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Buddhist Quote of the Day: Economist Jared Bernstein on Hell and Heaven

Since the last quote provoked a surprising discussion, here’s another from Economist Jared Bernstein, Chief Economic Adviser to  Vice President Joseph Biden, and apparently, a fan of Buddhism. His book was given to me by Senator Eric Schneiderman, recently honored as the Greenest Senator in the New York State Government (who also practices yoga and mindfulness meditation)



“I once heard an allegory about mealtime in heaven and hell. It turns out that in both places, meals are served at a huge round table with lots of delicious food in the center. The food is out of reach, but everyone’s got really long forks.

In hell, everyone starves because, while people can reach the food with their forks, the forks are much longer than their arms, so nobody can turn a fork around and eat what’s on the end of it.


In heaven, faced with the same problem, people eat well. How?

By feeding each other.

“Protecting the rights of individuals has always been a core American
value. Yet in recent years the emphasis on individualism has been
pushed to the point where, like diners in hell, we’re starving. This
political and social philosophy is hurting our nation, endangering our
future and that of our children, and paradoxically, making it harder
for individuals to get a fair shot at the American dream.

This extreme individualism dominates the way we talk about the most important aspects of our economic lives…The message, sometimes implicit but often explicit is, You’re on you’re own.

-From All Together Now: Common Sense for a Fair Economy

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posted September 20, 2009 at 11:39 am

Thanks for this Ethan. Complete agree about the crisis of individualism.
According to the Global Peace Index, The US now also ranks #83 in peace.!!!
I hope everyone calls their congressperson in support of a public option. Like, tomorrow. Like tomorrow morning.
I’m going to check out Bernstein further.
Dave in Jersey.

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posted September 20, 2009 at 11:44 am

i think that was a Star Trek episode

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posted September 20, 2009 at 11:46 am

I think that’s called socialism. And I’m all for it!

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posted September 20, 2009 at 2:01 pm

While I am a big proponent of individualism, I think it has to stop before it gets to the point where you no longer feel an obligation to help other people. There has to be a balance between being yourself and using it an excuse not to care about others. We are put on this earth to help each other and individualism that stands in the way of this is no longer individualism…it is simply selfishness.

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posted September 21, 2009 at 8:56 am

Just wish the endorsement was by almost anyone other than creepy, self-centered, dishonest John Edwards.

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Anan E. Maus

posted September 21, 2009 at 6:13 pm

Selfishness is a destructive force. And taken to extremes, an ultimately self-destructive force.
People seem to forget that the first Christians were not allowed to have any personal possessions at all. They were an example of pure Communism. You can read in Acts, where Peter rebuked someone from withholding a portion of grain from the community (in order to sell for personal profit).
People seem to forget that capitalism itself was forbidden by the church up until 1400 (?) I forget the exact year, but it was well into the Middle Ages.
And yet, somehow, in our society we find a way to justify greed as being good, healthy, and worse…some kind of perfect expression of freedom.
I think everyone who believes in greed should do a simple test. Find the best ice cream you possibly can and eat a serving. Then, immediately after, go do some volunteer work in a soup kitchen or some such thing. And see which activity feels better. The direct example is quite clear. Pleasures are a bit of fun, but have no real depth and substance.

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posted September 21, 2009 at 6:44 pm

Make money from home! enter and submit data online as per instructions. no stress no hassle. choose your own hours. both full/part time position available. register with us today. Visit: , or email us at , or call us at 0353-6410665

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posted September 22, 2009 at 10:31 am

Eileen proclaims that she wishes ‘the endorsement was by almost anyone other than creepy, self-centered, dishonest John Edwards.’
I proclaim that, if all works out the way she most probably prays it will, she will one day have the eternally self-indulgent pleasure of looking down from the hierarchy of Heaven at the lower-archy of her despised Edwards burning in Hell. Even pearls of wisdom can drop from the mouths of swine, as so they are judged to be.

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posted September 22, 2009 at 10:53 am

The author uses the term “individualism” rather than the term her means “selfishness” in order to make his story and views more palatable. The two terms don’t mean the same thing, however. The foundation of out free system is built upon individual rights and liberties. Group rights are based on the strength of individual rights.
He is indeed, on point when he says that the message from the last eight years has been “Your on your own!”. This selfishness is the source of the problem.
The ability for an individual to be able to help others — that one person, that each of us individually have the power and capability to ease the suffering of others — in other words, individualism — is the capability to help others. So the issue is not strong individualism — the issue is whether the desire of someone empowered to help others is followed through on or not.

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posted August 21, 2010 at 5:00 pm

Set your own life more simple take the personal loans and everything you want.

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posted September 25, 2010 at 10:32 am

Respect to the author of original work. I am want to say thanks for interesting post, and thanks to google for perfect blog search.

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posted September 29, 2010 at 11:03 pm

Hello boys, I am Sandra and I want to write my little commentary. I am want to place your text at my personal blog, with link to your blog. Is it normal for your? give to me your answer, please.

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