Thursday, September 15, 2005

Soul Saving - Part II

Part I here.

The conversation with my erstwhile yeshiva friend did not just end that night. He called me up twice more after that. The second time he dived right back in, swinging as hard as he could but sadly, hardly ever making any solid contact.

Not all of his arguments were so terribly weak. Some were ok, but were just so misdirected that even though they made some sense, they really had no bearing on the specific issue being focused on (as best as I could tell). I can't really claim that my defense was so outstanding. For the most part, the assault that I was up against was practically ineffective all on it's own. There were some arguments that I conceded to him, but invariably they were predicated on some presumption that I totally did not agree to. For instance, many of his arguments were preceded by the statement, "Let's say, hypothetically, that you agreed that..."

Very often, when presenting his positions, he would employ a mashal (an analogy) to make his point. On the one hand, I was unsurprised to hear these familiar arguments, as I knew they were standard fare when discussing these topics. On the other hand, this was quite surprising to me, as they were all the same infantile, simplistic analogies that I had heard from rabbeim years ago. Did he really not have anything better to offer than those same tired arguments that were used on us when we were gullible, unthinking high school kids? The very fact that he was utilizing tactics that I knew were straight out of the yeshiva rebbe's playbook made me have even less respect for the ideas he was proposing. (And the fact that I wasn't able to easily squash every one of them made me have even less respect for my own critical thinking abilities.)

I definitely did not mount such a brilliant defense. I didn't perform as impressively as I would have liked. Not that I cared too. I really didn't. I would have liked to, but it didn't really matter that much to me. After all, I hadn't initiated this whole debate. Our dispute did not end with him being overwhelmingly crushed by my dazzling and unassailable logic. I deflected his attacks adequately, but it was by no means a knockout.

All in all, in my opinion, a very sad performance, from all sides involved. Below I share some of the more memorable moments of our sad and pathetic exchange.

(Disclaimer: It shouldn't be assumed that the quotes I provide from my side of the dialogue fully and accurately reflect my sentiments on the issue being discussed. They are just brief snippets of conversation, meant to draw attention to a particular point, and not wholly representative of my full view on the specific issue.)


DH: I don't think that everything in the Torah is false, but some things definitely are.

EYG: How could you say such a thing? The toirah is kulo emes! If you believe parts of it are true, then obviously all of it is true! It can't be both emes and sheker!

(Could I have asked for a better example of The Black & White Principle?)


DH: I really don't have time to keep talking about this endlessly. I have to hang up already.

EYG: No, wait! Don't hang up!

DH: I really don't have time for this! You've kept me on the phone for 2 hours already!

EYG: But what if I was offering you a chance to get a million dollars? Wouldn't you give me another 15 minutes for the chance to get a million dollars? Wouldn't you?!


At one point I tried taking the offensive a bit:

DH: You know, you keep claiming that I should try out torah and mitzvos again, that I should speak to people that have answers to my questions, that I'm throwing away what's important, etc. Well, I'll tell you what: I'll do that if you do something for me. I want you to speak to people that will show you the problems in your beliefs. People that will clearly demonstrate the falsity of so much of your way of thinking and way of life. Okay? How about it?

EYG: Well, the Rambam says that a person shouldn't discuss certain inyanim unless he's ra'ui (fit) to understand them properly.....

DH: So basically you're saying that you're not interested in discovering truth. You know exactly where the answers lie. But you're only allowed to search them out if you're trusted to end up where they want you to. Is that right? Have you ever heard of intellectual honesty?

EYG: Um, no. But I think I understand what it means.


EYG: Do you find yourself happier now than when you were frum?

DH: Yes. I really think so.

EYG: I think the real reason you think you're happier now is because as the gemara says, "Mayim g'nuvim yimtaku." Stolen waters are sweeter.

That one really left me speechless! And I still have no idea how I to counter such a brilliant argument! How does one respond to such stupidity? Where to start?


DH: I found that observing many parts of the torah did not provide me with any fulfillment or meaning whatsoever. It does nothing for me. All it contributes to my life is headaches and hassles.

EYG: The toirah promises that following the mitzvos is the best thing for you. If it doesn't seem so good now, that's only because you sometimes have to wait a little before the good part comes. Not all good things come right away. You're only 30 years old! If the richest guy in the world asked you to do a few things for him in exchange for a billion dollars, wouldn't you do it? If he didn't give you the money right away, would you tell him you're not interested in it anymore?! If it got a little difficult at some point, would you just say you don't care anymore?! You'd have to be a meshugene to do that! No?!


Very often when I did give him a point that he didn't know how to answer, he replied with:

EYG: Look, I'm not claiming to be the Godol Hador. (I know that. He is.) I don't have all the answers. But I guarantee you that there are experts out there than can answer your questions. You really should speak to them.


The discussion just kept on going nowhere. He kept coming back to every little point, trying to convince me that my perspective was wrong, that my understanding of torah was wrong, that my questions could be answered, that I was making a mistake, and on and on. Eventually, at the end of our second discussion, I realize that he's not ever going to give up on this. Not until he gets me to admit the error of my ways. So I figure I'll just throw out a ridiculous idea, one which obviously wasn't true but which didn't give any recourse to debate:

DH: You know, you're right. It's not about sfeikos (doubts). I still believe the torah is true. But if I followed the torah then I wouldn't be able to have sex 3 times a day with 15 different women! I'm living the life I am to satisfy my taivos (desires) and give in to my yetzer hara (evil inclination). That's the real truth.

It was quite obvious that I stated this with exaggeration, and it was clearly intended to just send the message of leaving me alone and ending the debate, but the next day, when he calls me up and tries to go at it again, he starts off by telling me that he wants to respond to what I said at the end about the relationships I have.

DH: Huh? (I honestly had no idea what he was talking about.)

EYG: You mentioned about how you have some kind of relationship with certain ladies.....

DH (trying really hard not to laugh): Oh, that! Um, okay. What about it?

(I was really tempted to play dumb and force him to elaborate what he was referring to. It was plainly obvious that the guy was deathly afraid of repeating what I had said and he was probably even uncomfortable with saying the word sex. But I let it go. I'm just too nice.)

And then he goes into this rambling mussar shmuez which sounded something like this:

EYG: I'm not sure if you were serious about what you were saying, but you should know that just because you're oisek in can always do teshuva.....ain tzadik b'aretz asher loi yecheta......everyone gets involved in chatoyim.....hashem is noisein yad lapoyshim.....especially now that it's elul.....yoim kippur is mechaper on all sorts of aveirois.....

It went on for quite a while until I told him he was wasting his time again. But it was really something to hear!


After lamely sparring with each other for over an hour over various intellectual issues which I feel give one a basis for doubting every ikkar of today's accepted frum hashkafa, I finally tell the poor guy that he's just totally barking up the wrong tree. First of all, his arguments are entirely unconvincing. But more importantly, these issues really are not the crux of why I've chosen to live the way that I am. So even if he was somehow effective in his presentation, it wouldn't really matter. The path I've chosen in my life is not (primarily) due to any of these intellectual issues.

DH: Enough already with all these irrelevant and abstract issues! First of all, you've clearly demonstrated to me that you have no freaking idea what you're talking about in any of these areas. So please, please, shut up already. (At this point in the conversation my patience has begun to wear thin and I'm getting kind of snappy.) Secondly, it really doesn't matter to me one way or another.

EYG: What do you mean? Don't you care about the emes?

DH: Caring about the emes is not the issue. People aren't frum because they believe the torah is true. Yes, I know that's why they claim they're frum. But it's not the real reason. You need to understand that the reason people choose to live their lives a certain way is not solely because of logic and truth. It's a combination of factors involving beliefs, community norms, personal values, familial and social expectations, trust in the system, lifestyle choices, education, indoctrination, and other complex factors.

Understandably, this idea offended him a bit. Frum people like himself are fiercely proud of the fact that they are living their lives out of a heartfelt devotion to the truth. He asked me to amend my comment by saying, "For some people, the choice is based on these factors." Fine, I really don't care if he agrees with me or not. I'm trying to help the guy out by giving him a better understanding of why I am the way I am, and he's telling me he doesn't like my perspective. Amazing.

So this drags us into another pointless debate which has him bringing out proofs from rishonim, pesukim, gemaras, all sorts of stuff that I just am totally not interested in. Eventually, I've had enough and tell him he's barking up the wrong tree again.

DH: Look, you obviously have no idea what you're doing here. You don't understand that pesukim, rishonim, the Rambam, gemaras, the Rashba, R' Shach, or whoever it is - they're irrelevant to me. I have no interest in what they have to say. None whatsoever. If you want to convince me of anything it's not going to happen by bringing me proofs from torah sources. I'm living as I am because it works for me. I'm happy. I feel I have more genuine joy, achievement, goodness, meaning and fulfillment in my life this way than what you are proposing to me. If you want me to give this up, you have to show me you're offering me something better. Not something that has proofs that it's true! I'm always interested in improving my life. If you think you have something that can do that for me, I'm willing to hear about it. You need to approach me as someone who knows nothing about torah, does not care what rabbis have to say, and am only motivated by my own enlightened self-interest.

(Basically at this point, I'm giving him advice on how to better present his case to me!)

EYG: I hear what you're saying. I hear you. (...thinks to himself for a little while...) Okay, so can you tell me what you're looking for in life? What is it that you want?

DH: You've got to be kidding me, right?! You're trying to sell me something, claiming that it's so great, will fulfill my greatest desires, and you don't have any idea what my desires are! How can you even believe that torah will give me what I want if you have no idea what it is that I want?

He tried to appeal to me from this angle, but as I suspected would happen, it was an even more dismal case than his intellectual one. The presumption that a frum person obviously has a better life than anyone not frum is so ingrained and so taken for granted by a person with his outlook that he really has no idea how to even broach the subject with someone who disputes it.


I tried (unsuccessfully) getting him to realize that I'm a big boy and do not need his help:

DH: Why can't you just leave me alone already? Don't you understand that I'm not a kid? I'm an intelligent, responsible adult that is entitled to make his own decisions about his life. My choices in my life are none of your business.

EYG: Well, imagine if you had a friend who wanted to commit suicide. Wouldn't you want to help him out? What if he really believed it was the right thing for himself? Would you just leave him be to hurt himself like that?


I tried another tactic:

DH: The fact that you know nothing about life outside your constricted world should make you realize that you are not qualified to speak about these things. How can you judge another person's life, or values, or choices if you don't have the slightest inkling or appreciation for what may bring a person to such conclusions?

EYG: Well, what about terrorists? You know about terrorists?

DH: Huh?

EYG: There are terrorists all over the world. Ready to kill other people. To blow themselves up. To hijack airplanes and smash them into the twin towers. To shoot innocent Jews. To go into a restaurant with a bomb strapped to their waist. To teach others hatred. To...

(He keeps going on with his analogy for a few minutes, until I interrupt him and tell him to make his point already.)

EYG: Well, don't you think they're wrong? Can't you think they're wrong even though you don't understand what it is that makes them do what they do? They claim that what they're doing is right, based on their values and understanding, so is it then ok with you?


There was so much more. But I think it's finally over. At the end of his third phone call, I think I finally got the message across that nothing he has said to me has had any positive effect whatsoever. In his own words:

EYG: I see that there's no pesach in your mind for discussion...

DH: Huh? Pesach? What does Pesach have to do with anything?

EYG: Not Pesach as in the yontif. A pesicha. An opening. There's no opening in your mind...

I implored him once again to please drop the whole subject, to just stop calling me already and to leave me be. Hopefully, he'll listen to me and finally leave me alone. Even if he does, I know there's still hope for me, because before saying goodbye, he asked me my Jewish name (as in the name to use when davening for me), so when I finally hung up the phone, I did so secure in the knowledge that maybe one day, with enough siyata d'shmaya and heartfelt prayer, my soul may still be saved.


Anonymous said...

If you are willing to accept the concept of "lo bashamayim hi" then even if there are parts of the Torah/mesora whose veracity you question, you should be willing to observe the entire package. You may call it Orthoprax but I think it is a legitimate approach.

The Hedyot said...

I never disputed whether it's a legitimate approach.

I guess you didn't understand one of main points to him: My choice is not based primarily on any ideological or theological positions that I may or may not agree with.

The Rabbi's Kid said...


If he calls back tell him never to go into Kiruv, he'll be doing us all a favor.

I do believe there are Orthodox people who claim to be searching for the truth, unafraid of questions, challenges, modernity and post-modernity. They are my models.


Anonymous said...

Assuming that you accept that "lo bashamyaim hi and lo tasur" are authentic and binding. Most people are uncomfortable with the idea of being admittedly hypocritical. My point was that if you feel that way then accepting the truth of some parts of the Torah would obligate you to observe all of it even if you are unconvinced as to the authenticity of the entirety.

RuchniGashmi said...

I read your last two posts over and over again, as I saw so many similarities in my thoughts to this guys tactics- when I was about 12 years old. I like your blogs in general and I respect your ability to portray your thoughts so accurately. I don't want you to take this in a way that sounds "kiruv-oriented" and so I've been debating about whether or not I should write this next sentence. It warms my heart that you are not adverse to the idea of one day having your "soul saved" and that you have a keen understanding of why you are living the lifestyle you are now and one day you may find the beauty that a few others have found living an "orthodox lifestyle".

Anonymous said...

Hi Hedyot, I have been reading your blogs for a while now - I admire your articulation and ability to express.. it seems that in your earlier messages you presented a much more "moderately right" view and of late you have definitely been leaning way over to the left. This is not an accusatory query; just wondering if I'm missing something...?

The Hedyot said...

>it seems that in your earlier messages you presented a much more "moderately right" view and of late you have definitely been leaning way over to the left.

If you're drawing that conclusion from the last 2 posts, you shouldn't. Read the disclaimer I put at the top.

If not, please give specific examples and I'll address them.

satyaman said...

>>>>EYG: I think the real reason you think you're happier now is because as the gemara says, "Mayim g'nuvim yimtaku." Stolen waters are sweeter.>>>

Start by making the equivalent statement (you’ll have to do your own research) used by Christians when dealing with non-believers. Obviously one could make an equivalent comment for any belief system-Christianity, Islam, Hinduism; they all have their pithy statements ascribing selfish motives or week emotional states to those who buck the established dogma. His statement, itself, is empty, and it assumes to be true (torah is emes or cheredi version is emes) what has not been proven to be true (historical and scientific errors-flood being the strongest piece of evidence).

Alan Scott said...

So I understand the dynamic going on in this story a little better, What is your actual practice/belief status right now? Non-observant? Non-Orthodox? Modern Orthodox? Buddhist? Atheist?

And how accurate was the impression you gave the "soul-saver" about that?

The Hedyot said...

>What is your actual practice/belief status right now? Non-observant? Non-Orthodox? Modern Orthodox?

Jewish ideology, philosophy, and theology is complex and nuanced. It isn't a single big idea that can be summarized in one sentence. I have lots of different ideas about lots of different issues.

The issue of actual practice is also not a simple one. Am I considered observant if I keep the commandments because I like them but am not committed to them or believe them to be true? What about if I don't do most of them out of laziness, but I do believe they I should? What if I keep the general outlines, but not all the various minutia?

And how accurate was the impression you gave the "soul-saver" about that?

The impression he got of me was limited by his own narrow viewpoint. His lack of understanding the issues properly prevented him from asking the right questions.

mushroomjew said...

If EYG calls again, you can give him another name to daven for:
Menachem Dov Berl ben Leah
Seriously though, I admire you for engaging in this dialog with him. You probably gained a better appreciation and confidence in the decisions that you have made due to your needing to articulate them to EYG. He sounds like so many people I have spoken to who also tried to "save my soul". EYG must be a masochist because those people usually stop trying to missionize once they realize that the "kiruvee" actually knows what they're talking about.
If EYG has any intellectual honesty he'll actually start to look into the issues you brought up. Otherwise, most likely, he'll just return to his comfortable Kollel island where everyone thinks like him.

Ezzie said...

It's great to see that you are intellectually honest. Though I may disagree with your conclusions, I understand your points; I'd also venture that you need (well, I should say 'should') speak to someone more knowledgable than this guy [who clearly did not know how to handle someone who rejects faith-based arguments]. At one point in Israel (and to this day in the back of my head on a consistent basis) I think along similiar lines; but I also remember the arguments others made to me, and find them to be far more logical.
On the other hand, I am curious how truly open you are to a decent logical argument; you say you are, and seem to be - but that can be deceiving as well.
Using intellectual honesty... do you yourself think you're truly open to arguments that might 'bring you back'?

Ezzie said...

Oops. I should have read Part I first...
Nevertheless, I'm still curious how open you'd be. (and I'm not auditioning to do so)

mnuez said...

"Hey guys! This crazy lives-in-a-box frummie kept calling me to try and help me see the light! HA! I laughed so hard! HA! HA! Check out what the moron had to say..."

And all the frummie boys sing...

Hey daas, hey daas...

Then again, you gotta credit 'em all with Ahavat Yisrael in trying to help you out according to what they think will save your soul. - Then again, that's kinna what Torquemada said too while trying to get unzere bobbes to tchiva-tein by driving spikes through their backs. So hey, I guess it's all a matter of perspective...

Oh, and by the way, I'll tell you the problem that I personally have with conversations of this sort - Y'see the fella on the other side has a good deed to do by saving my soul but (unless he's an asshole and I don't give a fuck about him) I feel that no one has anything to gain by my giving him sfeikas.

For the life of me I can't see how giving a maimion b'emunah sheleimah any sfeikas could help them out. I mean in most cases at least.

And so, I generally tell them that I have nothing to gain by arguing with them and so allow them to think that I have nothing to say.

But who cares? - Come to think of it, that's real ahavat yisrael ;-)

Tell ya the truth. I was just recently forced to engage in this sorta cop-out in an email exchange with a chick in the shtachim. Maybe I'll post a bit of the matter on my blog - but probably not.

Who's lookin' for readers??

The Hedyot said...

> I am curious how truly open you are to a decent logical argument; you say you are, and seem to be - but that can be deceiving as well.

No. I never claim to be open to intellectual arguments, at least in the sense that a convincing one would get me to change. All the intellectual debate that I had with this guy was merely becasue that's what he was focusing on. But as I said (to him even), I don't really care about intellectual issues all too much.

My choice is an emotional/social one, motivated more by my personal aspirations than by an adherence to abstract philosophical truth. If anyone convinced me that my dreams could be better achieved through a different lifestyle, then I'd consider pursuing it, but if all they can prove to me is that the other lifestyle is "more true" than I don't really care too much.

When the traffic light turns green, the truth is you should be moving, but if there's a semi coming through the intersection, you stay where you are, regardless of how compelling the "truth" is.

(my turn for silly analogies)

The Hedyot said...

> You probably gained a better appreciation and confidence in the decisions that you have made due to your needing to articulate them to EYG.

Sadly, not much. Because his presentation was so weak, it really didn't compel me to defend myself very hard.

The Hedyot said...

> I'd also venture that you need (well, I should say 'should') speak to someone more knowledgable than this guy

I don't see the merit in this argument. Why do people always say this? Do believers subject themselves to serious challengers before settling on their choices? If, as so many people claim, they are making choices based purely on logic, then that would seem to be the intellectually honest approach.

The reality is that most people who settle on religious ideals (even those, probably especially those, who at some stage in life have doubts) do so after hearing only strong arguments in favor. They discuss the issues with their rabbeim, not with atheist philosophers or catholic priests or evolutionary biologists. I don’t think that this is wrong. But it demonstrates that they already had some other (e.g. emotional) inclination to be convinced in this way, and when they ended up on that side of the debate, it was not based solely on pure logic, but because underlying the logic, it satisfied some other, more basic longing.

VOS IZ NEIAS said...

keep it up, good job

outside-in said...

Mr Hedyot,

I find your stuff interesting, and and your dealings with your well intended former classmate are enjoyable to read about (rather than excrutiating to actually expeirience).

I have an interesting thought though. You "friend" who wants to "save" you. Perhapps he really wants you to save him. This is a common thing in Kiruv - people try to save someone to help save themselves. (That is the whole way Aish works in some places - especially Israel).

While your friend does not seem to suffer from emunah problems, (he seems distraught by the cracks in your emunah) maybe he has other issues. Perhaps he is unhappy with life and wants someone to discuss it with who is not closed in. Perhaps he has a difficult question he would like to discuss with you.

His chasing you up for this many years is different to normal Jewish kiruv practice (probably closer to Morman practice) so maybe there is something more.

Of course whether you wish to open his can of worms is up to you.

Anonymous said...

I'm honestly surprised that you're willing to admit to yourself that you live the way you do without regard to the truth. I agree with you that many people unconsciously do indeed base their actions on social implications, personal pleasure etc. However, to admit to yourself that you don't care if your behavior is contrary to truth is somehat astounding.

You're basically saying that you do what you want simply because it makes you feel better. If you really believe this, I hope you'd have no problem with a serial murderer who tells you that killing people gives him a tremendous sense of fulfillment. It's possible that you would have no problem with such a person. I just want to clarify for you that this is one of the logical conclusions of your manner of thinking. Therefore, realize that if you accept the dogma of "it makes me feel good" you also have to accept the serial killer of my example. Are you comfortable doing so?

Besides for the above problem, don't you think that humans have brains for a reason? Should we really just act like animals that do whatever pleases them? Surely, someone has probably told you this before, but what you are espousing is hedonism. I hope you realize this and are comfortable with it.

To go back, to say that truth doesn't matter is, to say the least, astounding. (Not that caring for the truth would automatically lead you to G-d, but at least, it would be a beginning. Very few great men in history have agreed with this (Jewish and not -- Plato and Aristotle were devoted to the discovery of the truth. I use them only as examples. Almost everyone deeply believes in something). Are you comfortable going against the wisdom of the ages?

And can someone really live a meaningful just satisfying his desires and whims without regard to the truth? Do you really think so? I have a hard time believing that you do.

At least, a hundred years ago, people became irreligious for ideological reaons (communism, socialism etc.)

Do I really believe with 100% certainty? I can't say I do. But at a very basic level, we have Pascal's wager. Also, as Rabbi I. Epstein points out in his "The Faith of Judaism," one can't be an agnostic in practice. Either you live one way, or you don't.

Then we have Isaac Breuer's claim, as well as Norman Lamm's, that we only believe by actually doing mitzvos (Lamm) as part of the larger Jewish community (Breuer). (And I wouldn't consider your ex-community a normal Jewish community.) Similar to Epstein is Wurzberger who says we basically have to make a choice whether we want to live a lif with or without G-d. Then there's R. Kook who believed because he basically "felt" G-d. Finally, there's A. J. Heschel who based belief on our wonderous reaction to sunsets etc. which he says either is a calling to G-d (something transcendent in any case) or we're just all suffering from some dimented reaction.

Of corse, we also have all the standard arguments of history etc. I'll admit, my belief is not purely intellectual (although the conglmaration of all the arguments plus the people who made them does have an effect on me) and I have all sorts of other reasons to stay "in" which you don't.

However, whether you take these or leave these, you can't possibly believe that truth doesn't matter. I simply don't believe you live like this and that all your thinking is consistent with this view.

And if you really don't care and think Judaism is unimportant or irrelevant, then stop writing this blog. This blog belies your claim of indifference to Judaism.

I repeat, at a very basic level we have Pascal's wager and the reality that we have to choose one way or another and live with those consequences. (And by the way, don't tell me that you see nothing more fulfilling about a religious lifestyle. Nothing?)

And concerning my R. Kook take, have you never felt in a deeply subjective way, that G-d cared for you? I just throw that in as an aside. Perhaps you didn't and of course, there's that problem with subjectivity.

Anyways, sorry for the lack of complete organization and coherence.

All the best.


Ezzie said...

I don't really care about intellectual issues all too much.
My choice is an emotional/social one, motivated more by my personal aspirations than by an adherence to abstract philosophical truth. If anyone convinced me that my dreams could be better achieved through a different lifestyle, then I'd consider pursuing it, but if all they can prove to me is that the other lifestyle is "more true" than I don't really care too much.

Sorry - these two parts are contradictory, even though I understand both as true: People do not want to follow a lifestyle just because it is true; and people, yourself obviously included, want to find a lifestyle that will make them happy.

By the same token, it is illogical for someone to want to live in a world of untruths, if they want to be truly "happy" or "satisfied" - true satisfaction cannot be obtained when one is living within a lie; it is only a partial satisfaction with the result, not the true satisfaction in how the result came about. Therefore, as much as theoretically the intellectual arguments do not matter to you, if someone did give you an excellent argument you would be inclined to change your ideas - if only because you'd be happier knowing you were living a "truer" path.

And, in response to your silly analogy... The green light is only meant to show you that the road is open. If there's a semi coming, then the green light is meaningless - though the road could be available to you, it is not, because of the semi. Truth, much like the road, are only meaningful if crossed or travelled with the proper care. The truth is not truth just as the road is not clear if there are lies or a semi crossing your path.

As a quick note in regard to your questioning the 'speak to a more knowledgeable person' idea: It comes from the same concept of truth - the greater the level of question you feel comfortable in asking and questioning, and yet still receive an answer to, the greater realization you have of the truth behind it.

ironycal said...

DH - You are clearly in a different league than this fellow... And I wonder why it is that you give him your theological time of day. As an acquaintance and possibly even as a friend this individual may have a lot to offer you... but clearly you have matured into a critical thinker while this friend of yours remains with his childhood dogmas that leave him comfortable and happy.

Regardless of which system of beliefs (or lack thereof) you ultimately settle upon, or continue to travel upon, it is unlikely that you will find many people who can respect your journey, both for where it begun and more importantly for the many sights and insights that it has brought you along the way.

Anonymous said...

This encounter is clearly one where the two of you are speaking from different headspaces, so that it's almost like different languages. And it seems that you "get" him though his way of thinking seems really backward to you, while he has no resources whatsoever to "get" you at all. So you can try to speak his language but he can't hope to understand yours.

This seems to be a clear example of different consciousness levels in action. There is a fascinating discussion of what are termed "Soul Ages" that explain this phenomenon very well at this site:

According to this schema, your friend, along with the community he is comfortable in, sounds clearly like a "Baby Soul". You might find interesting the following quote:

"Preferring to be big fish in small ponds, Baby Souls are often found in small communities. Though the United States is primarily a late-Young early-Mature Soul country, middle America between the two coasts is packed with Baby Souls who prefer life when it is a little simpler. They often emerge as pillars of the community, staunch, upright and unshakable in their beliefs. They become mayor or sheriff, president of the town council or PTA. Because they are interested in organizing and developing the fabric of society with laws, regulations and lines of authority, they are often found in governmental bureaucracies such as schools, hospitals, regulating agencies and so on. When their beliefs are opposed, Baby Souls may become inwardly bewildered. Baby Souls are so sure they are right that they have difficulty comprehending opposition. This is not a self-reflective phase.


Around sexual matters, there is uneasiness and some degree of shame or guilt. This is not a time for hot tub entertaining, but hiding bodies, making love in the dark - probably with pajamas and without great sensuality.

Families, however, feel very good during this period. Raising children (maybe lots), seeing relatives, celebrating holidays, going on family outings and participating in church rituals all make a person feel a solid upstanding part of the community."

I find this material fascinating and I have been trying to make sense of the various parts of the Orthodox (and non-Orthodox) Jewish world using these ideas. If any of you have a look and find it interesting, I would love to hear what you think about these categories and who would fit where.

"Black and white thinking" would clearly fall under Baby Soul consciousness. Young Israel to me sounds and feels like "Young Soul".

You are clearly not a Baby Soul. Whether you are Young, Mature or Old, I wouldn't venture to guess. (Also, true soul age doesn't fully manifest usually until age 35+.)

These ideas may also shed some light on what is going on with the various countries/groups fighting in the Middle East.

Kol tuv,
--Also Not a Baby Soul