Should any extraneous thought enter his mind, it would arrest his concentration and mar the purity of his playing. The reward may have been on his mind when he negotiated with his agent, but during the performance it is the music that claims his complete concentration.

Man’s situation in carrying out a religious or moral deed is similar. Left alone, the soul is subject to caprice. Yet there is power in the deed that purifies desires. It is the act, life itself, that educates the will. The good motive comes into being while doing the good."

Adele Diamond says this is a wonderful lesson for children, to say, “’Just do it. Just do it fully and do it and you'll get something out of the doing. The act, the doing, is absolutely critical and will transform you.’” Heschel’s name has surfaced of late, both in this week’s program, and in our program “Curiosity Over Assumptions,” and you’ll have a chance to hear our program on the great rabbi again in the coming weeks.

Adele and Dalai Lama

And, rounding out Diamond's compilations were gems from Rachel Naomi Remen’s writing on the meaning of science in My Grandfather’s Blessings. Here are a few:

"It is possible to study life for many years without knowing life at all. Often things happen that science cannot explain… Science defines life in its own way, but perhaps life is larger than science"

And, she also included this passage:

"Sometimes knowing life requires us to suspend disbelief, to recognize that all our hard-won knowledge may only be provisional and the world may be quite different than we believe it to be."

And this one too:

"Things happen that science can’t explain, important things that cannot be measured but can be observed, witnessed, known. These things are not replicable. They are impervious to even the best-designed research. All life has in it the dimension of the Unknown; it is a thing forever unfolding. It seems important to consider the possibility that science may have defined life too small."

Share Your Reflection



What a wealth of thought is in this post. Thank you for posting all of them. I needed them today as I watch my daughter suffer from seizures and find myself in one of those mini dark nights of the soul when all my inclinations and intuition is challenged.

Elizabeth, How is your daughter? I am up at 4 in the moring and needed to let you know I hear you.

I am a retired jesuit priest having worked with the US Food & Drug Adminiatration (FDA) and taught microbiology at CUNY, my persdpective while slightly different from other authors at Speaking of Faith, it is here very much in agreement with Dr. Diamond and his holiness the Dalai Lama. My background is Indian, so the nonviolent nature of my conversation is part of my ideal philosophy for the present and the future. My book " Symbiotic Living " about to be published by, emphasisies symbiosis almost as a constitution for earth.

I am quite encouraged by these added factors in neurobiology, memory, play, and dance psychomotor stimulating the frontal cortex todays reseaech meeting the goals of education of our children always given the short shrift of continual lecturing and contentt eamination.

A new comment I might add, is my Chain Reaction theory, turning the model of the atomic model on its head and applying it to both peers and teachers, with the sharing of both rational knowledge and emotional bonding. (
registered but would not upload Why? name arnold trindade, address: glen Cove, NY 11542, email:, DOB 1933, profession: sciecne educator for ethics, roman catholic, jesuit. degrees , philosophy Faculdade, Braga, Portugal, Theology Brussels, Louvain, Belgium, Microbiology Grad.Fac. Columbia University, NY, MA and curriculum & Teaching, Teacherrs College, Columbia. ( these crashes on your e mail are a great disadvanrage embedded in NPR software. )

Reminds me of a game I played I play called Pokemon. It teaches you to think logically, to strategize and apply algebraic knowledge.

Reminds me of a game I play called Pokemon: it stimulates logical thinking, strategizing and algorithmic applications. I also learned a treasure trove of knowledge about societies from reading literature. For example, I just read Naguib Mahfouz's "The Cairo Trilogy" which is about colonial Egypt.