The Science of Heaven
2012-11-18, The Daily Beast/Newsweek
On the morning of Nov. 10, 2008, I awoke with the early symptoms of what proved to be an extremely severe case of bacterial meningitis. As I wrote here three weeks ago, and as I narrate in my book Proof of Heaven, over the next several hours my entire cerebral cortex shut down. Yet in spite of the complete absence of neural activity in all but the deepest, most primitive portions of my brain, my identity—my sense of self—did not go dark. Instead, I underwent the most staggering experience of my life, my consciousness traveling to another level, or dimension, or world. Brain activity and consciousness are indeed profoundly tied up with one another. But that does not mean that those bonds can’t be loosened, or even cut completely. Modern physics is pushing us [to believe] that it is consciousness that is primary and matter secondary. Totally objective observation remains a simple impossibility. And while in our ordinary earthly life we miss this fact completely, it becomes much more apparent in near-death experiences, when the body and brain cease to mediate our encounter with the larger reality and we encounter it directly. Make no mistake: consciousness is a total mystery. We simply do not know what it is. My seven-day odyssey beyond my physical body and brain convinced me that when the filter of the brain is removed, we see the universe clearly for the first time. And the multidimensional universe revealed by this trans-physical vision is not a cold, dead one, but alive with the force that, as the poet Dante wrote some 600 years ago, “moves the sun and other stars.”
Note: The author of this article, Dr. Eben Alexander, has been a neurosurgeon for the past 25 years. His engaging, best-selling book on this life-changing experience is Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon's Journey into the Afterlife. For video interviews and other information on Dr. Alexander, click here. For other highly inspiring resources and stories related to near-death experiences, click here.
Kim Peek, Inspiration for ‘Rain Man,’ Dies at 58
2009-12-27, New York Times
In 1988, the film “Rain Man,” about an autistic savant played by Dustin Hoffman, shed a humane light on the travails of autism while revealing the extraordinary powers of memory that a small number of otherwise mentally disabled people possess, ostensibly as a side effect of their disability. It never would have been made if [Barry] Morrow had not had a chance meeting with Kim Peek, who inspired him to write the film. Mr. Peek, who was dismissed as mentally retarded as a child and later misdiagnosed as autistic, led a sheltered life, with few people outside his family aware of his remarkable gifts. Mr. Peek was not autistic — not all savants are autistic and not all autistics are savants — but he was born with severe brain abnormalities that impaired his physical coordination and made ordinary reasoning difficult. He could not dress himself or brush his teeth without help. He found metaphoric language incomprehensible and conceptualization baffling. But with an astonishing skill that allowed him to read facing pages of a book at once — one with each eye — he read as many as 12,000 volumes. Even more remarkable, he could remember what he had read. Almost all documented savants — people with an extraordinary depth of knowledge and the ability to recall it — have been restricted in their expertise to specific fields like mathematics, chess, art or music. But Mr. Peek had a wide range of interests and could instantly answer the most arcane questions on subjects as diverse as history, sports, music, geography and movies.
Note: For a fascinating 10-minute film on Kim Peek, click here. For a wealth of others with mind-boggling capabilities, click here.
Bodybuilder, 93, with winning muscles
2012-10-28, BBC News
At 93, Dr Charles Eugster cuts a dapper figure in his navy suit and matching silk handkerchief and tie. But he looks just as good in the Lycra gym suit he has on underneath, ready to spring into action like a nonagenarian superhero. This former dentist took up bodybuilding just six years ago, aged 87, yet looks very at home surrounded by the whirring fitness machines. His reasons for picking up weights in his 80s are simple. "The idea is to turn the heads of the sexy young 70-year-old girls on the beach," he says. He now works out three to four times a week, often for two hours at a time, with his regime varying depending on his goals. Sometimes this involves a "heavy session of muscle building or rowing on the lake". And his vigorous training has clearly paid off. At a recent championship he achieved 57 dips, 61 chin-ups, 50 push-ups and 48 abdominal crunches, each in 45 seconds. Dr Eugster is no stranger to competitions. Since starting his bodybuilding training he has won several world titles for fitness and picked up many rowing medals. For 30 years while working long hours as a dentist he didn't manage to exercise regularly and began to realise his body wasn't what he wished it to be. "I'm extremely vain and I noticed I was getting fat," he said. "In my opinion anybody can do it. But obviously it is like trading in your old car for a new one. Ageing has become something for me, an enormous pleasure, a delight, a joy."
Note: For two amazing one-minute videos of a highly inspiring 86-year-old gymnast, click here.
Child Prodigy Writes Opera at Age 7
2012-10-23, ABC News
Alma Deutscher is already an accomplished musician; she’s mastered the piano and the violin. Now she can add composing her own opera to the list — and she’s only seven years old. Like so many other child prodigies, she plays beautifully. But what sets her apart is her ability to write, and improvise, classical music. Deutscher can sit at the piano and create music that sounds as if it had been written for her. Robert Gjerdingen, professor of music theory and cognition at Northwestern’s Bienen School of Music, ... has been helping the Deutscher family teach Alma in a classic style that encourages her ability to improvise. “Usually prodigies excel in reproducing music, not in creating it.” The young musician hails from the country town of Surrey, England, and has always showed a passion for the arts. “It was striking that when she was about three, she heard a lullaby by Richard Straus,” says her mother, Janie Deutscher. “And she came to us and said, ‘How can music be so beautiful?’ She was so struck by the beauty of it.” For her most recent project, Alma composed a seven-minute opera called ‘The Sweeper of Dreams.” She woke up one morning with a musical theme in her head and with the help of her father, who is also an amateur musician, she recorded the theme on the piano. She later fashioned the theme she recorded into a seven-minute “mini-opera” for a competition held by the English National Opera, which praised her work. “Normally when I try to think of ideas, it doesn’t come,” she said. But “when I’m improvising, then I have lots of ideas.”
Note: For deeply inspiring reports from major media sources, click here.
Can babies teach school kids not to bully?
2011-12-21, Toronto Star (One of Toronto's leading newspapers)
Teacher Raya patrols a group of giggly kindergarten students, looking each so deeply in the eye that many squirm and bashfully reach for her toes. Her father carries her in his arms. Raya is not quite five months old. She’s teaching them about being kind and how to talk about their feelings so that later, they don’t terrorize each other. Teacher Raya, as they call her, is a “volunteer” with Roots of Empathy, [Canada's] oldest and largest anti-bullying program. Kids in 900 classrooms around the province [of Ontario] are taking similar lessons from similarly beautiful babies. So are kids in New Zealand, Seattle, the Isle of Man. . . It’s such a simple concept: if kids learn to empathize with babies — the most vulnerable humans — then their antennae for kindness will be turned on. Put another way, once they learn to worry about a baby’s feelings, they’ll start to worry about everyone’s. Since kindergarten teacher Mary Gordon launched it 16 years ago, the program’s effects have been analyzed by dozens of academics. Most of them conclude the program fosters “pro-social behaviour” and dampens aggression. A Manitoba study published earlier this year concluded the program cut student fights in half immediately and continued to “promote optimal social contact” three years later. It’s one thing to legislate against bullying, as Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty has done with his Safe Schools Act. It’s quite another to stop kids from tormenting each other in the first place (the province has provided about $2 million annually [for] Roots of Empathy since 2009).
Note: For deeply inspiring reports from major media sources, click here.
Detroit’s Good Food Cure
2012-09-06, Yes! Magazine
Weekend mornings are the busiest days of the week at D-Town Farm. That’s when up to 30 volunteers from across Detroit come out to till the earth and tend the crops at the seven-acre mini-farm on the city’s west side. “One of our goals is to present healthy eating to people,” says Malik Yakini, Director of the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network (DBCFSN), which runs D-Town. “We think that healthy eating optimizes a good life generally. A diet close to nature allows the human body to function the way it is supposed to function.” D-Town is set in one of the city’s greenest areas, a former tree nursery in the 1,184-acre River Rouge Park. It’s ... about a mile upriver from the Brightmoor, a formerly devastated neighborhood that boasts no fewer than 22 community gardens. The Detroit City Council granted use of the land to DBCFSN in 2008. Nowhere in the United States has urban agriculture taken root as prolifically as in Detroit. This gardening renaissance has been growing for over two decades since the Gardening Angels, a group of southern-born African-Americans, began growing food and passing their agricultural knowledge on to another generation. There are more than 1,200 community gardens in Detroit—more per square mile and more per capita than in any other American city. DBCFSN’s goals include empowering African-Americans within the food system and providing fresh, healthy foods in an area where access is not a given. Detroit was among the communities declared food deserts by researcher Mari Gallagher in 2007.
Note: For deeply inspiring reports from major media sources, click here.
FBI says violent crime fell 4 percent last year; but has long downward trend hit bottom?
2012-06-11, Washington Post/Associated Press
The number of crimes reported to police dropped again last year compared with 2010. Last year marked the fifth straight year of year-to-year improvement for the number of violent crimes reported to authorities. It was the ninth consecutive year of declines for property crimes, according to preliminary FBI data for 2011. The FBI says murder and non-negligent manslaughter, rape, robbery and aggravated assault all went down in 2011. Violent crime decreased in all four regions: 4.9 percent in the Midwest; 4.7 percent in the West; 4.5 percent in the South and 0.8 percent in the Northeast. There was, however, an increase in murder in the Midwest — 0.6 percent — and an 18.3 percent jump in murder in cities with populations of less than 10,000. In the property crime category, motor vehicle theft dropped 3.3 percent, and larceny-theft decreased 0.9 percent. However, burglary offenses increased 0.3 percent, rising 3.2 percent in the Northeast, 1.3 percent in the Midwest and 0.7 percent in the West. The preliminary data is based on information the FBI gathered from 14,009 law enforcement agencies around the United States.
Note: This article is a great example of how the media consistently downplay any good news about the massive drop in crimes over the past 20 years. The entire article fails to mention the inspiring news that violent crime rates are now less than 1/3 what they were in 1994. That's awesome! For lots more on this inspiring news and the media's penchant for playing it down, click here.
How Psychedelic Drugs Can Help Patients Face Death
2012-04-22, New York Times
Charles Grob [is] a psychiatrist and researcher at Harbor-U.C.L.A. Medical Center who [has administered] psilocybin — an active component of magic mushrooms — to end-stage cancer patients to see if it could reduce their fear of death. When the research was completed in 2008 ... the results showed that administering psilocybin to terminally ill subjects could be done safely while reducing the subjects’ anxiety and depression about their impending deaths. Grob’s interest in the power of psychedelics to mitigate mortality’s sting is not just the obsession of one lone researcher. Dr. John Halpern, head of the Laboratory for Integrative Psychiatry at McLean Hospital in Belmont Mass., a psychiatric training hospital for Harvard Medical School, used MDMA — also known as ecstasy — in an effort to ease end-of-life anxieties in two patients with Stage 4 cancer. And there are two ongoing studies using psilocybin with terminal patients, one at New York University’s medical school, led by Stephen Ross, and another at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, where Roland Griffiths has administered psilocybin to 22 cancer patients and is aiming for a sample size of 44. “This research is in its very early stages,” Grob told me earlier this month, “but we’re getting consistently good results.” Grob and his colleagues are part of a resurgence of scientific interest in the healing power of psychedelics.
Note: For fascinating reports from major media sources on the beneficial uses of psychedelics, click here.
Teen Locked in Autistic Body Finds Inner Voice
2009-08-06, ABC News 20/20
Something extraordinary happened to Carly Fleischmann, a severely autistic 14-year-old who, unable to speak, was once written off as mentally deficient. "It is hard to be autistic because no one understands me. People look at me and assume I am dumb because I can't speak." There are experts and skeptics who believe that nonverbal people like Carly are incapable of thinking or writing. Her words may never have been found if not for the relentless determination of her family, who never gave up on her. Carly's story is how one child found her way out of the dense forest that is autism, and how her experience may unlock the mysteries of this baffling disorder. In the beginning, Carly's delays prevented her from walking and sitting up, but as she grew, it became painfully clear that Carly couldn't speak. But then one day, three years ago, when Carly was 11, she was working with two of her therapists when she started to feel sick. Unable to communicate what she needed, she ran to a computer and began to type for the first time. First she typed the word "H-U-R-T" and then "H-E-L-P" and then she threw up. Her therapists were shocked: They had never specifically taught her those words, and they wondered where she had learned them. Carly's typing showed them that there was a lot more going on inside her head than they had thought. For the first time she was able to communicate independently. After nine years of intensive therapy, and not much to show for it, Carly was finally emerging out of her silent, secret world.
Note: For an inspiring and eye-opening ABC News video showing this amazing girl's story, click here.
'The Loving Couple' review: interracial pioneers
2012-02-14, San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco's leading newspaper)
It took until 2000 for Alabama to repeal the last remaining law in the country banning "mixed marriages" despite a unanimous U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 1967 declaring all such legislation unconstitutional. At the time of that ruling, 16 states banned interracial marriage. The landmark decision, Loving vs. Virginia, came about because a young couple in Virginia's rural Caroline County decided to get married. In Nancy Buirski's stunning documentary "The Loving Couple," ... the love of two people and their steadfast refusal to bow to a 1924 law they ... believed was unfair brought an end to one of the most heinous holdovers of the Jim Crow era in American history. Richard Loving was a taciturn guy with a crew cut whom one of his lawyers would uncritically describe as a "redneck." In June 1958, he and Mildred Jeter, a sweet-faced young woman of African American and American Indian ancestry, traveled to Washington, D.C., to get married. After they got married, the local Virginia sheriff arrested them for breaking the commonwealth's 1924 Racial Integrity Act. The couple's yearlong sentence was suspended on the condition that they leave the state and never return. In 1963 - the same year as the historic civil rights march on Washington - two young American Civil Liberties Union attorneys appealed the Lovings' conviction in Virginia state court. Eventually, the case wound up at the Supreme Court and, in a unanimous 1967 decision authored by Chief Justice Earl Warren, the court ruled in the Lovings' favor.
Note: Remember that 200 years ago most people still supported slavery. 100 years ago most men believed women did not deserve the right to vote. 50 years ago interracial marriage was considered by many a sin. Over the long term, humanity is growing ever more tolerant and compassionate.
Every sunrise a painting: Brain-tumor survivor’s daily ritual
2012-02-01, MSNBC Today
No two sunrises are ever the same. Each day’s spectacle in the sky is altered by particles in the atmosphere, the tilt of the Earth, the lengths of different waves of light. Debbie Wagner knows this better than almost anyone else. With earnest devotion, she has risen in the darkness more than 2,200 times so she could observe and paint the sunrise. She’s rarely missed a morning since December 2005. “As a brain-tumor survivor, I lost so many of the loves I had, like reading and writing and mathematics,” said Wagner, 56, who had two cancerous, pear-sized tumors removed from her brain in separate surgeries in 2002. “My visual journal became essential to my attitude for the day. When I look at a sunrise, it represents a new beginning. I’m just so happy to be here another day and see my kids do different things and go to dinner with my husband. I suppose that’s the addiction of it — it puts me in a state of mind focused on gratitude. You go through this mourning-type period of sadness, and then you realize that you’re a different person and you have to redefine,” Wagner said. “My husband jokes, ‘Well, I’ve gotten to be married to two different women without having to get divorced!’ ” Her brain tumors and surgeries may have robbed Wagner of much, but they also gave in unexpected ways: She said she wound up experiencing a heightened visual perceptiveness and an irresistible pull toward art. “I started painting pretty much right away, maybe five or six months after my surgeries,” she said. “It just happened. I had to express myself.”
Note: To learn more about artist Debbie Wagner and see additional examples of her sunrise paintings, visit her website. And for lots more inspiring new articles like this, click here.
Marathon Mom: Pregnant Woman Finishes Race, Delivers Baby
2011-10-10, ABC New
Amber Miller accomplished two monumental feats this weekend. Days from her due date, the 27-year-old joined 45,000 other runners to participate in Sunday's Bank of America Chicago Marathon and then gave birth to a baby girl named June hours later. Miller, an avid runner, said she signed up for the 26.2-mile race before finding out she was pregnant. She said she never expected to finish the race. "I was having a conversation with my parents and said, 'You know what? I have no plans of actually finishing,'" she told reporters at Central DuPage Hospital this morning. "I was planning on running half, skipping to the end, then walking across the finish line." But Miller and her husband started running, and just kept going. They ran part of the race and walked the second half as her contractions started. It took the couple 6.5 hours to finish. She said she grabbed something to eat and the two headed to the hospital. "It was very interesting hearing people's reaction," Miller said about crowds watching an extremely pregnant woman among the runners. "I've been running up to this point anyway, so I'm used to it." At 7 pounds, 13 ounces, baby June entered the world at 10:29 p.m. Sunday, just hours after her parents crossed the finish line.
An audience with Koko the 'talking' gorilla
2011-09-17, The Telegraph (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
She knows more than 2,000 words, has friends in high places and loves cats and old films. But in her 40th year, Koko the ‘talking’ gorilla seeks a new challenge – a baby. Koko ... was taught American sign language when she was about a year old. Now 40, she apparently has a working vocabulary of more than 1,000 signs and understands around 2,000 words of spoken English. Forty years on, the Gorilla Foundation’s Koko project has become the longest continuous inter-species communications programme of its kind anywhere in the world. Over the years Koko has inadvertently become a poster child for the gorilla conservation movement. There are several subspecies of gorilla, and today, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, all are either endangered or critically endangered. There are thought to be more than 700 mountain gorillas left in the wild; just under 17,000 eastern lowland gorillas, 10,000 western lowland gorillas, and only 200-or-so Cross River gorillas. All are in sub-Saharan Africa and are threatened by either the illegal trade in bushmeat, loss of habitat due to logging and agricultural expansion, or disease. Some conservationists believe stories like Koko’s ... could be the answer.
Note: For an amazing video of an elephant who has been trained to be an artist, click here.
‘Where Children Sleep’
2011-08-04, New York Times
It was a small room, at the top of the house. For a time, it was home to tropical fish. Later, two pet mice slept there, in a home made of fruit crates. The walls of the room were covered with posters of Madonna and Duran Duran. Then it was the Rolling Stones. Then Jimi Hendrix. This was the childhood bedroom in Oxford, England, of James Mollison, 37, a documentary photographer. He had the luxury as a boy of adapting his bedroom to reflect his changing interests. Mr. Mollison’s new book, Where Children Sleep, had its origins in a project undertaken for a children’s charity several years ago. As he considered how to represent needy children around the world, he wanted to avoid the common devices: pleading eyes, toothless smiles. His subjects came from Boy Scout troops and sumo wrestling clubs. They were introduced through friends of friends. Mr. Mollison posed his young subjects — more than 200 of them — in front of blank white backgrounds for their portraits, leaving their bedrooms to do the talking. More than 50 pairings are in the book, which has a glow-in-the-dark cover (a nod to the glow-in-the-dark stars on so many childhood ceilings). As much as the project is about the quirkiness of childhood, it is, more strikingly, a commentary on class and on poverty. But the diversity also provides a sense of togetherness. Everybody sleeps. And eventually, everybody grows up.
Note: Don't miss the moving photo essay at this link. It will only take you a minute or two, yet is quite moving. And for other highly inspiring news articles, click here.
Schools chief forgoes $800k in pay
2011-08-29, Boston Globe/Associated Press
Some people give a bit back to their community. Then there’s Fresno County School Superintendent Larry Powell, who is giving back $800,000, his compensation for the next three years. Until his term expires in 2015, Powell will run 325 schools and 35 school districts with 195,000 students, all for less than a starting California teacher earns. “How much do we need to keep accumulating?’’ asks Powell, 63. “There’s no reason for me to keep stockpiling money.’’ Powell’s generosity is more than just a gesture in a region with some of the nation’s highest rates of unemployment. As he prepares for retirement, he wants to ensure that his pet projects survive California budget cuts. And the man who started his career as a high school civics teacher, who has made antibullying his mission, hopes his act of generosity will help restore faith in the government he once taught students to respect. Powell’s answer? Ask his board to allow him to return $288,241 in salary and benefits for the next three and a half years of his term. He technically retired, then agreed to be hired back to work for $31,000 a year - $10,000 less than a first-year teacher - with no benefits.
Extreme do-gooders – what makes them tick?
2009-09-07, Christian Science Monitor
Most people in the world, it's fair to say, want to do a little good. At the very least, we try to follow a kind of secular golden rule: Try to do no harm. But in our communities and around the world, there's a kind of person who takes all this further – to an extreme, even. They're called, most often, "social entrepreneurs," and some of them have become famous, at least in certain circles: Muhammad Yunus, the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, is revered in do-good financial circles for pioneering microfinance, a lending system for the very poor. From protecting our natural environment to improving our children's education to combating global poverty and disease, we've come to rely on extreme do-gooders to tackle the world's toughest problems. And they're happy to do so, even though their dedication will cost them in the long run. What makes these people tick, and how do they sustain a lifetime of commitment to a change that might take generations to see? Social entrepreneurs seem to think in terms of everything except sacrifice. "I've interviewed several hundred social entrepreneurs over the last 15 years," says David Bornstein, author of How to Change the World: Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of New Ideas, "and the thing that struck me is how little they think about sacrifice, ... and how much their lives are about really doing something that gives them extraordinary joy and satisfaction when they're successful."
'Barefoot' grandmothers electrify rural communities
Turning grandmothers into solar engineers is one of Sanjit "Bunker" Roy's favorite jobs.
Roy is the social entrepreneur and founder of the Barefoot College and has been championing a bottom-up approach to education and empowering rural poor since 1972. It is now a global enterprise with roots in India. Roy recruits women from around the world to install and maintain solar lighting and power in their home villages. The United Nations estimates that around 1.5 billion people still live without electricity. "The way to go about this is not a centralized grid system, which brings in power from hundreds of miles away," he says. "It is to bring in basic light right down to the level of basic household wherein they take ownership and control over that technology." Women are the focus for the solar power projects that the Barefoot College runs because men "were very untrainable," says Roy. "(Men) were restless, compulsively mobile, and they all want a certificate and the moment you give them a certificate they leave the village and go to the cities looking for jobs. So why not invest in women, older women, mature women, gutsy women who have roots in the village and train them." Coming from countries across the world, the women are trained for six months before returning home. Many of the women have previously never left their villages before.
Can you imagine cancer away?
2011-03-03, CNN News
By now, you likely know David Seidler, who won an Oscar on Sunday for best original screenplay for "The King's Speech," was a stutterer just like King George VI, whose battle with the speech disorder is portrayed in the film. What you might not know is that Seidler, 73, suffered from cancer, just like the king did. But unlike his majesty, Seidler survived the cancer, and he says he did so because he used the same vivid imagination he employed to write his award-winning script. Seidler says he visualized his cancer away. "I know it sounds awfully Southern California and woo-woo," he admits when he describes the visualization techniques he used when his bladder cancer was diagnosed nearly six years ago. "But that's what happened." Seidler says when he found out his cancer had returned, he visualized a "lovely, clean healthy bladder" for two weeks, and the cancer disappeared. He's been cancer-free for more than five years. Whether you can imagine away cancer, or any other disease, has been hotly debated for years. One camp of doctors will tell you that they've seen patients do it, and that a whole host of studies supports the mind-body connection. Other doctors, just as well-respected, will tell you the notion is preposterous, and there's not a single study to prove it really works. Seidler isn't concerned about studies. He says all he knows is that for him, visualization worked.
Note: The article goes on to quote a couple doctors who explain how chemically hope and visualization can cause the changes in the body's chemistry which could lead to spontaneous remission in cancer. For other fascinating major media articles listing potential cancer cures, click here.
Meditation class helps lower violence at Ala. prison
2011-02-02, MSNBC/Associated Press
The noise never really ends; peace is at a premium in Alabama's toughest lockup. Despite a history of violence at the William E. Donaldson Correctional Facility ... the prison outside Birmingham [Alabama] has become the model for a meditation program that officials say helps inmates learn the self control and social skills they never got in the outside world. Warden Gary Hetzel doesn't fully understand how the program called Vipassana ... can transform violent inmates into calm men using contemplative Buddhist practices. But Hetzel knows one thing. "It works. We see a difference in the men and in the prison. It's calmer," he said of the course that about 10 percent of the prison's inmates have completed. The word Vipassana means "to see things as they really are," which is also the goal of the intense 10-day program using the meditative technique that dates back 2,500 years. Vipassana courses are held four times a year in a prison gymnasium, where as many as 40 inmates meditate 10 hours a day. Convicted murderer Grady Bankhead said the hours of meditation forced him to accept responsibility for his crime and helped him find inner peace. Bankhead, who's serving life without parole, radiates calm. "I've been here for 25 years and this statement is going to sound crazy, but I consider myself the luckiest man in the world," Bankhead, 60, said last month after the latest course at Donaldson.
Research shows generosity repaid on many levels
2010-12-24, San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco's leading newspaper)
Studies at UC Berkeley show that ... generosity for many is driven by a sincere desire to benefit others, said Robb Willer, a UC Berkeley sociologist who researches the ways individuals overcome selfishness to contribute to the social good. He has found that people have varying levels of altruism, depending on such things as their personality, parental influences and experience. "Volunteering your time and giving money to charity tends to make people happier than spending money on themselves," Willer said. But for others, generosity pays. "It makes sense to be generous from a self-interested perspective," said Willer, who studies how people behave in groups. "If you're generous, you receive more respect, you have more influence and people cooperate with you more." Experiments Willer has conducted in five countries show that giving can be contagious. One of Willer's studies focused on users of the website freecycle.org, an online gift-giving community. Freecycle began in 2003 as an e-mail group in Tucson committed to reusing materials that would otherwise end up in landfills. Its only rule was that items be given without reciprocity or compensation. Freecycle has since grown to have more than 7 million members in 85 countries. The feeling of gratitude has driven the success of Freecycle, Willer found. "Giving in this community follows a pattern of contagious generosity, where if you received a gift from somebody else in the world, then you become more likely to give to somebody else in turn," he said.