Monday, January 07, 2008


...I posted the "Philosophy Roundup" not too long ago because I am getting tired of spitting into the wind and wanted to talk about something else for a while. But a couple of the aphorisms, statements, whatever you want to call them have been running around in my mind because of something UOJ wrote lately. The statements are these:

If I believe an idea, it becomes my own.

Most people are able to hold most stories in abeyance, to keep a little distance between the story and their inmost heart. [But for some,] the terrible lie has become the self-story, the tale that you must believe if you are to remain yourself. Few who are captured by such a powerful story are ever able to win free of it...But maybe you know, in some secret place within yourself, that there is another way to survive, a way that you simply haven't found yet.

The inability to move frees me from the obligation to act.

When they say,"If I believe an idea, it becomes my own," it does't mean "my own" as in "I have sole ownership of it," rather it means my own as in, "I have made this idea part of myself and it has become embedded in my worldview."

Clearly, we have made some bad ideas part of our worldview, as UOJ has been shouting from the rooftops, so to speak.

But what is the terrible lie that led to these bad ideas?

UOJ believes that the terrible lie is that we believe our Rabbis and Roshei Yeshivot are equal to Hashem.

I'm not sure that's really it. There are plenty of young people who see hypocrisies every day, plenty of older people who saw things do downhill with their own eyes, and middle aged people who are tired of having to bear the burden of more and more minhagim and are told, when things are in a mess, that it is their own fault because the lack faith or have bad karma from the past misdeeds of someone other than themselves: their father's uncle's yeshiva roommate or whatever. We have largely become jaded but refuse to admit it to ourselves. We all know or know of some petty tyrant here or there, some irrational or even senile inability to understand how the modern world works, and so on, resulting in "advice" that ends up being worse than the original problem.

But in a truly ironic twist of Hashem's wry sense of humour, it actually is our own fault that things are in a mess - not because we have disobeyed or lacked faith in Hashem, rather because we have obeyed and put our faith in the Rabbis instead. Hashem brooks no competition, class.

Which brings us to the last point that's been bothering me: The inability to move frees me from the obligation to act. We seem to have not only added this false premise to our worldview, we positively embrace it as a given.

But which is true, that our situation is in fact so carved in stone that we cannot move (literally or figuratively), or is it really that we choose not to move? Do we decline to act because we genuinely can't, or because we fear the consequences if we do?

I'm inclined to believe that some sort of fear is the basis of the terrible lie that we've been telling ourselves. Is it fear of Hashem? Maybe for some. But I think mostly it is some variant of this: fear of being ostracized.

That fear makes us do some truly irrational things. The terrible lie that we tell ourselves is that we believe we have to do these irrational things that alienate our children and our parents, make us accept stringencies that our ancestors never heard of, bankrupt us, take up more and more of our time, make us turn a blind eye to abuse of all sorts, and so on - we really believe we have no choice.

We must reach the point, soon I hope, before everything collapses and is lost, where we can admit ...But maybe you know, in some secret place within yourself, that there is another way to survive, a way that you simply haven't found yet.

The reason so many haven't found it yet is not because it isn't there. It's because they are afraid to look.

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