Thursday, January 25, 2007

late night rambling

I've been thinking...

Can you imagine ever telling a child that he's an idiot?
That he always messes up?
That he can't do anything right?
That he's slow and always in the wrong place at the wrong time?
That he’s disgusting and repulsive and that no one likes him?
That you hate him?

Most of us would never speak to a child that way and we'd be mortified to hear anyone else treat a child that way. We all know that what you tell a child, is what he will end up believing. You tell him he’s incompetent, and he will turn out to be incompetent. You tell him he's brilliant and beautiful and he will be brilliant and beautiful. A huge part of who we are is created from the feedback and reactions we get from those around us.. Especially those closest to us.

So, what amazes me is how easily we speak to ourselves that way. Everyone will tell you that there is a part of them, inside of them, that has never grown up, that is the exact same fragile and lonely child. A part of them that still wants to be a child and live life fearlessly, that is eager to take chances and push their limits. A vulnerable child that gets easily hurt, insulted, humiliated. The truth is when we speak to ourselves that way, it’s to that child that we are speaking to – who else would take that kind of abuse? That child inside of us that isn’t big enough to protect itself, it's insecure and easily bullied, and unfortunately believes the criticism.

The looking-glass self is a concept in psychology which refers to the way the reactions and perceived judgments of others towards us provide us with feedback about ourselves and through which we develop our sense of self. Our self-image is derived from the interaction between how we see ourselves and how others see us. We incorporate the views of others into our own self image and then act accordingly.

What I wonder though is how much of that do we do with ourselves. We have inside of us a diversity of characters, a rebellious teen, a spoiled child, an insecure lover, a demanding parent.. We analyze our behavior and we wonder how we ever stooped so low, or reached so high, how did we get so aggressive or how did we manage to be so sweet and tender. How does one person manage all those personas? The really incredible aspect of all this is that these different personalities and characters inside of us interact. One will give support to the other, while another brings the other down. One will teach and encourage, while one will confuse and destroy. The real challenge is knowing who to listen to.

Although I’m the first one who will admit to being cruel and insensitive to that weak, insecure inner child of mine, I also realize how detrimental it is to my personal growth and to achieving a satisfactory level of inner peace and contentment. When I visualize myself as an adult speaking to my inner child, I shudder at what I hear. I don’t deserve that kind of harshness, and that fragile inner self of mine definitely cannot handle it.

On the other hand, it amazes me to hear all the nice things people have to say about me, all the flattering feedback I receive. I don’t understand how they can have such a diametrically opposed perception of me than I have of myself. It seems that we choose to hear the feedback we want to hear. It’s much easier to hear negative feedback, to feed our insecurities and to confirm our weaknesses. In a way it gives us the freedom to be lazy, to be negative and cynical. Who wants to try and reach their potential when they can just give up before they even start? When I’m down on myself, I give up, I don’t even bother trying, I let myself wallow in self pity, self hate, self destruction. If I take into consideration the positive feedback I get from others, I feel obligated to try and fulfill their perception of me and its so much harder than just giving up and feeling helpless.

It's amazing how complex we are. We can believe one thing, be aware of why we believe it, understand what others believe, be aware of its effect on us, make a conscious decision to believe another thing and then unconsciously behave according to a different belief. We are so multifaceted and yet simplify our perception of ourselves to fit in with who we want to be.

I don’t know... the whole thing confuses me, amazes me, and overwhelms me..
I've been told I'm way too self absorbed and self-analytical..
hmm what do they know?!

"Society is an interweaving and interworking of mental selves.
I imagine your mind,
and especially what your mind thinks about my mind,
and what your mind thinks about what my mind thinks about your mind.
I dress my mind before yours
and expect that you will dress yours before mine.
Whoever cannot or will not perform these feats is not properly in the game."
(Cooley, Life and the student)

Friday, January 19, 2007

who are your heroes?

i forgot to tag..

*nuch a chosid
*skeptic ben torah
and anyone else who feels like it :)

have a beauteeeeeeeeeeful shabbos boys and girls!

Thursday, January 18, 2007

cheese alert

I’ve been tagged. AGAIN!
Gonzo wants to know who my heroes are.. and, I’ve been avoiding answering for the past couple of days... not because I'm anti-meme, but because I’m a little bit anti-hero..

I fully realize the importance of having people to look up to, people who inspire us and show us human capabilities put into action but, there is something about the idea of a "hero" that bothers me. It's always felt superficial, hypocritical and one dimensional. The Einstein's, Martin Luther King and Madonna’s of the world are no doubt talented people who have accomplished a lot, but to consider them my personal heroes? I just don’t relate to them. They have talents, qualities, abilities that I cant even fathom having, so how can that inspire me? We aren’t made of the same substance. Whatever they’ve accomplished has come at a price that I’m not necessarily ready or able to pay. To judge myself according to their success without taking into consideration their sacrifices is pointless. It’s not an accurate perception and only skews how I view my own capabilities.

I also feel like most typical heroes have accomplished feats which are publicly recognizable and tangible, and those things don’t usually impress me. I have no desire to invent something or to receive the noble prize or to accumulate any kind of material possessions. The kinds of things that impress me are usually things that very few people know, that seem small and unnoticeable or that end up changing the lives of very few.

I can admire certain heroic feats, or heroic qualities, but I can’t say that I have a "hero" - someone I look up to and try to emulate.

I admire people who can hold strong opinions, yet continue to learn and question and even change their views when presented with solid contrary evidence. Intellectual honesty is admirable.

I admire people who were able to hold on to their faith in the face of atrocities and extreme suffering, people who were able to trust their innate connection to G-d and fight to keep it despite the strong temptation to distance themselves.

I admire parents for working tirelessly to build a warm and safe home, for putting their children’s needs before theirs and for teaching strong values such as honesty, empathy, loyalty, and responsibility.

I admire baalei teshuva who not only caught up to their ffb counterparts but surpassed them in knowledge, dedication and character development.

I admire nonconformists who are not afraid of being humble, looked down upon, or made fun of in the name of doing the ”right” thing. I admire people who’ve made the correct moral choices when they could easily have gotten away with doing the wrong thing, people whose barometer of success is a clean conscience.

I admire those make do with little, appreciate what they have, and overcome their sense of despair, frustration and fear.

Despite how corny this sounds, the truth is that when I need to feel inspired and need a boost to get through a difficult time, I will often look back at what I have accomplished myself. I can view my challenges in the context of my life, my abilities, my weaknesses - it seems to be the most accurate. Only when I take all these into consideration can I really evaluate a hero. Since no one else shares these with me.. I guess I have to be my own hero.

hmm.. now I need a cool superhero cape..

Deconstructing the 'Somebody' Mystique :

Why should we demystify somebodies? We love our heroes. We worship geniuses. We're fascinated by celebrities. Why not leave them on their pedestals?

The idea that "somebody knows" is reassuring, comforting. Long before we discover that our parents and teachers are neither omniscient nor omnipotent, we are introduced to historical figures - religious and political leaders, scientists, and artists - who replace them in our adult imaginations. We leave school with the impression that these cultural icons are superhuman, a breed apart that stands in relation to us as we do to chimpanzees.

But excessive fascination with somebodies can interfere with our own mature pursuits of due recognition. Up to a point, role models are useful in this enterprise, and so are heroes. They open our minds to what we might make of ourselves. But if we idealize and romanticize them, or focus on the symbols and rewards of their success we miss the real story.

Instead of simply adulating famous persons, we should try to understand the conditions that allow for their emergence.
This means we must disenthrall ourselves with the somebody mystique. Imitating the hero's lifestyle does not give us his or her powers. Artists who rent garrets in Paris and writers who hang out at the Algonquin Hotel do not thereby further their creative endeavors. When childres play dress-up, they are preparing themselves for adulthood. WHen adults do it, they are mistaking lifestyle for life.

Dispelling the somebody mystique will require the creation of a new
understanding of somebodies. Just as we are weaned from our parents, so we demystify our idols if we are to realize ourselves fully as adults. In neither case does this mean disparagin those upon whom we have been dependent."

Somebodies and Nobodies: Overcoming the Abuse of Rank by Robert W. Fuller

Friday, January 12, 2007

emotional vomit

Sometimes you pray for clarity..
..................................................... and then you get it
but it’s not the answer you were hoping for..
You’re happy because you finally know what He wants from you
but a teeny-weeny you feels frustrated – ‘DON’T TELL ME WHAT TO DO’
You understand that it’s for you’re own good
....................... but you don’t like it
.................................... but you have to
.................................................. but you don’t
In reality you're glad because it’s clearly what’s best for you…
................................................... you remind yourself
But it’s still not the answer you were hoping for..
So you thank Him for the clarity,
for taking care of you,
for guiding you
But you mumble in passive-agressivity that it’s just not the way it was supposed to be..
and hope He will keep answering your prayers,
and keep giving you that clarity..
and mostly hope that you will soon merit the answer you’re looking for
..................................................................... reallysoon..

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

I’m not back .. but..

Have you guys realized how difficult it is to make a commitment these days? Everyone talks about the dating crisis and we all want to be able to explain it and solve it - well here is my attempt.

I think we live in a society where we have lost the ability to commit. In order to get married, you need to make a conscious, clearheaded decision to spend the rest of your life with one person. Every day, for the rest of your life, you will have to see this person, share a house with this person, eat dinner with this person, discuss your life issues with this person, have children with this person, share a mortgage with this person, go on vacation with this person... It’s forever.

(am I the only one getting sweaty palms and heart palpitations just from writing/reading this??)

I was thinking about how people have been picking a mate or getting married throughout history and it's never been a problem as it is today. Why is it so much more difficult for us then it was for them? Didn’t they have the same worries and fears? Weren’t they as commitment phobic as we are? What’s changed between then and now?

When I look at how I live my life today I realize that there is nowhere else and nothing else in my life that requires a strong commitment.

Education is inexpensive, I can get a degree and then decide not to work in that field! Can you imagine anyone doing that 30-50 years ago?! People slaved so they could go to college, it was a commitment.

Someone can start a career in one field and 10 years later decide to switch careers – something unheard of to our parents.

Clothing, we have in bulk. Who worries when buying an article of clothing that they will be “stuck with it” - but our grandparents must have felt that way. If you have two suits, one for the week and one for shabbos, you’re going to have to use your committing skills to buy your suits. They’re there for good! Every day! But we don’t have that problem - how many of us have clothes hanging in our closet that still have the tag attached?

The truth is, many of us don’t even try clothes on in the store anymore, we buy what we like, go home, try it on, and if we don’t like it, we return it. Refund policies save us from making a commitment even after we’ve paid!

How many of us feel pressured when we buy a car? Who needs to even buy one – just lease! 3 years later you can get a new car!

We can’t even set up an appointment with a friend and commit to it. We agree to call each other an hour before - to confirm. We all have cell phones, 20 years ago if you had to meet a friend in the evening, you made plans the evening before, knowing you wouldn’t be able to reach them until then. Today we agree to discuss it one wants to commit – to anything! Not only don’t we want to, but we don’t need to.

So.. in a society where everything is a disposable commodity, including people, how can we be expected to commit to another human being for the rest of our lives. "I have to pick ONE person – FOREVER?! What’s the exchange policy? The refund policy? THERE IS NONE?!"

Think about it, when was the last time you had to make a real long term commitment without the option of safely backing out? Of course there’s a dating/shidduch/marriage crisis, our committing muscles are shrinking!

We don’t feel the need to get too involved in anything or with anyone. Our connections turn out to be superficial, because those are the muscles we’ve developed – we can connect in a shallow, safe way because we know that we always have the option of backing out. Whether it’s buying a first house, with a $5000 down payment, or leasing a car, or making a big trip on air miles we earned buying countless things we didn’t really need, the result is that we never feel the need to get overly connected, overly involved, overly committed to any decision we make.

Last year I got stuck in a one year apartment lease with a roommate I didn’t want to be with anymore – let me know tell you, the hardest part about the whole ordeal was knowing that I was “stuck”, that I couldn’t pick up and go. I felt so frustrated with myself for committing to a one year obligation that I had no way out of – and now I’m expected to commit to a lifetime roommate??

Someone please tell me how it’s done - I can honestly say that my commitment muscles have completely atrophied and I really don’t understand how others do it, or have done it.

Any words of wisdom to share?

And now.. I’ll BRB..

Monday, January 08, 2007

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

I received this email from Lakewood venter and I thought it was great!
I actually once heard another answer to the question asked - I'll post it below!
Question of the Week:

Dear Rabbi,

Why does the Jewish religion seem to obsess over insignificant details? How much matza do we have to eat, which spoon did I use for milk and which for meat, what is the right way to tie my shoelaces? It seems to me that this misses the bigger picture by focusing on minutiae. Is this nitpicking what Jews call spirituality?
(I actually already sent you this question over a week ago and didn't receive a reply. Could it be that you have finally been asked a question that you can't answer?!)



Dear Rob,

I never claimed to have all the answers. There are many questions that are beyond me. But it happens to be that I did answer your question, and you did get the answer. I sent a reply immediately. The fact that you didn't receive it is itself the answer to your question.

You see, I sent you a reply, but I wrote your email address leaving out the "dot" before the "com". I figured that you should still receive the email, because after all, it is only one little dot missing. I mean come on, it's not as if I wrote the wrong name or something drastic like that! Would anyone be so nitpicky as to differentiate between "yahoocom" and ""? Isn't it a bit ridiculous that you didn't get my email just because of a little dot?

No, it's not ridiculous. Because the dot is not just a dot. It represents something. That dot has meaning far beyond the pixels on the screen that form it. To me it may seem insignificant, but that is simply due to my ignorance of the ways of the web. All I know is that with the dot, the message gets to the right destination; without it, the message is lost to oblivion.

Jewish practices have infinite depth. Each nuance and detail contains a world of symbolism. And every dot counts. When they are performed with precision, a spiritual vibration is emailed throughout the universe, all the way to G-d's inbox.

If you want to understand the symbolism of the dot, study I.T.
If you want to understand the symbolism of Judaism, study it.

All the best,
Rabbi Moss


Nice answer, no?
I once heard another answer to this question that I really loved a lot.
A rabbi I heard said: (I'm paraphrasing!)
"My wife doesn't want or need anything. She's happy with what she has. Whenever I want to get her a gift, she tells me she's happy and there is nothing that she needs. I want to show her how much I love her, I want to express to her how much she means to me, I want to be able to get closer to her, to make her happy, to get to know her inside out, but she tells me she doesnt need anything.
Now, if one day she were to take me into a library with bookshelf after bookshelf filled with thousands of books from floor to ceiling, and she told me 'See all these books, i wrote them. I wrote them for you. You asked me what you can do to get to know me better, to get closer to me, to make me happy, well, it's all in these books. Read them. Learn them. Get to know me. Learn how to make me happy.' I would run into that room and read every single one of these books, i would devour them, and i would follow every instruction in there. Not only that, but i would be SO greatful that i would finally know how to please my wife, how to get closer to her, how to finally make her happy'.
Of course this story is a mashal for the torah Hashem gave us and the reasons why it's so beloved to us, down to the tiniest detail. If we view Hashem as someone we love with all our heart and soul, it's normal that we want to get closer to Him, we want to follow every detailed instruction He gave us.
That's why we care about the details. When you love someone, you want to know every intricate detail about them, and you desperately want to make them happy. We follow the Torah, down to the smallest detail - out of love."


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