Friday, June 20, 2008

Americans are stupid. I’m sorry but it’s true.

Yeshiva guys are taught to “think” by learning tiny passages of Gemara for weeks and months. They ask whatever absurd questions come to mind and force interpretations based in their wild imaginations. They dissect Rashi, Tosafos, and then, with the aid of their kovetz meforshim, they dissect some more. It’s a huge mess, and the most stupid questions are thought of as the most genius. Yeshiva Bochurs are learning to think creatively, at best, insanely, at worst. Such a crying shame. I can’t tell you how many times I was told by my rebbeim, “You have to learn to think.” And of course the way to do this was by logging a 900 hours with Reb Chaim’s nonsense on the Rambam.

I remember I used to just learn Rambam straight, without even the Kesef Mishneh. People thought I was trying my hand at Brisker Chidushim but I was just learning Rambam for some relative clarity regarding halacha.

The main goal of a yeshiva guy is to think of chidushim and knock out kashes. It is constant creative\insane thinking, never coming to any conclusions, constant mental struggle with ancient texts and later interpretations that have little rhyme or reason.

What is very frustrating to me is that there are so many lies out there. You get out of religion only to find yourself surrounded by yet more lies which are in turn surrounded by more still. What is at the source of all this and how can you find the grains of truth amongst all the chaff of falsehood and deceit?

Each day, a realization is creeping over me like an oncoming storm. Every so often I feel a few scattered drops of rain and a glimpse of its truth drops like bird dung on my face.

I refuse to believe it, because I don’t want to.

Critical thinking should be a mandatory subject in every school, everywhere. It is a human being’s best protection against all the lies that are out there floating around like airborne viruses, lies, which range from harmless rumors to religious and political fraud.

But candy is good and the more you eat it the less you want real food. We are polluting our minds with ridiculous religion, political propaganda, and awful amusement. If someone suggests that you read a book, learn about science, or think critically, we are repulsed, as if there is a cultural taboo against intellectual pursuits. Scientists are Satan’s workers and academics are amoral and heartless. So how can a convincing case be made for critical thought? A dry statement of facts and statistics will not convince anyone. We are emotional animals.

Can we take critical thought and inject it with high fructose corn syrup to make it user friendly? Can we make an emotive movie that will make people want to think for themselves? Can we instill analytical lyrics into pop/rock and hip hop and rhythm and blues? How can we turn scientists and intellectuals into the celebrities of today? How can we make people care about being stupid? How can we demonize conscious ignorance and superstition? These are questions that bother me.