Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Art of the Positive: Parashat Shelach

This week's portion of Shelach teaches us the power of positive thinking. Where the ten other spies see only gloom and doom, Joshua and Caleb see hope. Gloom and doom win out, and the conquest of the Land is delayed for a generation. Winston Churchill said that the pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity, while the optimist sees opportunity in every difficulty.

Today's headlines illustrate how what passes for objective news is really only a matter of perspective. You can check out the front pages of over 800 newspapers around the world each day at the Newseum website and it is fascinating to see how the news is framed. Today, for instance, the Jerusalem Post proclaims, "IDF Suspects Dozens of Ship Passengers Tied to Global Jihad Network," while an English newspaper from Turkey proclaims "Diplomatic War in All But Formal Declaration."

Last year at this time, the Stamford Advocate had the infamous banner headline, "Bat Mitzvah Goes Awry," following a party (that happened to be celebrating someone's bat mitzvah), where a Norwalk mansion was trashed. I put together a packet of materials designed to give us practice in the art of the positive reframe. Some suggestions emerged as to how the Advocate could have headlined that story without the anti-Semitic overtones associating a sacred Jewish rite with this profane act of vandalism. I then put forward some other famous headlines, several taken from Chronicles: News of the Past, recording great events of Jewish history as if they had been covered by modern news journalists. See them here and test your ability to accentuate the positive.

Instead of "Moses Smashes Tablets of Law," for instance, I might opt for "Second Set of Tablets Good as New," or "God to Moses: Take Two." For "Earth Opens, Swallows Korah and 250" maybe I'd put, "Thousands Survive Freak Quake" or "Korah's Sons Collect Huge Life Insurance Payout, Compose Several Psalms." For "Titanic Sinks" how about "Idea Born for Mega-hit Movie."

As Monty Python teaches, You know, you come from nothing - you're going back to nothing.What have you lost? Nothing!

Always look on the bright side of life...

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