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Esther Sternberg is a scientist’s scientist. And that, I believe, is what appeals to so many of us who listen to “Stress and the Balance Within.” But, it’s not the only thing. She has a way of taking objective data, verifying and analyzing it, and rendering her report. And then what makes her such a special and effective voice is her incredible ability to relate these scientific points on a personal level, often by looking inward and exposing the frailty of her own humanity.

Take, for instance, Kate’s interview with her on the economic crisis. Kate’s first question: “Do you consider this a moral or spiritual crisis?” Almost immediately, she says that she doesn’t see it in either term because she doesn’t know enough about the causes of the crises (i.e., she doesn’t have the data to make judgments, pronouncements). Rather she sees the crises in biological terms.

She could have left it at that and then talked at length about empirical data and scientific evidence. But, she rarely does. She references people and its impact on others — and then she relates by remembering her father, a Holocaust survivor who would read Psalm 23, her own anxieties about the downturn, the need for public service.

We’re releasing all of these mp3s for download in our podcast. And, check back here at SOF Observed for future conversations with wise thinkers, including Greg Epstein, Pankaj Mishra, and Shane Claiborne.

Also, we’re looking to our readers and listeners for fresh thinking and language about how to talk about the current economic crisis. How has this changed you, your family, your community? And not just financially, but in terms of personal conscience and values? We’d like to hear from you. Tell us your first person story about your experiences.


A "scientist's scientist" on stress in tough economic times.

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6 Comments

12/10/2008
The correlation between the free market and moral character makes much ado about nothing. Statistically, we may find an evident relationship according to the degree of freedom of people's choices. But everyone knows about the uncertain human being. Subjective probability, then, through individual judgment or opinion, will be based on a combination of an individual's past experience, personal point of view, and analysis of a particular situation.

Outdated attitudes are the crux of the discussion. We are easily deluded into thinking that the free market does or does not corrode moral character. The free market is simply an element of a larger system, the environment. The key to a free market's success is the institution or availability of human ethical values. The role of spirituality is tacit in the free market. It has to do with how we see ourselves and how we see the world. There is nothing that can corrode moral character in me but myself. It takes a great deal of inner security and courage to be able to risk one's self in understanding others. Blaming the survival system sub-optimizes our dignity.

Ogethics comments rely on the inevitability of core values to maintain our direction and visceral response to what takes place in our universe. Unfortunately, this have not proven to be the case throughout our cultural history. If we are what we know, then what we are is constantly changing - at least in the Western cultures. There was a period in our existence when it was perfectly acceptable to watch the sun rise in the east as it revolved around the earth as the center of the universe... and what planets we saw were part of a fixed structure that never changed and were supported by glass spheres (well, you can't see them, can you?) Religiously, there was an era (thankfully short) when it was beneficial to burn women at the stake - as a favor to them - as directed by God. Augustine rejected earthly existence as just a false pretense to obtaining heavenly reward - and everything material was to be rejected or interpreted as semblances of godly manifestations.

We are, after all, subjects of our environments - logical, physical, spiritual and (yes) ethical. The root problem is that our ethics evolve alongside our cultural movement; in ALL directions. The Bush Doctrine calls for a "clearly ethical tenet" of spreading democracy throughout the world, particularly in the Middle East. Unfortunately, this ethical stance has no provision for a democratic process which elects a regime that denies women's rights. Obviously, be careful what you ask for.

The fact that "there is nothing that can corrode moral character in me but myself" discounts the seemingly core universal precept that we are organisms that react to perceived ethical situations based on our accumulated experiences. HOW CAN THIS NOT BE TRUE?

The total sum of who we are as a civilization, over the millennia, is what we know - and what we know CONSTANTLY changes, and will continue to over the coming millennia. To say that we "own" a set of values that are constant throughout the ages, and can always be relied on to 'come back to' in times of trouble, angst or turmoil denies the periodic occurrences of "The Dark Ages" in all their manifestations - Visigoths, Huns, Heathens and Nazis. They seem to reset our value gauges as they slowly 'get out of whack' over generations. If that represents a core moral ethic, then so be it. But it cannot name them and cast them in granite to administer to the coming eons.

All we can rely on is that general sense of unease or blatant outrage (at Rwanda, for instance) and say "Well, that just not right..." and begin the slow and plodding trek back toward whatever that generally acceptable "center" is that does not offend our sense of humanity. Some times it's slow and imperceptible, but unfortunately it's usually a result of bloodshed, genocide or injustice. You may find its' sense in the word "uplifting" or "disappointing" - those indefinable ebbs and flows of hope or anguish we experience - September 11th, 2001; Mother Teresa; the rise of environmentalism, Caylee Anthony, the Obama election, and a 'zillion' more. But to say it is an immutable universal truth that endures throughout the ages may discount the evidence that we are what we are ONLY in the light of the spotlight that reflects today, the recent past and the near future. That's all. Nothing more.

14 December, 2008
Ogethics comments of a day ago rely on the inevitability of core values to maintain our direction and visceral response to what takes place in our universe. Unfortunately, this has not proven to be the case throughout our cultural history. If we are what we know, then what we are is constantly changing - at least in the Western cultures. There was a period in our existence when it was perfectly acceptable to watch the sun rise in the East as it revolved around the earth as the center of the universe... and what planets we saw were part of a fixed structure that never changed and were supported by glass spheres (well, you can't see them, can you?) Religiously, there was an era (thankfully short) when it was beneficial to burn women at the stake - as a favor to them - as directed by God. Augustine rejected earthly existence as just a false pretense to obtaining heavenly reward - and everything material was to be rejected or interpreted as semblances of godly manifestations.

We are, after all, subjects of our environment(s) - logical, physical, spiritual and (yes) ethical. The root problem is that our ethics evolve alongside our cultural movement; in ALL directions. The Bush Doctrine calls for a "clearly ethical tenet" of spreading democracy throughout the world, particularly in the Middle East. Unfortunately, this ethical stance has no provision for a democratic process which elects a regime that denies women's rights. Obviously, be careful what you ask for.

The fact that "there is nothing that can corrode moral character in me but myself" discounts the seemingly core universal precept that we are organisms that react to perceived ethical situations based on our accumulated experiences. HOW CAN THIS NOT BE TRUE?

The total sum of who we are as a civilization, over the millennia, is what we know - and what we know CONSTANTLY changes, and will continue to over the coming millennia. To say that we "own" a set of values that are constant throughout the ages, and can always be relied on to 'come back to' in times of trouble, angst or turmoil denies the periodic occurrences of "The Dark Ages" in all their manifestations - Visigoths, Huns, Heathens and Nazis. They seem to reset our value gauges as they slowly 'get out of whack' over generations. If that represents a core moral ethic, then so be it. But it cannot name them and cast them in granite to administer to the coming ages.

All we can rely on is that general sense of unease or blatant outrage (at Rwanda, for instance) and say "Well, that's just not right..." and begin the slow and plodding trek back toward whatever the current generally acceptable "center" is that does not offend our sense of humanity. Some times it's slow and imperceptible, but unfortunately it's usually a result of bloodshed, genocide or injustice. You may find its' sense in the word "uplifting" or "disappointing" - those indefinable ebbs and flows of hope or anguish we experience - September 11th, 2001; Mother Teresa; the rise of environmentalism, Caylee Anthony, the Obama election, and a 'zillion' more. But to say it is an immutable universal truth that endures throughout the ages may discount the evidence that we are what we are ONLY in the light of the spotlight that illuminates today, the recent past and the near future. That's all. Nothing more.


The biological clock is associated with recurrent natural cycles. It is time to be ready for the change of the nature of our living matter. We have seen the changes in the tides, days and nights, seasons; the climate change has showed us where we are going. The biological control of our species is taking form from spiritual terms to a physical reality overcoming the economic crisis and all judgments. Through human ethical values: understanding others, helping them to cope with the situation, and overcoming evil with good, the destructive test we have taken in the material plane is already defeated. Fortunately, we have a natural enemy in the natural law to control it from recurrence. Everyone knows what loving others as loving ourselves means. Our free will must change its mind and synchronize with the free will of the universe to make the final adjustment to the next level of civilization: the ethical age. My prayer is that everyone grieves what we need to grieve and move on into the post-materialistic field without looking back to the past worldly connections. Follow this time of tremendous light. Money issues are not the concern anymore. We will have the necessary to start over again a new life in freedom as part of our being the same forever

Why can't we download this interview as a podcast or on itunes? Is this interview treated differently because it was conducted by Kate Moos? Thanks from a new listener.

From Harvard Press:
We've just published a new book by Esther Sternberg entitled Healing Spaces: The Science of Place and Well-Being. This link will take you to the author video we made of her:
http://search.barnesandnoble.c...