“A noble thing is philanthropy, and the support of the poor, and the assistance of human weakness…”

Reconstructing the world’s first hospital: the Basiliad

Thomas Heyne
Boston, United States

 St. Basil

“A noble thing is philanthropy, and the support of the poor, and the assistance of human weakness…”

So rang the emotional words of Bishop Gregory Nazianzen during the funeral oration delivered for his dear friend Basil of Caesarea in 379. Wishing to remind his audience of Basil’s charity towards the poor, he continued:

Go forth a little way from the city, and behold the new city, the storehouse of piety, the common treasury of the wealthy… where disease is regarded in a religious light, and disaster is thought a blessing, and sympathy is put to the test.

Gregory goes on to mention the Great Wonders of the ancient world: the Pyramids, the Colossus, and the walls of Babylon, but says these pale in comparison to this “new city.” Gregory’s audience would no doubt have recognized his reference to this “city,” but for clarity, he continues:

My subject is the most wonderful of all, the short road to salvation, the easiest ascent to heaven. There is no longer before our eyes that terrible and piteous spectacle of men who are living corpses, the greater part of whose limbs have mortified, driven away from their cities and homes and public places and fountains, aye, and from their own dearest ones, recognizable by their names rather than by their features… no longer the objects of hatred, instead of pity on account of their disease.

We realize that Gregory is speaking of Basil’s hospital, where lepers were treated. Gregory finishes this part of his oration with the moving words:

[Basil] however it was, who took the lead in pressing upon those who were men, that they ought not to despise their fellowmen…Others have had their cooks, and splendid tables, and the devices and dainties of confectioners, and exquisite carriages, and soft, flowing robes; Basil’s care was for the sick, and the relief of their wounds, and the imitation of Christ, by cleansing leprosy, not by a word, but in deed.1

In this moving eulogy, Gregory has immortalized for posterity what was indeed a milestone in medical history: the Basiliad (also known as the Basileias or Basileiados), the first hospital in history.

The Basiliad derives its name from its founder, the Christian priest (and later bishop) Basil. He is remembered as one of the “Cappadocian Fathers” (along with his brother Gregory of Nyssa and his life-long friend Gregory Nazienzen); the three clergymen were active in Cappadocia (modern-day Turkey), and they have long been regarded as Christian saints in both Catholic and Orthodox traditions.  By AD 369 Basil had already distinguished himself as a holy and capable monk and abbot, and an effective rhetorician and theologian. A continued refrain in his sermons was the exhortation to put Christian teachings into practice, and to always be mindful of the poor. For example, in a sermon on St. Luke’s Gospel, Basil preached:

Why are you wealthy while that other man is poor…are you not a cheater? [T]aking those things which you received for the sake of stewardship, and making them your very own? … The bread which you hold back belongs to the hungry; the coat, which you guard in your locked storage-chests, belongs to the naked; …The silver that you keep hidden in a safe place belongs to the one in need.2

Basil’s charity was put to the test in AD 369, when, in the words of his friend Gregory, “There was a famine, the most severe one ever recorded [in Cappadocia].”1  Gregory describes how Basil gathered together the poor to feed them; “[He] set before them basins of soup and… meat.”  Based on this information, historians think it likely that Basil had at least a soup kitchen in place by 369.3  But the famine provided the impetus for Basil to undertake a much greater expansion in charitable works.  Seeing the rich hoarding their wealth while the poor died of sickness and starvation, he used the Gospel of Matthew to preach for social reform:

But how do you make use of money? By dressing in expensive clothing? Won’t two yards of tunic suffice you, and the covering of one coat satisfy all your need of clothes?… One bread-loaf is enough to fill a belly…. For it is right… to regard the use of money as a matter of stewardship, not of selfish enjoyment…. What answer shall you make to the judge, you who dress walls, but will not clothe a man; who spruce up horses, and overlook an unfashionable brother; who leave grain to rot, but will not feed the starving; who bury your money and despise the oppressed?…4

With these and similar homilies, Basil encouraged the wealthy to support his social projects for the poor. His work has been called a “major social revolution… that challenged directly the hypocrisy, corruption, and uncontrolled self-interest” of fourth-century Ceasarea.3  And this revolution, which included the world’s first hospital, was based on a Christian understanding of charity, of sharing one’s wealth with the poor, particularly during times of crisis.

And what of the hospital itself?  Three of Basil’s letters seem to reference it.  In one such letter, written around 372 to the local governor,3 Basil describes a complex of buildings.  He writes:

…[We have] a magnificently appointed church to God, and round it a dwelling house, one liberally assigned to the bishop, and others underneath, allotted to the officers of the Church in order, the use of both being open to you of the magistracy and your escort.

Here, Basil describes a complex focused around a church, a bishop’s residence, and housing for his clergy (who acted as his staff for much of his charity work).  The complex is apparently large enough that it could house the governor and his entire retinue.  He continues:   …Do we do any harm by building a place of entertainment for strangers, both for those who are on a journey and for those who require medical treatment on account of sickness, and so establishing a means of giving these men the comfort they want, physicians, doctors, means of conveyance, and escort?

Basil has elucidated some of the additional functions of the Basiliad: a house for strangers and travelers, and a site for professional medical treatment.  What seems like a passing reference is indeed monumental: anyone (particularly the poor) can receive medical care from professionals.5 He continues:

All these men must learn such occupations as are necessary to life…; they must also have buildings suitable for their employments…We have already…begun providing [building] material.6

Here, Basil makes it clear that his impressive social project includes teaching trades to the inhabitants of the Basiliad.  I.e., he is teaching the hungry how to fish, not just doling out fish.  Finally, he makes it clear that the construction of his complex was already well under way by 372 (the date of this letter).

There are two other letters, both dated to 373, that suggest that the hospital was by then operating at full force.  They also help confirm the hospital’s location.  Writing to fellow bishop Amphilochius, Basil writes:

I was lately at Cæsarea, in order to learn what was going on there. I was unwilling to remain in the city itself, and betook myself to the neighbouring hospital (or “poorhouse”) [πτωχοτροφεῖον]…7

Basil clearly references that this facility for the sick and poor lies just outside of the city of Caesarea (a city in Asia Minor). Indeed, even when Caesarea itself fell into ruin centuries later, Basil’s neighboring “new city” was still thriving–becoming the modern-day city of Kayseri, Turkey.[8]  Also, one notes that the Greek here for “hospital” (πτωχοτροφεῖον) can signify a facility that tends to the sick or to the poor (or both): Basil’s complex apparently treats the indigent sick.9

The existence and function of the Basiliad is confirmed with another letter to Bishop Amphilochius, written in 373: “Come…that you may also honour with your presence the Church of the Hospital (or Poorhouse) [πτωχοτροφεῖον].”10 Again, Basil’s words confirm that his complex abuts a church, and it tends to the sick-poor.  Also, the fact that Basil is inviting a fellow bishop to visit suggests that his Basiliad is already (or nearly) complete by 373.

We now have sufficient evidence to piece together the history of the Basiliad.  From the dating of the famine, it appears that some facility (at least a soup kitchen of sorts) existed in 369. By 372 it had professional medical personnel; and by 373 it was sufficiently complete that he could invite fellow leaders to visit.  We know that this “new city” housed lepers (based on Gregory’s eulogy)11, as well as other sick, the travelers, and strangers.  It was staffed both by professional physicians, as well as by clergy in the adjoining church (not unlike later Christian hospitals).  And we know, based on Gregory’s reference to the “common treasury of the wealthy”, that the poor were financed by donations from the rich.  Finally, it is possible that the Basiliad also housed orphans, based on Basil’s recommendation for monks to take in orphans;12 likely these orphans were among those who received tradeschooling.  In sum, the Basiliad was an impressive social endeavor.

But was the Basiliad also novel?  Was it truly the world’s first hospital?  Historians have compared the Basiliad to other, prior institutions which cared for the sick.9 For example, the Roman valetudinaria and Asclepian Temples predated the Basiliad and certainly provided care for the sick. But were they truly hospitals?  Per Andrew Crislip, a hospital must have three components: inpatient facilities, professional medical caregivers, and care given for free.13 Scattered throughout the empire, the Roman valetudinaria were complexes constructed to treat ill or wounded slaves and soldiers.  These valetudinaria were financed by either wealthy slave owners or Roman legions, to keep the slaves working or soldiers fighting (respectively).5  But the facilities did not treat the poor, and they were hardly charitable in nature.  Similarly, the Asclepian temples, dedicated to the Greco-Roman god of healing, are sometimes cited as potential predecessors for the Basiliad.  But the medico-religious services provided in these Asclepian temples were not given for free: sacrifices or donations were expected.14 Furthermore, the Asclepian temples rarely employed professional physicians.  Finally, they did not accept terminal cases: indeed, a patient dying inside of the hospital would have been seen as a ritual impurity.15 Thus, even the often-cited healthcare institutions which predated Basil did not perform the same functions that his Basiliad did.  It seems that Basil started a new trend: soon after his death, similar Christian hospitals were sprouting up elsewhere in the Roman empire, and they had became commonplace within one century.9  For these reasons, historians have argued that “the hospital was, in origin and conception, a distinctively Christian institution.”5, 13, 15

Using primary texts, we have reconstructed the Basiliad, likely the first true hospital in history.  It was constructed with inspiration from Christian social teaching, and with impetus from a famine.  It would become the first in a great number of hospitals across the Roman empire: a major landmark in the history of medicine.


  1. Gregory Naziazen. Oration 43. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, vol. 7. Ed. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1894.) Trans. Charles G. Browne and James E. Swallow. Available online at http://www.newadvent.org/fathers.  Accessed 31 January 2015.
  2. Basil of Caesarea. Homilia in illud dictum evangelii secundum Lucam: «Destruam horrea mea, et majora ædificabo:» itemque de avaritia (Homily on the saying of the Gospel According to Luke, “I will pull down my barns and build bigger ones,” and on greed), §7 (PG 31, 276B – 277A). Translated Peter Gilbert, available online https://bekkos.wordpress.com/2009/10/08/st-basil-on-stealing-from-the-poor/. Accessed 31 January 2015.
  3. Philip Rousseau. Basil of CaesareaTransformation of the Classical Heritage Series, no. 20. California UP: 1998. P137ff.
  4. Basil of Caesarea. Homily to the Rich. Trans. Peter Gilbert. In Migne, JP (PG 31 277C-304C).  Available online: https://bekkos.wordpress.com/st-basils-sermon-to-the-rich/. Accessed 31 January 2015.
  5. Gary Ferngren. Medicine and Health Care in Early Christianity. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins UP, 2009. p124-9.
  6. Basil of Caesarea. Letter 94: To Elias, Governor of the Province. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, vol. 7. Ed. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1894.) Trans. Blomfield Jackson.  Available online at http://www.newadvent.org/fathers.  Accessed 31 January 2015.
  7. Basil of Caesarea.  Letter 150: To Amphilochius, Bishop of Iconium. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, as above.
  8. Timothy Patitias. “St. Basil’s Philanthropic Program and Modern Microlending Strategies for Economic Self-Actualization,” in Wealth and Poverty in Early Church and Society. Ed. Susan Holman. p267-270.
  9. Timothy Miller. The birth of the hospital in the Byzantine Empire. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP: 1997.
  10. Basil of Caesarea.  Letter 176: To Amphilochius, Bishop of Iconium. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, as no. 6 above.
  11. See Timothy Miller and JW Nesbitt. Walking Corpses: Leprosy in Byzantium and the Medieval West. Cornell UP: 2014.
  12. Basil of Caesarea. Interrogatio XV (PG 31: 952), in Timothy Miller, The Orphans of Byzantium: Child Welfare in the Christian Empire. New York: Catholic UP: 2003, p115.
  13. Andrew Crislip. From Monastery to Hospital: Christian Monasticism and the Transformation of Health Care in Late Antiquity. Ann Arbor: U of Michigan P, 2005, p125.
  14. Guenter B. Risse. Mending Bodies, Saving Souls: A History of Hospitals. Oxford UP: 1999. p.30f.
  15. Gary Ferngren. Medicine and Religion: A Historical Overview. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins UP, 2014. p91-92.
  16. An interesting question, outside the scope of this paper, is whether any of the institutions in ancient Sri Lanka or India (e.g. King Asoka) would qualify as a hospital.  In the least, one can note that there is a paucity of documentation to know exactly what these hospitals looked like.  Similarly outside of the scope of the paper is the question as to whether any other Christian healing institutions (e.g. that of St. Ephraem of Syria, which provided assistance in a plague in 375) might actually have qualified as a hospital, and been constructed prior to the Basiliad (see n.9 above).  Again, paucity of evidence makes this question challenging to answer.

THOMAS HEYNEis a third-year resident in the combined medicine-pediatrics program at Massachusetts General Hospital. Before medical school, he received a Master’s from Oxford in Church History and completed a Fulbright in Spain, and he has long had an interest in the medical humanities. He is a member of the Arts & Humanities Council at Harvard Medical School. Outside of the medical humanities, his other major interest in global health and medical mission work.

Dintr-un interviu dat de Yuval Hariri

„Este imposibil sa traiesti in intregime fara povesti. Toate comunitatile umane sunt tinute impreuna de credinta in povesti impartasite. Tara mea natala, Israel, de exemplu, este tinuta impreuna de credinta in natiunea israeliana. Economia lumii este tinuta impreuna de credinta in monede ca dolarul si in corporatii ca Google. Si, totusi, acestea sunt fictiuni inventate de oameni.

Cand spun ca aceste povesti sunt fictiuni, nu vreau sa spun ca aceste povesti au acest fapt particular sau altul fals. Mai degraba, vreau sa spun ca ele distorsioneaza realitatea facand-o sa para povestea unui erou imaginar.

De exemplu, daca spui ca „Romania si-a castigat independenta in 1877”, asta face sa para ca Romania este eroul acestei realitati. Daca spui ca „Sunt mai multi crestini decat musulmani in lume”, asta face sa para ca tocmai Crestinismul si Islamul sunt eroii acestei realitati. Si daca spui ca „Amazon a castigat anul trecut mai multi bani decat Toyota”, atunci e ca si cum Amazon, Toyota si dolarii sunt eroii realitatii.

Pe de o parte, toate aceste afirmatii sunt corecte. Romania chiar si-a castigat independenta in 1877. Totusi, in ultima instanta, toate acestea sunt fictiuni, pentru ca natiunile, religiile, corporatiile si banii sunt entitati fictive, care exista doar in imaginatia umana.

Asemenea fictiuni nu sunt in mod necesar rele. Ele pot fi foarte utile. Comunitatile umane sunt tinute impreuna de acceptarea acestor povesti comune despre natiuni, religii, corporatii si bani. 20 de milioane de romani pot coopera eficient, deoarece ei cred in povestea natiunii romane. Opt miliarde de oameni pot face comert in mod pasnic, deoarece ei cred in dolarul american si in corporatii precum Amazon. 22 de oameni pot juca un meci de fotbal doar pentru ca ei cred in regulile imaginate ale jocului numit fotbal – reguli inventate de oameni.

Problemele apar atunci cand oamenii uita ca acestea sunt doar povesti imaginate si incep sa creada ca sunt realitatea ultima. Ar putea atunci sa isi provoace o imensa suferinta unul altuia, doar de dragul povestii. Huliganii se pot omori unii pe ceilalti pentru un meci de fotbal. Oamenii pot sa inceapa chiar razboaie „pentru a proteja interesele natiunii” sau „pentru a face multi bani pentru corporatie”.

De pilda, in tara mea, Israel, vad in fiecare zi cum israelienii provoaca multa suferinta palestinienilor, justificand asta prin recurs la povesti imaginare despre „natiunea eterna a Israelului” sau „dreptul divin al poporului evreu”.

Asta, desigur, ridica intrebarea despre cat de fictionala sau cat de reala este o anumita entitate. Cel mai bun test la care ma pot gandi este cel al suferintei. Daca auzi o poveste si vrei sa stii daca eroul acesteia este o entitate reala sau mai degraba o fictiune, ar trebui sa te intrebi: „poate sa sufere?”

Povestile pe care noi le spunem despre lucruri ca natiunile, statele, corporatiile si banii sunt toate fictiuni, pentru ca eroii lor nu pot sa simta nimic. O natiune nu poate suferi, chiar daca a pierdut un razboi. Nu are o minte a ei, asa ca nu poate simti durerea sau tristetea. La fel, o corporatie nu poate suferi, chiar daca da faliment. Nici dolarul nu poate suferi, chiar daca se depreciaza.

Prin contrast, cand un soldat este ranit in lupta, el sufera cu adevarat. Cand un muncitor isi pierde slujba, sufera cu adevarat din cauza asta. O vaca sufera cand este ucisa de catre macelar. Oamenii si celelalte animale sunt entitati reale.

Experienta mea personala m-a invatat importanta capacitatii de a distinge intre povesti si realitate. Cand eram tanar, mi s-a spus ca toti baietii sunt atrasi de fete, pentru ca asta este ceea ce a vrut Dumnezeu. Mi-a luat destul de mult timp pana mi-am dat seama ca Dumnezeu este doar o poveste inventata de oameni si iata ca exista si barbati atrasi de alti barbati, iar eu sunt unul dintre acestia.

Atunci mi s-a spus ca probabil ca Dumnezeu nu exista, dar totusi exista legi ale naturii care dicteaza ca toti barbatii trebuie sa iubeasca femei, iar femeile barbati, si ca homosexualii si lesbienele incalca legea naturii. Dar dupa ce am invatat biologie, am inteles ca aceasta e tot o poveste inventata de oameni. Homosexualii si lesbienele nu incalca legea naturii. Nimeni nu poate vreodata sa incalce legile naturii.

Legile naturii nu sunt ca regulile de circulatie. Guvernul spune ca nu poti conduce cu mai mult de 100 de kilometri la ora, dar oamenii incalca regula si conduc cu 120 de km/ora, un politist rutier ii opreste si le da o amenda de viteza.

Legile naturii spun ca nu te poti misca mai repede decat viteza luminii. Asta nu inseamna ca daca tu conduci cu de doua ori viteza luminii, un politist galactic te va opri si iti va da o amenda. Asta este pur si simplu imposibil.

Daca, intr-un fel, ai reusi totusi sa conduci cu o viteza mai mare decat viteza luminii, inseamna ca probabil nu am inteles adevaratele legi ale naturii si ca in anumite situatii este natural sa te misti mai repede decat lumina. Daca ceva exista, atunci prin definitie acel ceva este natural. Daca doi barbati se iubesc, asta inseamna ca nicio lege a naturii nu impiedica asta. Daca doi barbati se iubesc, nu ar trebui sa le faca cineva vreun rau in numele unei povesti false despre Dumnezeu sau despre legile naturii.”


Roots of Liberation

By Fr Richard Rohr

„One of the great themes of the Bible, beginning with the Hebrew Scriptures and continued by Jesus and Paul, is “the preferential option for the poor.” I call it “the bias toward the bottom.” The Hebrew people’s exodus out of slavery, and YHWH’s complete identification with them, is the pattern of our universal spiritual journey to liberation.

Moses, himself a man at “the bottom” (a murderer on the run, caring for his father-in-law’s sheep), first encounters God in an ordinary bush that “burns” without being consumed (Exodus 3:2). Moses’ experience is both external and interior, earth-based and transcendent: “Take off your shoes, this is holy ground,” he hears (3:5). Awestruck and fully present, Moses is able to perceive God’s surprising call: “I have heard the groaning of my people in Egypt. You, Moses, are to go confront the Pharaoh and tell him to let my people go” (3:9-10).

Here we have the perfect integration of action and contemplation. First, the contemplative experience comes—the burning bush. Immediately it has social, economic, and political implications. There is no authentic God experience that does not situate you in the world in a different way. You see things differently, and you have the security to be free from your usual loyalties: privilege, position, group, and economy. Yet this transformation has costly consequences. Moses had to leave Pharaoh’s palace to ask new questions and become the liberator of his people.

The Exodus story is the root of all liberation theology, which Jesus then teaches and fully exemplifies (see Luke 4:18-19). It is obvious that he is primarily a healer of the poor and powerless. Liberation theology focuses on freeing people from religious, political, social, and economic oppression (i.e., what Pope John Paul II called “structural sin” and “institutional evil”). [1] It goes beyond just trying to free individuals from their own naughty behaviors, which many people identify as the only meaning of sin. In our individualistic society, structural sin is accepted as good and necessary on the corporate or national level.

Large companies, churches, and governments get away with and are even applauded for killing (war), greed, vanity, pride, and ambition. The capital sins are rewarded at the corporate level but shamed at the individual level. This is our conflicted Christian morality!

Instead of legitimating the status quo, liberation theology tries to read history and the Bible not from the side of the powerful, but from the side of the pain. Its beginning point is not sin management, but “Where is the suffering?”

The world tends to define poverty and riches simply in terms of economics. But poverty has many faces—weakness, dependence, and many forms of humiliation. Essentially, poverty is a lack of means to accomplish what one desires or needs, be it lack of money, relationships, influence, power, intellectual ability, physical strength, freedom, or dignity.

God hears the cry of the poor. And we, created in God’s image and likeness, must do the same to be like God.”


[1] Pope John Paul II’s encyclical Sollicitudo Rei Socialis (On Social Concern, December 30, 1987) presents his thoughts in detail: http://w2.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_jp-ii_enc_30121987_sollicitudo-rei-socialis.html.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, Gospel Call for Compassionate Action (Bias from the Bottom) in CAC Foundation Set (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2007), CD and MP3 download; and
Job and the Mystery of Suffering: Spiritual Reflections (The Crossroad Publishing Company: 1998)126.

What are signs of low emotional intelligence?


„Emotional intelligence (EQ), according to , refers to the capability of an individual to identify and control her and others’ emotions. is considered to manifest itself in three skills: emotional awareness, relationship management and self-management.

R. Boyatzis and D. Goleman found 12 domains (4 each) specifying and elucidating skills defining EQ.

Here are the signs of low EQ, according to 4 different sources, (I chose the primary ones, hopefully, objectively)

  1. Not apologizing. Your ego stands on your way of admitting your fault and making another person feel better. Which one is more important? Your ego, or someone else’s well being?
  2. Internal drive toward pessimism and almost nonexistent problem-solving skills during hard times.
  3. Lack of interest in people.
  4. Not being judicious and prudent in recognizing people, their character, strengths and weaknesses.
  5. Lack of empathy.
  6. Not being able to handle criticism without anxiety, blame, or excuses.
  7. Missing cues from people around, not being attentive to details about people’s personalities and their reactions to you.
  8. Inclination towards being manipulated, particularly by ideologies or people focusing on your personal problems.
  9. Not praising people who deserve it. Being resentful in some way or another.
  10. Not being grateful for things you do or don’t have.
  11. Lack of emotional self-control. Well, that one was obvious.
  12. Lying. People with high EQ not only don’t lie, but also don’t sugarcoat the truth. Once a wise man said: “Hurt me with the truth, but never comfort me with the lie”. This quote is personally valuable to me and so true. By being almost disrespectfully truthful, you might hurt a man for a day or two, but by lying to him, you will hurt him for life.”


Timothy Snyder on Tyranny in the 20th Century


Professor Timothy Snyder talked about lessons learned from the rise of tyrannical regimes in several countries in the 20th century, as well as how those lessons could be applicable in the present.
„History does not repeat, but it does instruct”.
„In politics, being deceived is no excuse” (Leszek Kulakovski)
Subtitles that can be taken as a piece of advice. Very precious… and common sense.
  1. Do not obey in advance
  2. Defend institutions.
  3. Beware the one party state
  4. Take responsibility for the face of the world.
  5. Remember professional ethics.
  6. Be wary of paramilitaries
  7. Be reflective if you must be armed.
  8. Stand out
  9. Be kind to our language
  10. Believe in truth
  11. Investigate
  12. Make eye contact and small talk
  13. Practice corporeal politics
  14. Establish a private life
  15. Contribute to good causes
  16. Learn from peers in ather countries
  17. Listen for dangerous words
  18. Be calm when the unthinkable arrives
  19. Be a patriot
  20. Be as courageous as you can…

Cartea a fost deja tradusa în romana. Cf http://www.lapunkt.ro/2018/05/info-timothy-snyder-pamantul-negru-holocaustul-ca-istorie-si-avertisment/

Educate the Heart

“The Earth is our home, and our home is on fire,” the Dalai Lama says. Global warming has become the poster child, but there are eight global systems that support life on our planet, each of which sustains continual damage from daily human activities. The range of ways to help here range from eliminating petroleum-based plastics from our lives and the supply chain, to demanding clean air.

Oppose Injustice.

The very social order creates structural inequities. Working together to eliminate them can create a better future for everyone.

A More Humane Economics.

The growing gap between rich and poor, the Dalai Lama says, seems a “moral crime.” This gap has been at play, for instance, in the debate about health insurance – on many other countries health care is a universal right, not just for those who can pay. A humane economics means finding avenues to lessen the rich-poor gap.

Help those in need.

This one seems a no-brainer. But the ways to enact such help include not just giving direct aid – like a handout to a homeless person – but also helping them help themselves – for example, job training.

Educate the Heart.

The world’s future is in the hands of our children. An education that includes mindfulness and caring will give the young tools to naturally act toward a better society.

Finally, act now, in whatever way you are called to. Otherwise the toxic forces at loose today will define our time. But each of us acting in our own way can together create a stronger force for good.

Daniel Goleman, Ph.D., is the author of Emotional Intelligence and Social Intelligence: The New Science of Human Relationships. Working as a science journalist, Goleman reports on the brain and behavioral sciences for The New York Times.


In memoriam Claude Steiner, 1935-2017


  1. I. Place love at the center of your emotional life. Heart-centered emotional intelligence empowers everyone it touches.
  2. Love yourself, others and truth in equal parts. Never sacrifice one to the other.

III. Stand up for how you feel and what you want. If you don’t, it is not likely that anyone else will.

  1. Respect the ideas, feelings and wishes of others as much as you do your own.Respecting ideas does not mean that you have to submit to them.
  2. Emotional Literacy requires that you not lie by omission or commission. Except where your safety or the safety of others is concerned, do not lie.
  3. Emotional Literacy requires that you do not power play others. Gently but firmly ask instead for what you want until you are satisfied.

VII. Do not allow yourself to be power played. Gently but firmly refuse to do anything you are not willing to do of your own free will.

IIX. Apologize and make amends for your mistakes. Nothing will make you grow faster.

  1. Do not accept false apologies. They are worth less than no apologies at all.
  2. Follow these commandments according to your best judgment. After all, they are not written in stone.


(c) 1998 Claude M. Steiner PhD.


Din „Cartea cometelor”


For a counterpart from across the precipice between the pre-scientific and scientific worlds, see French artist and astronomer Étienne Léopold Trouvelot’s stunning astronomical drawings created three centuries later at the Harvard Observatory, then let Sagan and Druyan take us out:

Comets may act as the creators, the preservers, and the destroyers of life on Earth. A surviving dinosaur might have reason to mistrust them, but humans might more appropriately consider the comets in a favorable light—as bringers of the stuff of life to Earth, as ocean-builders, as the agency that removed the competition and made possible the success of our mammalian ancestors, as possible future outposts of our species, and as providers of a timely reminder about large explosions and the climate of the Earth.

A comet is also a visitor from the frigid interstellar night that constitutes by far the greatest part of the known universe. And a comet is, further, a great clock, ticking out decades or geological ages once each perihelion passage, reminding us of the beauty and harmony of the Newtonian universe, and of the daunting insignificance of our place in space and time. If, by chance, the period of a bright comet happens to be the same as a human lifetime, we invest it with a more personal significance. It reminds us of our mortality.

Public domain images courtesy of Open Repository Kassel