| Sunday, February 15, 2009

I recently met a dude that makes a distinction between life and work, between working and living. I thought it an odd distinction. Don't we need to work to live or at least isn't working part of life? This same dude, will stop you dead in your tracks if you try to talk about work around him. For example, I was recently at a bar and a friend from work started talking to me about something that came up at work, and the guy says, "Woe! Time out... You guys get paid to talk about this at work. Lets take some time here and live a little." I started talking about another deal with another guy about 10 minutes later and the guy quickly cut that conversation off as well, saying something about life and living and not talking about work when you're supposed to be living. (For the record, this dude is great and went on to apologize for his reactions. My intention is not to make him look anything but positive.)

I used to make a similar distinction, but I called it Work and Not Work. Work was a necessary evil, and you did it for as little as you needed, the rest of your time being spent doing stuff you enjoy, whatever that may be. You had friends at work and friends from not work and only spent time with your friends at work when you were at work. There was a completely separate world with completely different people outside of work and never did you mix the two worlds.

But that's changed recently. Even though I've loved the place I work and the people there since the beginning, for a long time I was working under the assumption that I should keep my work life separate from my not work life. But I quickly started working more then the bare minimum of hours, and I'm gradually getting more comfortable socializing with the guys at work outside of work. That black and white distinction between work and not work has blurred and now I just live life, part of which is working. I don't try to keep my friends separate, or even draw to thick of a line between working and non-working hours.

So for all those that still have a job or haven't retired yet, do you believe in the work and not work dichotomy?

| Sunday, February 8, 2009

Rebbe Nachman of Breslov talked a lot about talking to God in your own language. He felt it was the key to a vibrant relationship with God. I don't find talk about God to be fruitful for me, but I do find the practice of being by yourself and just talking your heart out to be therapeutic and a useful tool to working through your thoughts. I find this practice especially enjoyable when done in the meadows and forests. Unfortunately, the weather doesn't permit this, and its hard enough for me to make it to the gym, let alone setting aside time to meditate.

There are several types of meditation and I find this form to be the most relaxed and the easiest. I've always wanted to engage in Buddhist style meditation, but its so abstract and takes awhile till you feel like you're actually doing something.

The thing is, you feel insane at times, just sitting there, having animated conversations with yourself. Isn't talking to yourself the mark of a crazy man? But I figure that as long as no one sees me, and I'm not walking through the streets mumbling to myself, no one will know the difference.

Does anyone out there practice any serious form of meditation? Yeshivish Atheist mentioned it. Does he care to share some techniques and experiences?


Not sure why, but I think that this is a cool holiday. It can't be too bad, as it is all about drinking wine and eating exotic fruits.

Tu b'shvat was made more significant because of the mystic Rabbi Isaac Luria. Mysticism has an odd attraction to me, even now. I don't believe in other worlds, though String theory, and some respectable philosophical traditions, seem to point to other dimensions that may be similar to that which mystical traditions hope for. But, like most things, I can't take it too seriously. Its fun to think about, nonetheless.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I like forests, and so having a Jewish holiday in their honor is nice. I'm not a tree hugger, (ok... Maybe just a little bit) but I do like trees. They can be so beautiful, and thinking about the potential of the mighty towering oak, contained in the acorn is inspiring and mind boggling. Its a comfortable metaphor that speaks to me. Though, there are other metaphors that might be more incredible, there's something about acorns and oaks that hits home.

So in honor of the trees, drink some wine and partake of their fruits and think of the beauty in having a delicious prepared food that's good for your health and brings delight to your taste buds. Oh, and plant one, or at least try to conserve them, as they are good for the environment which is quickly deteriorating. Not like I'll be doing any of that but it sounds responsible.

P.S. What do you think of the new layout?

| Thursday, February 5, 2009

Evanstonjew pointed out that many linger with Orthodoxy, even after they have forsaken many of the beliefs, because they lack intellectual capital in other subjects. I could go on and on about how I was robbed by my upbringing but that would go against the title and my desire to move on with life.

But beginnings are tough and investing in new intellectual capital takes time. I have interests in Rorty, and other western thinkers, some Taoist and Buddhist thought, but it's all very new for me. I LOVE jazz and take advantage of listening to it at nearly any chance I get. I'm a big fan of forests, mountains, and bodies of water. But I don't know much about these things and worse I don't have any one to talk to or share experiences with.

Occasionally I'll get into conversations with old friends about some sugia in the Gemara, or other Torah subject, and I'll get a glimpse of remembrance of the geshmak of lernen. At times like this I wonder if I'd regret forgetting the Torah that I've learned. But I'm not sure if I'm willing to spend the time necessary. I have a lot of new things that I'd like to learn... new subjects that I feel will better suit my new views on things and offer suited intellectual stimulation. All my friends were Orthodox Jews, mostly pretty Hareidi in belief, and they aren't the first candidates for a discussion on Rorty or Zen. Finding people that like to have these conversations isn't easy. 

Then there's Judaism in general. Do I want to make something of it? Is it something that I'll do for the holidays and forget about it the rest of the time? Sometimes I feel an obligation to make something of Judaism, to take being a Jew seriously, but then I wonder if it's worth the trouble. Seeing Judaism as defined by anything other than Hareidi-ism is difficult for me. I recently started reading a few progressive Orthodox blogs. They are interesting, but I keep thinking, "That's not right... Rishon X or se'if y from the Shulchan Arukh clearly says not like that!" I enjoy Rabbi Rami's blog but he is cynical about a meaningful worthwhile Judaism surviving into the next few generations. I can't help but agree. I'm not sure Judaism the religion is or will be seen as anything but out of touch and folky to the majority of Jews, which is making an already waning Jewish Culture fade into obscurity or antiquity all the more quickly. Additionally, it's hard enough for me to socialize... Do I need the added stigma of taking Judaism seriously? Not that I'm embarrassed of being a Jew... Chalila! But I feel that if I do, I'll be limiting my social circle, and finding a comfortable social circle is hard enough. Not sure why I feel this way about Judaism and not philosophy or Zen but I do. I feel that if I'm fortunate to marry a good Jewish maidele, I'll be more motivated to stimulate my mind with Judaism and make it a motivating part of my life. Until then, I don't see Judaism becoming significantly more attractive.

My views on life are constantly evolving and I'm comfortable and happy about that. But I wish I could download all the important literature that's been written over that past couple thousand years into my brain while I sleep, so I could start thinking about it and writing about it. Beginnings

By the way, this is my one hundred and first post. Mamesh Hashgacha ;-)


After putting up a test post from my phone, I got to thinking that maybe this will change the dynamics of this blog. Maybe I'll start doing some short blog posts with random thoughts and still go for some more thoughtful and longer posts a few times a month.

Do any of my fellow bloggers use this tool? Any tips, advice?

BTW, this post was also sent from my phone!

| Tuesday, February 3, 2009

This post was inspired by Material Maidel's and OTD's recent posts.

People that grew up in cults and escape tend to be angry at their former lifestyle, especially if they are still stuck in it or still have to have constant contact with it, because of family, friends etc. Those outside of that cult usually find such anger to be justified.

However, there comes a point where even many of the those outside the cult start to lose sympathy. The justification starts to get past it's expiration date and turns sour, making such anger, or other painful emotions, sound more and more childish, more and more like whining and immaturity. Your fellow escapees may put a longer expiration date on your feelings, but even some of them start to get frustrated, especially if they have found the courage and strength to move on, forget and/or make progress with their lives.

The expiration date on the justification of your feelings varies from person to person and from situation to situation.

Till now I've only written about justification for your feelings. There are other aspects, such as whether criticism is justified, what kinds of criticism are effective and for whom.

I'm for free speech, even if it isn't intelligent, even if it's coming from an angry guy in his early 20s, even if it's incessant and obnoxious. Like OTD says, "If you don't like it, don't read it."

Are criticisms effective? Effective on whom and what kind of effect? These are all very interesting questions that are worthwhile looking into. I don't think that my earlier militaristic style along the lines of "Fundies are ignorant fools that piss in their pants or stick their heads in the sand in the face of modern Science," is very effective in opening the minds of fundamentalists to criticisms of their faith. It may be effective as a sort of anger therapy for the author of the blog and fellow angry escapees but I feel that it's best to move on with life. The therapy starts to turn into bitch sessions and instead of venting your anger, it digs you deeper and deeper into an emotional ditch that gets harder and harder to escape from. Of course there are those that may be comfortable there. I don't think that's a healthy place to be, but maybe that's just me.

I think that a more conversational style of criticism is effective in getting people from other points of view to consider your own. Aggression tends to build stronger, more sound proof walls in communication. It tends to drain your arguments of positive effects and they tend to turn into self rationalizations and self justifications using the accuracy of your own imagination as the only axiom.